I'm not celebrating the entry of Charlie Crist and others into the Democratic Party. The inward flow of so-called moderate Republicans has me concerned. They are, after all, Republicans; pro-business, free market solution promoting, small government loving Republicans.
Yes, their own party has marched away from them, becoming a cartoonish freak show filled with enough loony ideas to bring them down permanently. They are no longer welcome in the party that was their home for decades. And many, knowing they wouldn't survive a Republican primary where the most zealot screecher will prevail, have moved into the Democratic Party.
No, they're not Democrats. They're disenfranchised Republicans. They bring their same old Republican agenda and ideas with them into a party that has been steadily ignoring their own agenda in order to lure big money and corporate donors. Big money has poisoned the Democratic Party and the entry of a never-ending stream of Republicans is adding to the venom.
We already have trouble getting Democrats to remember that they're Democrats; to promote the Democratic Party platform and agenda. We fight Blue Dogs, ConservoDems, and those so tied to corporate interests (e.g. Wal Mart Democrats) and Wall Street interests (e.g. New York and New Jersey Democrats) that it's sometimes hard to tell them from Republicans.
These Republicans aren't embracing Democratic values as they move into the Democratic Party. They don't have plans to support Democratic principles. While they're moderates, they're not Democrats.
Yes, they'll win elections and we can put lots of "Ds" in seats, but will we have their votes and support when it really counts? Will they support Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Will they support worker rights, increased minimum wages, or immigration reform? Will they be there when we need them to improve tax fairness or will they fight needed tax increases and the elimination of tax loopholes that benefit the rich and corporate?
It's not just about elections, it's about issues and support for those issues. Will these "new" Democrats be with us or will they Republicanize the Democratic Party.
While the Tea Party and their billionaire backers destroy the Republican Party, we need a better and stronger Democratic Party. More and Better Democrats is the motto here and the relentless extremism of the Republican Party is helping us achieve the "more" part. However, filling the Democratic Party with more and more disenfranchised Republicans isn't the way to get "better" Democrats.
Yes, winning elections is important, but having majorities that can't or won't support Democratic policies makes those wins virtually meaningless. Add to that the number of real Democrats that will be prevented from even considering running for office because a former Republican will maintain huge fundraising capabilities and the "better" Democrats part of our agenda vanishes.
Consider, too, the impact of these "new" Democrats on the Democratic platform. We've been fighting the rightward march of the Democratic Party since the 80s and it's gotten worse as Democrats move further right to occupy the political space Republicans have been vacating as they move toward the edge of the RW cliff. Dems have already been all too happy to "moderate" their positions in search of big money donors. Will the addition of large numbers of former Republican voices add to that rightward trend?
Poll after poll tells us that Democratic policies and ideas are vastly popular. Yet, with some heroic exceptions, Democrats don't fully push those policies. The influence of the Third Way, No Labels folks has been growing and when Democrats start talking about "reforming" Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as well as allowing serious cuts to our social safety nets, I smell a GOP rat.
When Chained CPI is offered up on the sacrificial table at a time when most seniors have to choose between getting a prescription filled and buying groceries, I wonder what has happened to Democrats. When the big health care changes that passed after a huge political fight is a failed Republican plan from the 1990s that relies on the for-profit insurance industry, I worry some more (yes, it's better than what we had, but single payer and the public option were "off the table" even with Democratic majorities).
We need Democrats to be Democrats, not Republican-lite. We need the full throated support of the Democratic agenda. We can't allow the Democratic Party to keep moving to the right to fill the vacant lot the Republicans have left. The influx of even more Republicans won't help us; it will dilute the Democratic Party.
We need to push the Democratic Party to the left. They need to be reminded again and again that Democratic policies are popular among the voters. Democrats need to occupy the space that the Democratic Party once occupied. More and better Democrats are needed.