Over at The People’s View, rootless_e has a post looking at the Professional Left. Down in the comments is something I’ve seen from a lot of the “purity” side of the Left:
But consider this. Why have Republicans been in thrall to their own “purists”? They have been dragged further and further to the right, and the national along with them.
On occasion, I’ve noted more than a little jealousy from the purist left when it comes to the purist right. They look at what is happening in the Republican Party, and wonder why the Democratic Party isn’t doing the same for them. The reason quite simply is one that they don’t want to hear.
You have to remember (as I do) that the far right, the “purists” on the conservative side, weren’t always a major factor in Republican politics. Even into the ’90′s, they were just one of many bases inside the party, a group that was given some consideration to, and at least lip service to their “issues.” But, what was happening was that the evangelical right and the ultra-conservative right were moving into the local party’s structure. They were the ones who ran for offices like town boards, town clerks, school boards. They showed up to do the “grunt work” of stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, and getting out the vote. They reliably showed up to vote in primaries and general elections. Over time, they became party officials, with the ability to select and recruit candidates for office. As their party officials moved up the chain, they became able to set platform policy for state parties, and then the national party. But note something. This didn’t occur overnight. It took them the better part of three decades to do it.
The end result? The “purists of the Right” are major players in the Republican Party. They set policy, they select candidates. Consider the past election, the “Tea Party movement,” and how many Republican politicians who did not meet the standard of purity fell in primaries. Besides having a lot of primary challengers – and the backing of party officials – you need to remember that most of the challengers were either elected officials or prior candidates. In other words, the ultraconservatives “looked to their bench,” and they had one.
Now, contrast that to the purists on the Left. They want the same capability, but they’re ignoring the whole work your way up aspects. As NCrissieB put it:
And yes, too many have No Little League, High School, College, Minors, Or Regular Season But I Expect To Start In The World Series Syndrome. (NLLHSCMORSBIETSITWSS, for short.)
and as I said in an earlier post here
The problem is that when it comes time to look for progressive candidates – particularly ones who can win – or push the party to move in a certain direction, it turns out that the candidates don’t magically appear, or the party doesn’t seem to want to move. The reasons for that are quite simple. There aren’t any progressives with experience at the local level in politics in your area, and the local party has never heard of you – or the netroots.
In other words, when it came time to make good on all the threats of primarying Blue Dogs, of going after any Democrat who had antagonized them, it turned out that they were “all bark and no bite.” Quite simply for all their thundering rhetoric, when it came time to deliver, it turned out to be nothing. The ability to identify, recruit, and run a primary candidate’s campaign requires a local presence. It requires people “on the ground” and voters to make it happen. It takes time, years of effort to build the local party, move up to higher levels, to build a “bench” of candidates for higher office in the lower elected offices. None of which the purists on the Left seem to be willing to do.
There’s a pejorative term that gets used by construction workers: Sidewalk superintendents. They’re the people who stand on the sidewalk next to a project, and expound on how it should be done, what the workers are doing wrong, and how much better it would be if they had their way. Ask them to pitch in, and they’ll have some excuse as to why they can’t. The purists of the Left? They’re the sidewalk superintendents of politics. They’ve got a lot of opinions, they want to be in charge, but they don’t want to do the work. That’s why the Democratic Party isn’t in thrall to them.