Let's Get Real About the November Election.
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
September 20, 2010
I'm finding it difficult to believe that the following
reminders are even needed but, given the volatile electoral situation we're
facing in November, better to err on the side of common-sense. So here goes:
The Republicans are energized by their Tea Party base, which surveys have
shown is composed mostly of veteran GOP ideologues of the FarRight, old John
Birchers, nativists, militiamen, racists and voluntarily ignorant
Know-Nothings. Thanks largely to the mainstream media's hyping of this
"be-very-frightened" extreme-right coagulation -- led, as always, by the
Republican network Fox, and some radio talk-show bloviators -- a small but
significant number of otherwise unaffiliated but frustrated and angry
citizens have been attracted to candidates backed by this
The Tea Partiers have been able to boost a number of Republican primary
candidates into victory: Rand Paul in Kentucky, Christine O'Donnell in
Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Carl Paladino in New York, Joe Miller in
Alaska, Marco Rubio in Florida, et al. But the real question is how those
extremist candidates will do when outside the safe Republican box, facing
ordinary, presumably more reflective voters in the November balloting.
The Democratic Party, per usual, is dazed and confused and overly timid.
Whimpering, whining, and weak. Some Democrats are even urging their
candidates to move rightward to try to capture some of the supposed Tea
A number of key Democrats have professed glee to see the way-out-there,
clearly deficient candidates put forth by the Republicans, aided by their
Tea Party base. We'll walk all over them, these Dems suggest, since the
traditional numbers are on our side and the voters, even if they're angry,
aren't foolish enough to give George W. Bush and Dick Cheney a third term by
sending the GOP back in charge of Congress. Especially not with candidates
clearly afflicted with a bad case of The Crazy.
THE ENTHUSIASM GAP
Polls have suggested for many months now that the Republicans, smelling
victory, are highly energized and will bring their troops to the polls in
huge numbers in November. The progressive Democrats, suffering from
disappointment in their party's leaders (especially in President Obama), are
dispirited and may well keep their wallets in their pockets when it comes to
political donations and may not even vote in November.
I share the disappointment, depression and rage at Obama and leading
Democrats and the way they've wasted so many months of momentum while
getting their act somewhat together. Yes, I fully realize that the previous
administration handed Obama and the Democrats a stinking pile of crap to
deal with as they headed out the White House door. Moreover, the Republicans
have been thoroughly obstructionist from the git-go, which Obama pretended
wasn't really happening for far too long. For sure, none of this made the
Democrats' job any easier. But even keeping all this in mind, the Democrats,
as usual, proved themselves to be easy to roll and impede, largely because
they refused to stand up and fight for their principles.
So, if I'm so angry with and disappointed by the Democrats, what's the point
of this little essay? Why not just sit on my hands on Election Day in
November and thus help the Democratic Party leaders learn a painful lesson?
Namely, that if they abandon their campaign promises, their ideals and their
voting base, they will do so at their peril; write off the progressive left,
as Obama and Co. have done on too many occasions, and they will suffer the
ALICE IN A POLITICAL WONDERLAND
But as much as part of me would love to see that lesson delivered, my
common-sense side chimes in with a mighty chorus: When Rand Paul and
Christine O'Donnell and Carl Paladino and Sharron Angle and the others are
the new faces of the Republican Party, American democracy has fallen down
Alice's rabbit-hole for real. For Democrats, for progressives, for anyone
who cares about the viability of the centuries-old experiment that is our
democratic republic, this is survival time.
If the Republicans take the House and Senate in November, or even just the
House, the Dems are finished as an initiating force for the next several
years, and the HardRight Republicans, who got us into much of this mess to
begin with, will control the agenda. That agenda will not be pretty.
Traditional conservative Republicans understand this, even BushCheney-type
Republicans understand this. When Karl Rove and Alphonse d'Amato and Haley
Barbour and Charles Krauthammer are the "voices of reason" here, you know
we're in Alice's universe of strangeness.
