A Lesson For “Liberals”

One of the more frequent topics I’ve addressed here has been the “purists” on the liberal blogs.  They like to call themselves “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” all evidence to the contrary, and are constantly calling for the Party to run “true progressives.”  Mind you, that doesn’t entail actually doing it themselves, just that the Party should do it for them.  Hence their constant griping about current members of Congress who fail to meet their standards of purity, along with issuing meaningless threats.

In the current finger-pointing and blame games going on in the Republican Party right now, I can see some lessons for those “pure progressives.”   One of the big ones came from a segment on Morning Joe, during a discussion on where the Republican Party needed to go from here.

A comment Joe Scarborough made struck me:

“It is a shame, there was a time when Republicans, or even conservatives, would listen to the wisdom of William F. Buckley, who would always say “You don’t elect the most conservative guy” – or woman – “you elect the most electable conservative guy.”  Get them as conservative as you can, but a guy that can win in Northwest Florida like myself by 80%, is not the guy you want to nominate in Southern California.”

Substitute “liberal” for “conservative” in that statement, and you have your lesson.  In a previous article, I talked about some numbers that purists needed to think about, I made this point:

If  you don’t  have 218 seats, you can have every Representative be a  “purist Democrat,” , and it doesn’t matter.   The cold reality is that “pure progressives” won’t win in many  – or even most – areas.   I’ll use my district as an example.  It was about as close to a “reliably Republican” district as you’ll find in this country.  There were big parts that hadn’t had a Democrat representing them in over 150 years.  We have been for the past 2 years represented by a Democrat.   Progressives had conniption fits when he was nominated, because he was “not progressive!

You want to know something?  He just won re-election.  Despite the previous district having been designed as a “safe Republican” seat, and this new district having a solid Republican advantage, he still won, and he’s increased his percentage of the vote each time.  No, he’s not a “progressive” as they mean it, and never will be.  However, here’s something to consider:  Liberals have run in the past, and they’ve been absolutely hammered in elections.  In other words, they might have been the “most liberal,” but they most definitely weren’t the most electable liberals.   My congressman is as electable as a Democrat is going to get around here, and that’s why he’s won three times.

Now, here’s the other thing to consider about him.  He’s voted with the Party when it was important to do so.  He voted for the Affordable Care Act, and for the repeal of DADT.    I don’t agree with him all the time, and yes, I do wish he were a staunch progressive.  But I really like winning, and even more, that he’s still far and away more progressive than any Republican alternative.

There’s a take-away lesson from that, and also from this election.  Senator Tester.  Senator Heitkamp.  Senator Manchin.  All of them Democratic senators who won this year, in states that went solidly for Mitt Romney.  Are any of them “pure progressives?”  Not by a long shot.  The purists will – and have for two of them – deride them as “Democrats in Name Only,” “ConservaDems,” or something even less flattering.  But they won.  Like it or not, and I know the purity brigade doesn’t, they’re the most electable liberal in those states.  What’s important about their winning is not just that we have Democrats in their states.  It’s that their wins enabled Democrats to keep control of the Senate.  They’re the people who enable Democrats to chair committees, to have the Senate Majority Leader.  If you want progressive legislation to have a prayer in the Senate, they’re the people responsible for that.

There’s also something to keep in mind about 2012.   Democrats did not regain control of the House.  While there’s a lot of champagne popping and cheering on various liberal blogs about Alan Grayson winning, it’s important to keep one figure in mind:  218.  That’s the number of Democratic Representatives you need to control the House.   Without that, all Alan Grayson is is a speechmaker.   I’m sure he’ll say all the things that will make you feel soft, warm, and fuzzy, but you’d better remember the reality:  It doesn’t matter.  His ability to push any progressive agenda forward is non-existent without 217 other Democrats.

It’s early yet, but the take-away lesson for 2014 should be this:  It’s not about running the most progressive candidate.  It’s about running the most electable progressive candidates.   Republicans forgot that lesson on their side, and it’d be a shame if the Democrats forgot it as well.


