We’re told, to offer a couple of examples, not to be too loud when it comes to reproductive rights (might piss off the pro-life minority), or too shrill about neo-liberal economics and livelihood-smashing unfair trade policies (might unnerve the corporate lobbyists). When Popular Front Democrats start saying things such as "It’s far more important to criticize the Iraq invasion and occupation for its neo-imperialist aspects than for its being ‘mismanaged’ or ‘incompetently handled’," we’re called "shrill" and "unreality-based" and "hysterical" and "not serious" and a plethora of other terms which, boiled down, sound like "grow up." We’re told – at least in an election year, or anywhere near an election year – to tone it down. Don’t give ammunition to the Republicans. You’ll cost us votes.
Some of us PFDs have toned it down. We’ve urged others to tone it down, too – all for the sake of party unity against the worst president ever. Unity against the war profiteering, warmongering, war criminals of the GOP and its enablers. Unity against those who’ve seized the Constitution by the throat and await the right moment to apply the knife. Unity against their further stripping the working middle classes of dwindling benefits. Against their shooting tax breaks to robber baron pals. Against burying us in a national debt whose size helps the pin-striped looters carry out their final dismantling of the paltry social safety net bequeathed us from the FDR era.
Wait - we Popular Front Democrats are urged (and then urge others) - wait until we’re out of the minority before trying to make the Democrats, as a whole, more progressive. Then, when in the majority, we have counseled, be patient, the process takes time, compromise is a necessary step in moving us closer to our goal. All the while, we bite out lips as well as our tongues and go heavy on the Maalox.
What do we get for our trouble, all us Popular Front Democrats who work our butts off in the precincts, contribute money we can’t really afford, spend gobs of our spare time in meatworld cajoling the unpersuaded that if you vote for this guy, things will be different?
They pour syrup on shit and tell us it’s hotcakes.
In one very important way, the very bad thing that has happened in Congress the past week is actually a very good thing. We’re witnessing an uprising. Not just by those who sort of hang around outside the party saying "we told you so." But also from men and women who say they’ve been loyal and staunch Democrats for a ‘coon’s age. From people who have never voted for anyone but a Democrat.
Progressives here and throughout wwwland have simply and suddenly gotten tired of brave words used to cover lame behavior. Sick of hearing excuses from and about the handful of Democrats holding the party hostage to a strategy of folding instead of raising. Bored by a leadership not only unwilling to tell the truth about its lethal compromise, but also to brazenly market it as a victory that will lead to an end of the occupation. Exasperated by that larger group of well-meaning-but-still-don’t-get-it Democrats who are going along with this immense and bloody charade. Done, I suspect, with what the old left once called "false unity."
This wasn't inevitable. We know that herding congressional cats when you have a bare majority – not a real majority – is exceedingly difficult. The 51-49 paper majority in the Senate is actually only 49-49, with Tim Johnson out and Joe Lieberman, well, you know where he is. But process cannot always be allowed to trump principle.
Think how differently our discussion would be today if Reid and Nancy Pelosi had emerged from the blank-check capitulation committee to say that they didn’t have the votes to send no bill to the White House, to send back the same bill, to send a new bill with binding timetables or binding benchmarks or binding anything. What if they had told us, that, as a consequence of their lack of enough votes to "negotiate" a tougher bill, they were going to refuse to call it up for a floor vote? That, if enough Democratic Congresspeople and Senators signed discharge petitions to get the blank-check bill onto the floor for a vote, so be it, but without their help.
What if they had said that, however other Democrats behaved, they, personally, and as the pre-eminent leaders and spokespeople of Congress, were not going to enable the intransigent President to get away with his terms for unconditional surrender? Nor fall for any of his bullshit definitions of defunding? That they, personally and as the leaders of Congress, would work diligently to defeat the bill, even while knowing they would ultimately lose?
Roses would fill their offices today.
But no. Instead, they told us that what we've got isn’t a blank check bill. Rather it’s a good bargain. It’s a step forward. Does the conference committee supply bongs, or what? Your leadership on this is bad enough, Ms. Speaker and Mr. Majority Leader. However, when you act as if you think we’re numbskulls, you’ve crossed the line.
Fighting Democrats abound in both Senate and House. And not just those who seem to have adopted the slogan but ignored the meaning. If only we had a few dozen more like them. However, even many fighting Democrats have failed us the past week. Besides making us incandescent with rage, this failure can only have the effect of making us ever more wary, of being less eager to open our wallets when the next candidate comes along, of wondering how we can fucking live with ourselves if it turns out yet another fellow we’ve worked for, contributed to and spoke praise about shields his jelly spine inside chitinous rhetoric.
So, again, in a strange way, I’m glad about the blank check being given to the President. Glad because it appears that rank-and-file citizens who really oppose the war – not those who merely give it lip service – have been permanently energized. Yes, a few have given into despair. There’s been some throw-up-your-handsism. A trip to the tequila bottle. But that’s a natural, short-term reaction. It’s unbelievable to think that very many of the people who have so justifiably and fiercely castigated these Democratic capitulators will themselves give up a fight where so many lives are stake.
Stepping up the resistance often takes a defining moment. As Senator Feingold labeled it, our defining moment is the "collapse" of the Democrats on funding the occupation. Amid our disgust and anger over what has happened, progressives have a very good reason to welcome the fact that it did.
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