Angry Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents: Please seriously
consider the ramifications of what would happen if you enable the
Republicans back into power. Do you want theocratic Neanderthals in charge
of our moral laws and school textbooks? You want unregulated greed-is-good
industries and banks and insurance companies in charge of the economy and
writing pollution legislation? You want nothing done on climate-change? You
want creationism taught as science in schools? You want more and bigger
wars? You want the New Deal and Great Society reforms eliminated? You want
no more Social Security and Medicare? Etc. This would be the future for the
next two or four or eight years if the Republicans were to take over
Congress and, perhaps, the White House two years later. Remember, this is
not the relatively "restrained" party of 2008 (I did say "relatively"!) but
the extremist, reckless party of 2010.
WHAT IS AT STAKE
So, as sympathetic as I am to the anger and frustration from the left, I
don't want to hear serious talk about not caring who wins in November, that
there's "not a dime's worth of difference" between the Democrats and
Republicans. On some meta-level about D.C. politics in general, maybe that's
true, but in the real world in which most folks live every day, the
metaphorical dime can make a HUGE difference in so many areas of civic life.
With Republicans in charge in Congress, you can kiss a whole lot of reforms
and positive initiatives goodbye: no beginnings of an adequate, affordable
health care system; no Social Security and no Medicare and a greatly reduced
Medicaid; polluters in control of the nation's air and water; no firm
oversight of insurance companies raising rates regularly and denying care to
those who need it most; an unrestrained "free-market" economy heading us
further into the pit of Depression#2, with even more millions of jobs lost;
our children not getting an adequate education in the humanities and arts
and sciences; more unwinnable wars of occupation, costing trillion$ that
could be spent on domestic needs; a continued degradation of our nation's
infrastructure and lack of adequate funds for key civic needs (water,
police, firefighters, libraries, parks, etc.). And on and on.
Yes, Obama and the Democrats are a disappointment in so many ways. True,
"the other guys are worse" is not a great platform for the Dems to run on,
but when the Republicans have been so outfront about the damage they intend
to do to the existing body politic and the mixed economy, it's not just that
they are "worse than" the Democrats but that they would be a horrific
catastrophe for the nation. And, because American economic and military
policies so affect other countries, for the world as well.
We can't risk considering that a Republican victory "might not be so bad,"
that once they got back into power they'd be more amenable to compromise and
civil debate. The Republicans have proven time and time again in the past 20
months that they have absolutely no interest in genuine compromise or civil
discourse. Their only motivating goal is to return to power (and thus to
control the economic/political System) by any means necessary.
GETTING DOWN TO WORK
Our job in the next six weeks is to hold our noses, if necessary, and work
to defeat Republican candidates, especially the more extreme Senate and
House candidates, by voting and working for Democrats.
Our moral imperative is to see to it that the Republicans don't get the
chance to take America back to the 1890s. We need to open our wallets to the
candidates running against Paul, Paladino, Angle, O'Donnell and the rest of
the Know-Nothings. We need to get energized and volunteer to help good
Democrats, stuff envelopes, make phone calls, walk the precincts, join a
vibrant get-out-the-vote campaign, drive folks to the polls on November 2,
We have no realistic alternative. This year, there is no viable third party
from the left. If we remain listless in our opposition to the extreme
politics being practiced by the GOP, and refuse to crank up our energy and
commitment to the cause, the consequences will be horrendous, and we'll kick
ourselves later. By focusing on punishing the weak, centrist-leaning
Democrats, we would be committing a kind of political suicide.
Right now, at this moment, we progressives and moderates are the bulwark of
democracy. We have a Constitution and country to defend. We can continue
working for serious reform of the Democratic Party after we keep the
dangerous, reckless Republicans away from the levers of power on November
More purity later, victory now. Onward!
Copyright 2010 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, worked as
a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly two decades, has
taught at universities in California and Washington, and currently serves as
co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).