Thursday, February 02, 2006

Caught Between the Scylla & Charybdis: The Existential Dilemma of A Liberal

I have SHAMELESSLY co-opted the following post, written by gottlieb at My Left Wing in the discussion under Armando’s diary, A Spine is Not Enough:

"To Dem or not to Dem is not the question. The reality is we have a one and a half party system. We're a skip, hop and jump away from the USSA.

There is no real place for leftists in the political spectrum because Capitalism is sacrosanct. And a real leftist is a socialist at heart.
I believe Energy and Transportation should be nationalized for a start.

Is there anyplace in the Democratic Party for my point of view?

Fuck no.

But that doesn't mean I don't support the Democratic Party. Because the alternative is to not participate.

So yeah, we're fucked because the left represents the most dangerous threat to the status quo. That's why we're first to be blamed for anything that goes wrong by the capitulating cowards and criminal co-conspirators of mainstream democratory (sic).

It's not us that should fit into any tent, but the likes of Ben Nelson and Max Baucus who should get their asses kicked out.

So, yeah, fuck the Democrats. But don't abandon them."

gottlieb NAILS it. There is no Liberal Party. There is no Party of the Left. In this godforsaken boondoggle of a two party system with which we’re hobbled, the Democrats are all I’ve got.

“I have not abandoned the Democrats – they abandoned ME.” How many times have you heard that? And, tempted though one might be to claim they were never with me to begin with, that’d be ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst. Of COURSE they were “with” me – hell, the New Deal proves that. The split with the Strom Thurmond wing of the Democratic Party proves that.

But of course, that isn’t the Democratic Party we have today. Certainly, anyone with leftist, liberal or, god forbid, socialist leanings will almost always vote for the Democrat – the pragmatic do, anyway. Because it’s a rigged goddamned game, ain’t it? Many his faults may be, but dumb and dishonest ain’t one of ‘em – Ralph Nader told the truth about this political system back in 2000. What’s more, before his candidacy contributed to the catastrophic results of that Presidential “Election,” most of us were quick to acknowledge the basic facts he presented.

But – and I’ve been here before, folks, I have – the choice came down to pragmatism and idealism. Living in the world that IS, rather than the one that OUGHT to be. And in the world that IS… at the level of national politics, you gots two alternatives, the Evil and the Lesser of Two Evils (and that goes for anyone, regardless of ideology. You can bet there are some right wing radicals out there who simply FUME a the mealy-mouthed capitulation of the Republican Party, as they are sure to see it).

Pragmatism Versus Idealism. Pragmatically, there is no real choice, just one of two alternatives. No, not three -- not voting is, in my estimation, tantamount to voting for an incumbent. If you don’t feel strongly enough about the way things are enough to get your ass to a voting booth, them obviously you’re WILLING to accept the status quo – if only so you can continue to bitch about it.

I’d explain the idealist’s rationale for voting third party, but it will have to be done by someone else, for I cannot fathom it. Because in the REAL WORLD, remember, the World as it IS… voting for a third party is almost EXACTLY the same, in the end, as not voting at all. A nonvoter’s “vote” goes to the incumbent – and the vote of the “protest voter” – at least, nationally speaking – goes to the incumbent, as well.

The dilemma of the Idealistic Pragmatist becomes thus: THEY know we have to vote for them, these Democrats with virtually no affinity for the LIBERAL, LEFT point of view. We are… fucked. (I’m speaking STRICTLY of the left wing, the liberalest of liberal – NOT the centrists of the Democratic party.)

What to do, what to do? Trapped like a rat, I am. I want to affect change, far more change than the Democratic Party as it now exists is willing to accept. I am… on the fringe, it would seem. So do I take my medicine, meekly accept whatever crumbs these people are willing to toss me from the Grown-Up Table? Is it even possible for someone with deep, powerful leanings toward the socialist end of the political spectrum, to EVER reconcile herself to placid acceptance of The Way It Is?

That was a rhetorical question; of COURSE it’s not possible. Not placid acceptance. Not even disgusted acceptance. In fact, I think “acceptance” is off the table, regardless of the philosophers’ admonition that acceptance is the only way to serenity, that it is possible to do battle AND be in a state of acceptance.

Of course, if it’s serenity you’re after, political activism and awareness are the wrong milieu. Best check out entirely, then, get along with you. BUT… therein lies MY dilemma, anyway: I cannot rest, or reach serenity, knowing how many people in the world suffer needlessly due to circumstances against which I have it in my power to at least make an EFFORT to change. I’ve tried turning off the world and living in my bubble; even blind drunk of every waking moment, I couldn’t turn it off.

I digress, as is my wont.

It seems to me, after several days of infighting amongst Democrats and liberals and the whole schemer on the left, that what we all of us, across the entire political spectrum, really face here is a really intense growing pain. The only true solution to any of this is a multiparty political system. A viable one that is – and of course, the only way to get there is to reform the way elections are run in this country. Instant Runoff Voting is a seemingly simple solution, though many have their arguments with that particular one; regardless of the vagaries of different methods, the fact is, no third, fourth, fifth party in this country will EVER be more than a marginal spoiler at the national level until the way we vote changes.

(And I’m not even giving more than this mention to the corruption – I’m just talking about the system, now.)

The only people truly well-served by the current two party system are those already firmly entrenched in that system – the ones with the power and the money and the voices. There is simply NO reason THEY should wish to change the system, therefore – not unless they are altruistic and actual servants of the people they CLAIM to serve. And there are damned few of them, unfortunately. And of that few, even fewer are willing to torpedo their own seats of power in service of the greater good, if only because they GENUINELY believe that they can do more god in power than out, and being out of power is one of the pitfalls of standing up for principle. Losing an election because you stood for your principles seems counterproductive to them, and we can see their point, I think.

So where do we stand, those of us who believe the Democratic Party is not only broken, but DESIGNED, ultimately, to be a party that furthers an agenda we on the leftier side of the left find tepid and incomplete at best?

Having no other system within which to work, we chose, again and again, to support Democrats and vote for Democrats –sending the grudgingly honest message that yes, we feel ill-served by the Democrats, but are not so blindly ideological as to be willing to bring about a political, economic and social Armageddon so we can be around to pick up the pieces and rebuild the world in the image of our Utopia. Hell, we know what happened with the Communists in Germany. Well, some of us know. Or think we know. We can argue about that later.

Fact is, it’s a damned good thing most liberal leftists are so goddamned intelligent, because it’s going to take a two-pronged approach over the long term to affect the change we want. We’re going to have to be able to simultaneously work to elect Democrats (because the only other alternative is so noxious as to be anathema to anyone with a liberal leaning) -- AND we’re going to HAVE to commit ourselves to finding a way to reform the damned political system under which we trudge, Sisyphus to the teeth.

And we’re going to have to stop it with the Hatfield and McCoy routine, eventually. If the “centrists” and the “leftists” of the Democratic Party are EVER to achieve anything like harmonious coexistence, they’re going to have to agree on BOTH prongs of this movement: elect Democrats while we have no other tolerable options, AND work to make this system accommodate at least three different political parties: left, right AND centre.


Incidentally, doesn’t it strike anyone as one of the Democratic Party’s MAJOR failings that it is, ostensibly, the Big Tent Party – holding not only ALL of the left but much of the centre… and yet it languishes, virtually ineffectual and powerless, in obeisance to the right wing? It strikes me as that, oftentimes… but then I remember that, of course, people with right wing leanings will naturally outnumber people with centrist and left wing leanings because, at bottom, the right wing people of the world are the Lowest fucking Common Denominator.

Awe, jeez – and I was doing so WELL.