Friday, April 28, 2006

We’re Not Whining, We’re Just Not Settling For Mediocrity This Time

I’m sick to death of hearing that we liberals should stop whining and get on board. I recently read a left leaning blog that suggested we should choose to be inspired rather than looking to candidates to inspire us. Really? I think that’s what we have done every election cycle for as long as we can remember. We’ve chosen to be inspired by what we’ve been handed, mediocre candidates, but that’s simply not enough anymore. Even if it was, it hasn’t had the promised result, namely Democratic wins, now has it?

One thing that liberal activists haven’t done enough, but are beginning to do more, is infiltrate the Party we want to change. Instead of trying to change the Democratic Party from the outside, it is becoming increasingly effective to change it from within, by attending local Party meetings and voting for challengers to entrenched power. Recently in California, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, was denied an automatic endorsement by the State Party because progressive activists attended the meetings and voted instead for the challenger, Marcy Winograd. Instead of thinking of ourselves as outsiders, we have to become insiders.

In Portland, Oregon, the Multnomah County Democrats chose not to endorse their Democratic Governor and instead chose to endorse both of his primary challengers. Governor Kulongoski didn’t bother to show up at the meeting and therefore didn’t get the endorsement. Incumbent Democrats are often far too sure that they’ve got the support of the Party apparatus all locked up, but when liberals who are decidedly uninspired by their leadership actually show up to the meetings and vote, they are exercising their power as members of the Party and making a difference in who gets Party support. There’s a lesson in here for all of us. Instead of choosing to be inspired by mediocrity, we can vote for the candidates that really inspire us. We are told that these candidates have no chance of winning, but that is only true if we don’t vote for them, don’t give them money and don’t go to Party meetings where we can hopefully, get some Party support behind them.

In that spirit, I will be voting my best hopes in the Democratic Primary. There are many great candidates for local, state and national office in my district, some of them incumbents that I’ll be happy to continue supporting, and some of them challengers to decidedly uninspiring leaders currently in office. Incumbency isn’t bad, but mediocrity is, and if they want my vote, they’ll have to inspire me. Sorry if that’s expecting too much, but democracy should result in the best rising to the top and I’m done enabling candidates that have low expectations of themselves. I’m also done with their scare tactics, “the challenger can’t win in the General Election” and “you’re wasting your vote” crap. I’m only wasting my vote if I vote for a candidate I don’t really want representing me, which is why I’ll be voting for what I want from now on, not what I can get. I’m choosing inspiration over ambition. In the long run, it’s the far better choice and might even result in a better slate of “viable” candidates for the next go around. After all, it’s votes that make them viable and it’s the only leverage we’ve got. It would be a shame not to use it.


Anonymous Geocheese1 said...

Another great and inspired post, Mollie. You re so right...the only incumbent I am sure I would vote for right now is Senator Russ Feingold. I know he will vote with his convictions and not the party line....whatever that is right now.
Instead of whining about the lousy candidates we have to choose from we need to infiltrate and conquer the Democratic Party to accomplish booting out the criminals in the GOP. Sad to say, but we have way too many Joe Liebermans, spineless weasels that go along to get along, in the party. We need to throw those bums out and beat the GOP war criminals in the next election and not count on the status quo. Our country depends on it!!!

1:44 PM  
Anonymous exelizabeth said...

This takes me back-- Ron Sims for governor! The man touched the third rail of WA politics (tax reform) and got toasted, but I voted for him in the primary and I'm glad we've still got him in King County.

Although I do have to say I'm pretty pleased with Gregoire. She doesn't sell herself well, but she sure gets shit done. She's not inspirational, but she's effective and good for the state. She's a terrible campaigner, but a good governor. However, good campaign skills don't necessarily translate to good elected official skills.

I tend to stay involved in local politics because those people seem accessible and still grounded in reality. The campaigns are smaller and more community based. I personally like a lot of our local politicians. I think the sheer amount of money in federal races starts to really screw people up. There is a certain kind of person who can raise that kind of money, and I'm not sure I want that kind of person to represent me.

2:31 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

GeoCheese--Thanks. I wish I had a Senator like Feingold to vote for this time around, but I've got a great Congressman, good candidates to choose from for state Senate and Reps so I'll have to be happy with that.

ExElizabeth--Yes, I voted for Sims as well and he would have been great although Gregoire has turned out just fine.

