As regular readers of this blog may guess, I haven’t been too fond of “progressives,” or “The Left,” as they call themselves. Back about 5 years ago, they got tagged here (and a few other places) as “frustrati,” “emoprogs,” and “purity trolls.” Why have I been so … irritated … by them? It’s not their ideals. It’s not even their anger at the lack of progress on some fronts, or even their disappointment with some (or all) of the Democratic Party. Surprisingly, I sometimes share them. What irritates me is they aren’t doing anything to change any of that except to bitch about it, and even worse, assume that every place in the country is just like where they live.
Here’s my reality: I’m almost 60 years old, and I have never in my life had a Democrat represent me in my state legislature. Not the state Assembly or the state Senate. For the majority of my life, I’ve had a Republican governor, Representative in the House, and at least one Senator. Most of my local elected officials have had the (R) after their name, and more often than not, there hasn’t been anyone running against them on the Democratic line. Do I live in a “solid Red” state? No, I live in what has often been described as the “solid Blue” state of New York.
It turns out there are Democrats here, and some of us are progressives. We tend to be pragmatic about it. I’ve spent the past decade being involved in the local party, and honestly, it’s it’s often dull as hell, with more than a few “rubber chicken” dinners listening to candidates and potential ones. It’s being asked if I know who, if anyone, might be willing to run for an office … and coming up blank, helping to scrape up a few hundred dollars for campaigns, and getting nominating petitions signed. I’ve spent a lot of time explaining to young people why it’s important to vote. Not just “register to vote,” but to actually show up at the polls. It’s often frustrating and sometimes depressing. Yet election after election, I see Democrats here trying, and I (along with others) show up to vote. Yes, it is depressing to see the ballot at times.
But you know what? We do have Democrats being elected here. Not a lot, but we do. Not all – or even most – are “progressive.” Besides that being irrelevant for some of the positions (no one really cares if a highway supervisor is liberal), they tend to be more “blue dog” than “pure progressive.” That’s been the change over the years. Instead of walking into the voting booth and seeing only Republican candidates, there are Democrats to vote for, and sometimes they win. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen because I moved here. It’s been a long hard slog that started years earlier, and it’s been glacially slow. It’s been because local Democrats have put in a lot of work and time into building the party up, mostly without any recognition or support from elsewhere. But it is changing!
I’ve also had the advantage of seeing various progressive policies get implemented over the years. When I was in junior high, the first real environmental laws with teeth were passed. When I was in college, more were. I remember “how it was” before then, and I also know how weak and flawed their predecessors were. It took a generation for them to get to the point where they meant something. I’ve watched numerous efforts to get some form of national healthcare passed, and fail miserably … until 2009.
Which is why I have scant patience with various so-called “progressives.” It must be wonderful to have a nice, well-paid job living in a liberal area. You get to only hang out with people who think just like you do, you don’t have to worry about whether the Democrat on the ballot will win, your only “concern” is if they’re “liberal enough” for you to get to the polls. More often than not, they aren’t. You’re not actually doing much – if any – volunteering for or working in the party, and your donations tend to be for some candidate across the country or to some “liberal” PAC.
Then you sit at home and complain about how the Democratic Party doesn’t “listen to you.” You join with others just like you on Internet forums to whine about about how your ideal progressive actions aren’t happening right now, scream your heads off when one doesn’t meet your ideal of purity, and feel free to tell us how we should be doing things. You help feed the right-wing media with talking points, just because your particular pet cause didn’t get enough attention. So after you’ve indulged in your public snit, you stay home rather than vote “to send a message,” and tell everyone that you’re really “the base” of the Democratic Party.
They’re not the base. They’re a bunch of whiny, entitled little snots. They’re like a billionaire who complains about how awful his life is to a group of lower-income people. If you aren’t willing to put in the work and you almost never show up to vote, why do you think you deserve a voice in the party? What makes you think politicians are going to listen to you? Out here in the boonies, you’d be in for a rude shock. It would surprise you to find out that not all Democrats agree with your ideals. Sometimes they don’t work here, sometimes they’re not practical, or they’re just not that important to us.
They’ve never had the experience of being happy that there’s a Democrat running. We don’t get to worry if they’re “progressive enough,” we’re just happy that we have a choice in the first place. Worry about them being “progressive?” That’s years down the road, when we might actually get enough Democrats to have things like primaries. We’re just going to keep slogging along, voting every time, and working to get to that point. But you know what? There’s a lot of the country that’s like us, and that makes us the base of the party, not them. They’re the anchor holding us back, and they just piss us off because they make demands instead of helping or working for it.