February 29, 2008

A Note to the Progressive Puritans

Filed under: Commentary,Opinion — RS Janes @ 7:28 am

While I believe every American has the right to bitterly complain about politics and politicians, and do a considerable amount of it myself, some of the third-party Nader/McKinney for President Puritans remind me of the GOP chickenhawks who want to start wars all over the planet as long as they don’t have to strap on a helmet and get shot at themselves. Yes, the Democrats have gone weak and spineless on many issues, but with a Dem President and a larger majority in the Congress, that would quickly change, I think. And politics is a dirty business – purists are perpetually outraged at those pols who have to occasionally compromise to get good things done, but they have no better solution to offer – just more carping and denunciation.

So, in the interest of constructive advice, here’s a suggestion for the Perfect World crowd who despise and deride the Democrats so much: Why don’t you run for office? Either as a Democrat, or a Green, or independent, or whatever — stop complaining that others aren’t doing exactly what you want them to do and do it yourself. Go out and get the necessary signatures on a petition and file it with the state and put your name on the ballot. (And it has to be your full name; you won’t be able to hide behind a screen name.) Don’t like your senator or congressional rep? Run to replace them!

Then be prepared to slog around through all kinds of weather and shake hands and pass out campaign materials and make speeches to people who mainly don’t care; if you take intelligent and well-reasoned yet unpopular viewpoints, you’ll have to face audiences that may reject or jeer you, but I’m sure you’ll toughen up and learn to live with that. You will be trashed by your political enemies and, if you gain any traction in the polls, subjected to dirty tricks, even at the local level, and you’ll have to bear gossips and the media distorting your views and outright lying about you. Of course, you can try to defend or explain yourself, but you’ll find that most people tend to believe the first thing they hear about someone they don’t know and it’s very hard to convince them otherwise.

Then, after you’ve spent your own money and time, and borrowed and begged more cash to stay in the race, you’ll have to face the judgment of the voters. If after all that — months of tedium and long 16 to 18-hour days — you lose, you’ll be plagued by trying to figure out where you went wrong — was it your contention that 9/11 was partly an ‘inside job’ that did it? Or was it your support for Mumia? Or your anti-death penalty stance? Or something else? Was it you — was it just that most voters simply didn’t like you as a person?

But let’s say you happen to get elected: then you’ll be confronted with all kinds of compromises, if you actually want to get anything done. Of course, you can always take rigorous principled stands on every issue, and then sacrifice getting a bill passed that helps the poor people in your state or district because you refused to compromise on something else much less important. You can condemn the other party/parties as corrupt pieces of crap, and even go after those who mostly agree with you if they deviate one iota from what you think they should be doing, but then it’ll be pretty hard to get those same people to support you when you want to, say, impeach Cheney or block the next odious trade deal. Why should they help you after you’ve insulted and denigrated them? Would you support them after being so castigated? If you think they should do it just because it’s the right thing to do, then you are extremely naive about the way people, politics, and governments operate. Hell, if everyone always did the right thing, we wouldn’t need a government.

And then there are those ‘gray areas’ where the right thing to do isn’t always apparent. Is it right to tear down some old buildings to make way for a ‘green’ local business that will guarantee good-paying jobs to your constituents recycling products that help the environment, but at the same time will put the elderly residents of the old buildings out on the street, and there’s no money in the budget to help them move to a new location? That’s the kind of mundane dilemma lawmakers run up against every day, and there is rarely an ideal solution that satisfies everyone.

Of course, perhaps you’d rather have a King Ralph or Emperor Dennis governing by royal edict, but neither Nader, Kucinich, nor Cynthia McKinney is immune to human error or the truth of Lord Acton — absolute power does corrupt absolutely, even when wielded by the purest heart, and I think the three progressives I just named would agree with that proposition and, on that basis, refuse to accept the throne.

There’s a lot at stake this year, and we need a Democrat in the White House to make sure, among other things, that we don’t end up with more ‘Scalito’s’ on the Supreme Court, that we can begin to return to a nation of Constitutional law, that we can untangle ourselves from Bush’s Iraq disaster, that we have a Justice Department that does its job, that we can salvage and rebuild the economy, that we can restore our standing in the world. A President McCain is going to be in the back pocket of all of the special interests that have been supporting Junior and continue his policies, even if it destroys what’s left of our country. At the end of the day, either Dem would be a damn sight better than John “Dubya” McCain.

However worthy they are, neither Nader nor McKinney nor any other alternative candidate has a hope of getting elected in 2008, nor even shaking things up very much, and I would be the first to applaud a viable third party, but that’s not in the cards this time around.

Progressive change has happened in this country – average Americans are better off today than they were a hundred years ago — but it has always been a slow, arduous process brought about by people who were less than high-minded and perfect, but were willing to roll up their sleeves and do more than just sit on the couch and complain; our democracy is a sausage factory and most of us really don’t want to know (although we should) what rat turds and bug carcasses go into the final product. Now, that’s the reality, and the plaster saints of good government which enthrall some of you purists is the dream – I’m not saying you should abandon the dream, but be ready to get exhausted and dirty as you fight through the muck to realize it, and, whatever you do, don’t be stupid enough to burn down the whole house just to get rid of an infestation of cockroaches.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress