Back in the early days of this blog, I defined my stance as a pragmatic liberal:
I’m a pragmatic liberal and a realist. What that means is that I will always go with “what works” over an impractical solution, or take what is achievable for now versus doing without anything in the vague hope that “the perfect” will somehow happen. I recognize that “all or nothing” often means nothing, and that if nothing hurts a lot more people than something, I’ll take the something – every time.
One of the things I’ve noted is that purists tend to be quite willing to propose impractical solutions, or accept nothing at all, if it means “not perfect” is the alternative according to their lights.
Anyone who pays attention at all has had a ringside seat to what “purity” really means, as the Republicans have been giving a master class on that. In looking through this years postings, I see the repetitive willingness on their part to not only shut the government down, but to play games with the nation’s credit ratings in order to get their way. Is it stupid? Yes, sure it is, and I’m finally seeing some cracks in the media’s belief that somehow the Republicans aren’t as insane as they sound.
I don’t expect that to change this year. Too many of them are either on the Tea Party side, or deathly afraid of getting a primary from them … and losing. In an earlier post, I said that the so-called “civil war” they’re experiencing isn’t as much an argument over philosophy, it’s an argument over tactics. You might call it “the two Virginia models.” Bob McDonnell ran as a “moderate Republican,” his actual record aside. Ken Cuccinelli ran as a “true conservative,” which was backed up by his record as the state’s Attorney General. McDonnell won while Cuccinelli lost. One might note that McDonnell dropped the “moderate” mask the moment he won, but the key thing was he won. He might not have, and probably wouldn’t have, had he run as what he was. “Establishment” Republicans want to follow the McDonnell path, while the Tea Party wants to follow Cuccinelli’s. Of course, conservatives also (I kid you not) believe he lost because he wasn’t “conservative enough.”
The reason they’re having this fight now? Not because they lost (badly) in 2012, or their polling sank into the basement after they shut down the government. It’s because they want to keep the House, and take back the Senate, and this year’s elections are the key for them in their attempt to roll back as much of the past few years gains as they can. They’re not exactly hiding it, they’ve been all over the media saying it, and yes, they’re serious. Anyone who still thinks that they’ll be “more reasonable” once they’re in control of Congress is delusional.
The “pundits” are saying that it’s a pipe dream for the Democratic Party to win control of the House, and they’re not certain about Democrats keeping the Senate.
Still, the baseline result right now is that Democrats lose seats in the House and Republicans add to their already imposing margin. And the Senate is even more promising turf for Republicans, both because the map is better for them (Democrats are defending 21 seats to Republicans’ 14) and because a reasonably small swing could give Republicans control of the entire chamber.
Which is why Democrats, of all persuasions, need to get out and vote. Even more, it means that the “pure progressives” need to start getting … pragmatic and realistic. I’ll use my own representative as an example. He’s held office for the past 4 years now. Is he a “progressive?” No, he’s a moderate, slightly to the right of center. Several times a year he says something or casts a vote that really pisses me off. Does that mean I’m looking to have him given a primary and replaced on the ballot with a pure progressive? That’s where my being pragmatic and realistic comes in. The answer is no. I live in a district that is +1 or +2 Republican, and some parts have been Republican for generations. I remember his opponents, and how far to the right they were. I also know that his chances of getting a primary, let alone losing one if he did, are virtually non-existent. So yes, I will be supporting him and voting for him this year. Because while he occasionally manages to piss me off, I’d rather have him in office than the people who ran against him, and I want to win.
Which means that in order to win back the House, we’re not going to do it by only running “pure progressives.” We need “moderates” or even (horrors!) Blue Dogs to do it. If the Republicans are running to the far right, we can (and need to) occupy the center as well as the left. That’s the difference between “Speaker Pelosi” and “Leader Pelosi.” It’s the difference between committee chair and “ranking member.” That’s why we need to be pragmatic and realistic. It’s not that I (or many people) might prefer that we have 218+ progressive Democrats in the House. It’s that for now it’s not realistic. It means that we have to accept “less than 100%.” My representative disappoints me or pisses me off on occasion, but for every time he does that, there’s 8 or 9 times when he doesn’t. I know that any Republican in his seat is going to be well on the opposite side of that equation.
There’s a lot of things we need to get done in this country. We need infrastructure modernization, we need to deal with climate change, we need improved education, employment opportunities, and a host of other things that require a functioning government. I don’t have a lot of hope on getting that this year, with the Republicans controlling the House. I do have hopes for 2015 and beyond, if we can take back the House and keep the Senate. We’re not going to get there with perfect Democrats, we can with “good enough.” To do that, we need to be … pragmatic.