Sunday, July 23, 2017

Why I Just Might Leave The Democratic Party

If you've read what I have to say in this space even once, you can pretty easily guess which side of the partisan divide I stand on.  I was raised by New Deal Democrats, got involved in Democratic politics as a teenager and, after a few early adult years in which I was unaffiliated, became a regular Democratic voter and contributor in the late 1980's.  I'm 60 yeas old, and can therefore honestly say that I've been a Democrat most of my life, which is a respectable length of time.

But all of that might be about to change soon.

Let me explain.

My ambiguity as a young adult came out of a feeling that the Democrats were stuck in a 1960s time warp when it came to relating to the American voting public, and had lost the ability to connect to middle-class voters.  I was happy to vote for Jimmy Carter twice, because I felt he was someone who could articulate traditional Democratic concerns about economic and social justice without sounding like either a hippie or a Bolshevik.  But, in part for precisely that reason, the party turned on Carter and ultimately helped to give us eight years of Ronald Reagan, a con artist who helped pave the way for today's con artistry.

I responded in 1984 by casting a write-in vote for then-Senator Mark Hatfield, the only time I've ever voted for a Republican in my life.  It was a straight-up protest vote and, now that I have a more mature perspective on protest votes, I regret doing it (with due respect to Senator Hatfield).  As flawed as Walter Mondale was in many ways, he would have been a better President that Reagan; at least he would have been awake and alert most of the time.

When Bill Clinton came along in the 1990s, I felt completely confident about voting for him, in spite of his undisciplined personal life.  Here, I thought, was another Carter, someone who could talk about Democratic values to Republican voters in a way that could win elections consistently.  In his first two years as President, that's exactly how he seemed to operate.

But then came the Republican midterm landslide and, after that, Clinton seemed hellbent on caving to the Republicans on one issue or another.  Gone, with "welfare reform," was the guarantee that we would look after our neediest citizens.  Gone, with "criminal justice reform" was the possibility of a truly fair sentencing process.  Gone, with the repeal of Glass-Steagall, was the possibility that Wall Street would turn into a casino (and we all know how that turned out).  And much more, all for the same of not being impeached.  And he got impeached anyway; nobody knows how to say "thank you" quite like a Republican.*

The Clinton experience, combined with eight years of Bush/Cheney (or should I say Cheney/Bush) pushed me back from the center and more toward the left, even as the country has seemingly drifted further and further to the right.  When Obama was elected, I thought that the moment I had waited for in politics all of my life had come.  For the first two years, tangible results out of Washington seemed to prove that.  Then came a decade where Republicans, playing a long game with a thousand sword cuts, took control of everything.

And now, with Republicans in charge of government at the federal and state levels, and the Democrats little more than a regional party, facing a government that looks increasingly like a South American kleptocracy, what do the Democrats do?  How are they going to keep my vote and win back the country?

With listless slogans like this.

"I mean, have you seen the other guys?"  Seriously?  The other guys are the ones in charge now.  Are you really that afraid to say what you stand for?  That's your fighting faith?  "We're not the worst choice you could make?"  Whoever came up with this should be fired.  And the same is true for whoever approved making this idiocy public.

I'm sorry to say, however, that it gets worse that that.  Much worse.

Charles Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader and the principal Democratic capo in the world of Wall Street fundraising, is working with none other than Ted Cruz to enact a bill that would criminalize any attempt to lead, participate in, or even so much as to inquire about a boycott of Israel for its settlement activities on the West Bank.  The bill provides for a minimum penalty of $250,000 and maximum penalties of $1 million and 20 years in prison.  Think about that.  Twenty years locked away for simply asking about a boycott.  No less incredible is the fact that this bill has 237 House sponsors and 43 Senate sponsors.  You can read about it here.

That such a bill could even be filed in the first place is a tribute to the lobbying power of AIPAC, which lobbies on behalf of what it perceives to be Israel's interests.  Apparently, from AIPAC's perspective, subverting democracy is now in the interests of Israel, and anyone who says otherwise is an anti-Semite.  Including, one guesses, the Reform Jews who spearheaded the founding of the state of Israel as a safe haven for Jews and Palestinians alike.

The Democratic Party, at this point, from my perspective, is a party that stands for nothing and falls for everything.  Unless this trend gets reversed, pronto, my change in registration to independent can't come fast enough.  And they can forget about my money, unless it can go to progressive candidates and causes.

Am I doomed to become a protest voter once again?  Maybe.  But I'll have been pushed by the Democratic Party, every step of the way.

*Yes, I know that the Glass-Steagall repeal came after the impeachment trial.  But it was still part of the same basic dynamic:  Clinton, worrying more about being loved by Republicans than serving the people who elected him.

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