Milt Shook over at Please Cut The Crap has a great post up titled “10 Things All Progressives Should Understand for 2014 and Beyond.” I strongly recommend reading it. It’s common sense, pragmatic, and straightforward. In that vein, I’m revamping a post that was part of a series back at the end of 2011, the “Politics for the Far Left” series. I’m doing that not (just) because I’m lazy, but because I’m seeing many of the same … idiotic … statements reappearing that I saw back then that caused me to write it in the first place. I often think that it’s not just that they don’t “get it,” it’s that they don’t want to get it. Purity of cause, and nursing of perceived grudges, is more important to them than actually getting the progress towards their goals. When it comes to understanding politics 101, they’ve gotten a failing grade. So here are some remedial lessons.
#1 – The only time you’re going to agree 100% of the time with a politician is if you are that politician. Otherwise, there’s at least one issue, and probably more, where you’ll have disagreements. If you look back at the past 6 years, at various times the “lefter than thou” blogs have erupted in screaming fury about something that one progressive hero or another has done. They’re usually considered “progressive icons,” except when they’ve cast a vote or introduced a bill or amendment which tramples on whatever is the perceived “true” ideal, and they’ve all done that several times. A politician you agree with 80 or 90 percent of the time is far and away better than the politician who doesn’t agree with you at all.
#2 – If you don’t vote, you don’t count. The whole notion that you’re “sending a message” by not voting? That the party has to give you what you want, in order to get you to the polls? It’s garbage. The only “message” you’ve sent by doing that is to show that you are an unreliable voter at best, and politicians discount you in a hurry. Nice if you show up, but they’re not counting on it. You can whine and bitch all you want about “corporatist control,” etc., but at the end of it all, politicians count bodies in the voting booth. Parties care about what their voters think. If you’re not one of those voters, then politicians and the party don’t care what you think.
#3 – Threats are meaningless. Promises aren’t. Over the past several years, I’ve heard a lot of talk about primarying some “offending” politician. Various members of the House, Senators, or even the President have had threats of primaries. I lived in a district next to two “offending” House members who were by deity going to get a primary in 2010, according to the far left. They didn’t get one, and that was repeated in districts across the country then, and in the 2012 cycle. Oh, I know some jumped on various bandwagons when there was a primary, but they weren’t initiated by the people making the threats. In the last election, there was a real progressive running in the Democratic primary to go up against a Tea Party Republican incumbent. The amount of help and support he received from the people who had been saying “real progressives should run?” None. So what did you show? Your threats were meaningless noise. A threat is not a promise. A promise is when you actually deliver on your threat. That means something.
#4 – RTFM! That’s a tech term, meaning read the fucking manual! In this case, do some basic research. The Constitution, the rules of the House and the Senate, and some actual history, not the mythology. If you’re going to be a “political activist” or claim to be “politically aware,” you damn well need to know the basic operating procedures of the government you’re claiming you want to change or influence. When you scream your head off about something the President didn’t do, and it was Congress’s fault, all you’ve done is prove your ignorance. If you want to be taken seriously, RTFM.
#5 – You have to do it yourself. You want a “progressive” candidate? Go find one. You want the party to listen to your concerns? Then get involved with your local party. Don’t expect someone else to do it for you. You ever wonder why various groups are considered “a base” within the Democratic Party? It’s pretty simple. They got involved. They recruited candidates, provided warm bodies for campaign staffs, voter contacts, door-to-door work, raised money, and made sure they got their people into the voting booth. They did it over and over again, until the Democratic Party “got the message.” The current “extreme Left” or frustrati? Nope. You continually gripe about the President “not doing something,” or are saying that the “Party should.” You’re expecting someone else to do that for you. You want it, you’re going to have to work for it, because no one is going to do it for you. Blogging and commenting on blogs isn’t “activism.”
#6 – You don’t win by losing. There’s an apocryphal story, attached to many politicians, which goes like this: The bright-eyed, idealistic young candidate goes to a party elder to gain their support. The candidate spends a great deal of time telling the party elder all the great plans they have, how they’re going to make things better once they’re in office. The party elder listens patiently, and then says to the candidate: “That’s a wonderful set of ideas. But first, you have to win.” The moral is that you can have all sorts of wonderful ideas – and ideals – but if you’re not in office, or your party isn’t, it doesn’t matter. Think about that. Remember all the ideas that Ralph Nader had in 2000 that made some progressives swoon? They don’t matter, because he lost. Do you know how much Alan Grayson has accomplished legislatively this term? How much progressive legislation has been passed since the end of 2010? None. Why? Because Democrats don’t control the House. The message sent by losing? That you lost.
#7 – There’s a time and place for everything. There’s a saying I heard years ago: “In the primary, you fall in love. In the general election, you fall in line.” The lesson in that is that it’s expected that you’ll decide which candidate you really want to run on your party line, and advocate strongly for them through the primary. Once the primary is over, you’re expected to back the winning candidate, even if it wasn’t the one you wanted. That’s called “party discipline,” and it’s something that despite moans about the lack of it on the part of the far left, they lack themselves. There is a time when you can advocate strongly for your position, and there’s a time when you need to back off. I pointed out back in early 2011 that they were still complaining about “Blue Dogs” when … it didn’t matter. There was no point in it because Republicans had taken control of the House. That’s just one example of many when the Left have shot themselves in the foot by attacking Democrats when it was either meaningless or would help the Republicans. You also don’t waste effort on what’s not important now. For example, the various frustrati blogs and a large number of “left” media pundits are spending many words on who they want to run for President in 2016. You know what? It’s not important now. What is important is the election we’re having this year. In December, you can start discussing 2016, but right now? No. It’s neither the time or the place to do it.
As I said back then, this is not rocket science. It is hard work, and things don’t change overnight. That’s what the adults have been telling you. We understand that we’re not going to be 100% happy with any politician, we need to vote every time, that we aren’t going to make meaningless threats, that there are rules we have to follow, we need to do a lot of work, and most importantly, if we don’t win, we don’t get what we want. Until you do that, all you’re doing is throwing tantrums, and no, we’re not putting up with it. If you haven’t been paying attention for the past few years, you’d realize that all you accomplished with your last set of tantrums was to let Republicans start rolling back a lot of progressive gains. Don’t let it happen again.