When it comes to electing Democrats, policy should come before the party
Screw the Democratic Party. There I said it. Now that I have everyone’s attention, please allow further explanation. Yes, I and many other progressives are sick and tired of those who say blue no matter who. That is a supremely ridiculous position to hold, and in fact has led to the issues that many progressives have had with the Democratic Party over the years.
There has been a line of argument against Bernie Sanders and his supporters that he isn’t a “real Democrat” and there is a menagerie of reasons given by his detractors. Aside from Bernie being an Independent in Congress, he is guilty of the heinous crimes of not throwing fundraisers for other Democrats running for Congress. Who cares whether Bernie is or supports “Democrats?” Is Bernie a progressive and does he support progressives for office? That should be the proper question.
First, yes it is true Bernie was an Independent in Congress. It is also true that Bernie caucused with the Democrats, and that he has been involved with the party to a certain extent. It is also true that Bernie has not been a major force in fundraising for a lot of candidates running on Democratic tickets. There are contexts to this, of course.
Bernie has not been embraced by the Democratic Party establishment, and in fact the DNC has done almost everything possible to diminish Bernie’s campaign. When Hillary supporters claim Bernie isn’t supporting “Democrats” in races, they aren’t telling the full truth. Bernie is helping to support candidates, but he is helping progressives in races rather than just “Blue no matter Who.” Neither Bernie nor his supporters are obligated to raise money or support any candidate that doesn’t share their views.
The logic of the Blue no matter Who thinking is severely flawed. No, you shouldn’t just vote for any candidate just because he or she is running as a Democrat. Part of the reason why progressives have been frustrated with the Democratic Party is because they tend to follow a “safe” strategy in which we elect any candidate running as a Democrat, regardless of whether or not that person adheres to core principles that progressives hold. That’s bullshit and needs to change.
Part of the reason Democrats have been ineffective at achieving many progressive goals is because among their ranks are so-called Blue-Dog Democrats who tend to be more centrist and conservative than the rest of the party. These Blue-Dogs have made it hard for progressives to get important bills passed in Congress. Yes, Republican obstructionism is the main reason, but part of the blame belongs to Democrats as well.
Even when Democrats had a sixty seat hold on the Senate and a huge majority in the House, Obama still couldn’t get major progressive laws passed without a huge fight that eventually led to watered down legislation. Obama’s quote “two signature” laws Obamacare and Dodd-Frank were not passed without a huge fight and both laws were extremely neutered from where they first began. Why? Because Blue Dog Democrats sided with Republicans to help obstruct these bills.
The strategy of electing any candidate who runs as a Democrat is a failed one. We need to elect progressives to Congress, whether they’re Democrats or not. Voting should be based on the candidate and their platform, not their party. There have been good Democrats and bad ones. My former Senator Mary Landrieu was a terrible shill for the Oil and Gas industry when in Congress, and was one of the largest obstacles in ending Federal subsidies for the industry and in passing Cap and Trade legislation. This was a Democrat mind you, a supposed liberal! There are many others that fit this model.
Some might say, “oh, well you’re imposing a purity test on the party?” Damn right I am. We have to have the ability to punish Democrats who don’t actually fight for progressive causes. We have to have consequences for faux liberals in the Democratic Party, because that is the nature of the political wind.
The fact is, the age of coalition parties is over. The Republican Party is a pure-blood conservative party, and there is no reason for the Democrats to have half of their ranks held by conservative sympathizers. We need to reshape the Democratic Party back into the FDR mold, and throw off the yolk of the Clinton/Obama model of conservative incrementalism. The time has come for progressives to dominate the party, which is the only way to reign in the Republicans.
Nay-sayers will then say, “well you have to be open to compromise, you won’t get everything you want.” Of course! Anyone who understands politics on a basic level knows this! But it’s how you compromise that counts. You start negotiations from the left, and then negotiate down to the middle. For example, starting from the left position on Healthcare would have been Single Payer. Now, no one thinks we would actually pass Single Payer in its pure form, but if it serves as the starting position, then you can then negotiate down to say a Public Option.
This runs contrary to Obama’s strategy, which was to concede half to Republicans up front which then moved the starting position more to the center, which was then negotiated down more. The same was true for Dodd-Frank. Hillary seems fond of this strategy as well. This has been a failure time and again. This is how politics works. Establishment Democrats fail to grasp this, either purposefully or out of sheer incompetence.
In short, we should vote for real progressives into the Democratic Party, and primary anyone who opposes the core principles of the progressive movement. We should move to elect candidates who will make a difference, rather than blindly following the Party like sheep. We should challenge the Party and push them to have more progressive candidates, rather than have the party push us to vote for whoever they put forward.
The policy matters most, not the damn Party…