I agree about national campaigns. As long as we allow for a system that requires huge amounts of money to run for public office, the public will continue to get sub-par representation for the most part. PUBLICALLY FINANCED ELECTIONS!! Once we get that, we will get public servants again who will be able to spend their time governing rather than raising campaign money.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

As a Floridian who is still traumatized by the 2000 squeaker, I often feel torn between voting for someone who inspires me versus voting for someone who can win, especially if it will be a close race. Sometimes the choice does seem that stark.

I wanted to vote for Nader in 2000 because at the time, I mostly bought into the "there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the Rs and Ds" meme. And I still do believe both parties are hopelessly co-opted by corporate interests. Plus, I believed then and still do that viable 3rd parties would be a great thing.

But I was afraid it would be close, and even though Bush campaigned on a pack of lies that revealed little about how he would eventually govern, I certainly preferred Gore to him.

To resolve my 2000 dilemma, I eventually struck a deal with a friend and her husband who live in TX that I would vote for Gore in FL if they would both agree to vote for Nader. We knew FL would be close and TX would be solidly for Bush, so I got my symbolic protest vote (two, even!) without risking being implicated in some way in what has turned out to be our national nightmare.

But I damn sure learned the hard way that there were huge differences between Gore and Bush, more than I had even begun to imagine in 2000. Gore would have never started a stupid and pointless war in Iraq or rolled back civil liberties like Bush has.

I wish Gore had shown the fire in campaigning that he has shown since getting robbed. I could have voted for him whole-heartedly rather than as a compromise.

Anyway, I couldn't agree more about publically financed elections. It would save us money in the long run if the dishonest bastards didn't have an incentive to sell us down the river. My ultimate wish? A candidate who inspires and who can also win.

6:51 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Betty Cracker--I understand that dilemma, which is why I have chosen to fight within the Democratic Party, rather than look to a third party for the answer. I will vote my best hopes in the Primary each and every time, there is nothing wrong with a good Primary fight, in fact I think it would do us some good to have more knock down, drag outs in the Primary. But in the end, I will still likely vote for the Democratic candidate (although I'm not a sure thing) whoever it is because I do believe there is a difference between the Dems and Repugs, however slight. And we've seen over the last five years just how much a slight difference can make.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Shaun said...

There's no link, so I'm just guessing Mollie, but I'm guessing you're talking about a recent post at Upper Left.

If so, I think you both misstate and mistake my point, while at the same time providing an example of just the kind of inspiring behavior I was talking about.

What I said isn't that we should be inspired in the face of mediocrity, but that we have a responsiblity to be inspiring, to deliver the kind of message we're looking for. Actually, my focus was mostly intended for folks like Kos who have a massive and largely trusting audience. Using that audience as a platform to tear down the Democratic Party is, at best, a wast, and potentially very harmful in the end.

On the other hand, engaging the Party at the organizational level, identifying and promoting quality candidates, etc. is inspiring behavior.

I think you sell some liberal activists short, though. Lots of us have been involved in the Party for a very long time - never enough, though, so I'm glad you're there.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

LGND, great point about the primaries -- a good dust-up is sometimes exactly what is needed.

The party establishment stifles dissent in the interest of presenting a unified front. But the inevitable result is that those of us who are left of the DLC (what Wellstone called the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party") get pushed aside. Maybe things will change with Dean running the show.

The last presidential candidate I was really enthusiastic about was Bill Bradley in the 2000 primaries.

4:39 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

there are a lot of repubs on the web posing as liberals to influence opinion. theyre paid shills if you go to places like donklephant you'll see some of their handy work

9:51 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Shaun--I may have been responding to your post as well, but I was thinking more of another post that I read when I was reading reviews of Kevin Phillips book (I can't remember where I read it which is why there's no link). I just read your post and it was mild by comparison, but you do express the same idea that I hear a lot, in fact I hear from Goldy just about every week on the podcast the same sentiment when it comes to Maria Cantwell. I'm just not buying into the idea, that's all.

You are right that I didn't give enough credit to liberal activists that have been working from within for years, an oversight on my part. Just because they haven't had success at it until recently, doesn't mean they (you) haven't been working diligently the whole time. I apologize for not giving enough credit where it surely is due.

Betty Cracker--Yes, a good dust-up is what we need more of.

DAV--That's why I tend to stay away from the "moderate" blogs. Donklephant can stick its long nose up its own ass.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Shaun said...

Well, there ya go. At least I got you to read my post...

I think you underestimate Maria (or you couldn't possibly believe that she hasn't done anything for the base - yeah, I'm a diligent downloader of the podcast), but for those who just can't bring themselves to campaign for her, I'd only ask that they not actively campaign against her. The treat of blowback in November is just too great. That's not to say that primaries themselves are out of line. I think Ed Murray's move is fine, and I think Brad Shelton's drawn an more Democratic Democratic opponent, which is great.