Filed under Politics

12 responses to “A Lesson For “Liberals”

  1. I thought of you the minute I heard that Alan Grayson won.
    Over at the orange place, of course, somebody immediately suggested him as the Democratic nominee for 2016. I replied that Mr. Grayson needs to get reelected in 2014 first.

  2. For those Democrats who don’t live in predominantly conservatives districts like I do, they need to understand there will never be a “liberal” Democrat elected to office. As you point out, just to get a Democrat to win over a the GOP contender would be an achievement.

    All Democrats here in Texas have to have some conservative creds in those purple shaded districts if they hope to be seriously considered by enough voters willing to put them in office over the GOP

    • Republicans have an edge of 40,000 registrations here in this district. My representative took just over 50% of the vote, which means a number of Republicans went for him in addition to Democrats and independents. It’s noteworthy that most of the local Republican officials aren’t upset that he won. Mildly disappointed that the Republican didn’t but they happen to like the Democrat as a congressman.

      Sure, you can run a “pure progressive” in places like NYC or San Francisco, where you have an overwhelming Democratic margin. The thing is, the rest of the country doesn’t really have that. The last time a “pure progressive” ran up here, they got 23% of the vote. The “mostly progressive” candidate back in 2008 got 33%. The one who is centrist, with some conservative views? He’s going to start his third term.

  3. sidney18511

    At least we don’t have the nutjobs that are attracted to the GOP. And that 218 number won’t be so easy to achieve as of late. There were so many republicans in office in many states in 2010 when they had the opportunity to gerrymander the districts the way they needed them to be. I always felt that the “not progressive enough” complainers are from the “both parties are the same” camp. Or libertarians. Nothing will make them happy, and they are a very small minority. They won’t be happy until heroin is legal.

    • Liberals have their share of nutjobs, it’s just that liberal nutjobs tend to be dismissive of electoral politics and can’t be bothered to sully their hands doing the dirty work of politics. 🙄 One of the things that absolutely infuriated me about various “real liberals” calling for people stay home to “send a message to Obama” was that they were, conceding things like redistricting to Republicans. As I said earlier this year, did you think there were no consequences?

      • sidney18511

        What really burns my butt is the people that vote a third party canidate……it makes them feel good because they think they are making a “statement”. To who?? They might as well just crack themselves in the head with a hammer…….Now that would be a statement!

  4. A very interesting perspective. It is hard for the winning side sometimes to avoid over-reach. Perhaps that’s part of what happened to the Democrats in 2010.

    • I don’t think it was overreach. There are some “traditional factors” that played a role, along with some new ones that made 2010 happen. First, every mid-term has lower turnout. Second, the party in power almost always loses seats in the mid-term elections. Those are the “traditional factors,” and so not unexpected.

      What was new was that with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the right wing had access to huge amounts of cash to spend without limits. That, along with their control of various media outlets (Fox in particular) enabled them to create the Tea Party, and beat the drums about the terrible things the (black!) President was “planning.” On the other side, the various “liberal” (aka “Professional Left,” “fauxgressives,” “emoprogs,” “firebaggers,” and “frustrati) were having conniption fits about the President not implementing their agenda – blithely waving aside the reality that he hadn’t run on it. So they were all amplifying the Right’s message by painting the President as a failure 🙄 and exhorting people to stay home.

      • sidney18511

        And the lower the turnout always benefits the republicans. That was behind their voter suppression scheme. We must be on the ball for the next midterm elections.

  5. see above

    I’d rather, and have better luck, pushing a Democrat left than trying to pull a RRR left. I have to question the just don’t vote people as to whether or not the are really Dems or trolls. For those of you who have never worked on a campaign trust me you can start pushing for 2014 now lot’s of us are already planning.

    • Exactly. My representative has at times really pissed me off, but on the whole, he’s been pretty good. At least when I contact his office, I don’t feel like I’m talking to a wall, which is what I’ve felt in the past talking to Republicans. Every now and then, he does shift to the left, which is a good thing. No, he’s not the progressive I’d like to have, but I can count. One of the things I can count to is 25% – which is the percentage of people who would otherwise vote for the Republican. 😉