Can't afford to mess with the Senate seat this year, though, and it's no lock.

So primaries that advance a progressive agenda, serious efforts by serious people? OK.

But we don't have that in the Senate race. We just don't.

3:03 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Shaun--I think Cantwell has been a fine Senator for Washington State, especially in these times of low expectations, but I'd still like more than adequate. I've been angered by several of her high profile votes, the Patriot Act (although she's certainly not alone but should have known better), the war, CAFTA, and voting for cloture on Alito (I don't care about the logic on this one, it just plain pissed me off).

I can't figure out her philosophy which means I never know how she's going to vote and this leaves me with the impression that her votes have more to do with political posturing than conviction. I'll be voting against her in the Primary (I don’t care if Mark Wilson is a vanity candidate, his positions on the issues are in line with mine and together they present a cohesive philosophy of what he believes government should be), but I have no desire to help McGavick by voting for a third party candidate in the general, because yes, I do believe there’s a difference between the two Parties. I’d just like to see the contrast become a lot more stark.

5:24 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is no second place in American electoral politics; there's one winner, and everyone else is a loser. Nothing on the progressive agenda will ever be implemented unless progressive candidates win elections. In order to win elections, in the vast majority of districts and states, this means progressives will have to support candidates who do not agree with them 100% of the time. If they don't, or if they run kamikazee candidates in the primary or on third party tickets, you end up with a Republican who disagrees with you 100% of the time. I don't necessarily like the "first past the post" system any more than the next guy, but for now, we're stuck with it. And that means progressives will have to compromise or be banished to permanent irrelevancy. This doesn't mean that incumbent Democrats should get a free ride; Henry Cuellar here in Texas is a sell-out, he deserved to be challenged and he should have lost. But attacking Democrats for insufficient ideological purity in districts (like mine, TX-17) where a more liberal candidate is never, ever, even with Jesus' Own endorsement, going to win, is self-defeating. Let's leave the ideological pograms to the Republicans and recognize that in order to achieve progressive goals, progressives have to win and that sometimes requires supporting a candidate who is only 90% right on the issues.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous geocrackr said...

Local Crank: so... we should settle for mediocrity again?

10:19 AM  
Blogger GraemeAnfinson said...

i agree

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...


I'm not sure whether or not your response to Local Crank represents a straw man or a false choice!

What is clear to me is that not settling for anything less than 100% agreement is the surest way to electoral defeat, not to mention unending factionalism and conflict, and is not only not necessarily acceding to mediocrity but perhaps the
surest route to it.

Our last glimpse of what a rejection of ideological purity wrought was Nader's bleeding off of enough 'Greens' to throw FL into the Supreme Court's hands. I have no doubt that to this day many of those
Nader voters feel good about their votes right down to their ideological bones.

I'll even bet that many of them were also not happy with the absence of a
'visionary' statement from
the Dems this past Earth Day!

1:48 PM  
Anonymous geocrackr said...

Hey, I'm just asking -- LG says "we're just not settling for mediocrity this time," and Local Crank and Dale seem to be arguing against that, i.e. for mediocrity... apparently based on the idea that we don't have any other choice than to vote Dem. That's a rationale that's guaranteed to fire up the liberal base and get 'em behind you, I'm sure.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...

Hey, I'm just holding you to your self professed rhetorical standards.

How you infer a choice for mediocrity rather than a reasoned choice between the possibility of sane governance vs the probability of misguided, incompetent rule, as in the historical example I cited, is beyond me. In fact, your approach is so un-nuanced, all or nothing and Manichean as to be positively wingnutistanian!

And 'firing up the liberal base', by itself, isn't going to assure any national electoral victories anytime soon.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...

If I has known, J. K Galbraith had supported my point, I would've used his quote!
With Galbraith's passing, we are left with one less counter to his observation that, "Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." Thankfully, we are left, as well, with John Kenneth Galbraith's wisest piece of political advice; his suggestion that: "In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong."

When Democrats nominate a presidential candidate who is as capable as Galbraith was of articulating that sentiment, the liberalism that our late economist so loved will indeed be resurgent.

7:54 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

"so... we should settle for mediocrity again?"

No, we should nominate candidates who can win. In politics, winning is not the most important thing, it's the only thing. If that means nominating candidates who are only 80% progressive, so be it. They will STILL be better than the alternative (the ONLY alternative): a Republican who is 100% ANTI-progressive. Leave single-issue voting and ideological pograms to the Right-Wing. They're better at it, anyway.

7:03 PM  

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