For a five year period, I lived in a district that had a Democrat in the House of Representatives. I still live here, but before and after that, I’ve been represented by Republicans. The Democratic representative caused a conniption fit with various liberal blogs when he was first nominated for a special election, because he wasn’t “progressive.” But after a bruising, nasty campaign, he did something no Democrat has done in a very long time. He won. Then in a year when Republicans took back control of the House, he won again. And a third time in 2012, before deciding not to run again. While he was serving, was I 100% happy with him? No. Did I get really ticked off by some of his votes or stands? You bet I did! Did I let him know it? Oh yes, and on a regular basis. I also let him know when I approved of what he’d done, and yes, overall he was a fairly reliable Democratic vote in the House and around 90% of the time I agreed with him or understood why he was doing something. The Republican I have now? If look really hard and be nice about it, about 5% of the time. But here’s the point of this: If you read my blog over the time he was in office, you would almost never have known when I was furious with him.
I kept my disagreements with him between him, his staff, and myself. The same thing holds true when it comes to President Obama, my two Senators, and the Democratic Party. If I have had serious disagreements with them (and I have), believe me, the appropriate people found out about it in a hurry. There have been times when I’ve been deeply discouraged and depressed by what is happening, to the point of thinking “Why bother?”
But I didn’t write attack blogs here, or run around the blogosphere screaming my head off about their “selling me out” or “betraying me,” and I most definitely didn’t encourage people to stay at home to “send a message” by not voting. That has been the hallmark of the group I call the frustrati. Others call them “emoprogs,” “purity trolls,” or the “Progressive Unicorn Brigade.” While the Internet has given them a wider audience, they’re not a new phenomenon. In this state, there used to be a Liberal Party. It was formed by liberals who were fed up with the Democratic Party’s continued support of the then President. That President? Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Liberals of the time hated him. Yes, the same FDR who is today revered as a “progressive hero.” There was an article a while back where the author made a very good point: Liberals love the idea of a Democratic President, but they hate Democratic Presidents. Consider all the bouquets thrown at Lyndon Johnson for his getting progressive legislation passed, the plaudits thrown at Jimmy Carter over his speeches on energy independence, and other actions. But you know what? Liberals of the time hated them with a red hot passion. Today’s “great progressive presidents” were loathed by the progressives of the time. They were never “pure enough.”
You can see the same thing for every Democratic President since the 1960’s. No matter what they’re doing, no matter how much progress is actually being made, it’s never fast enough or good enough for them. There is nothing like an election – Presidential or mid-term – to bring them out in force. They’ll write long blogs, comment on every news site or blog site that they can find, write letters to the editor of newspapers, newspaper columns, and go on television and radio talk shows. They’re more than happy to tell anyone how bad the Democratic Party is, how the current officeholder is a grave disappointment, incompetent, and “lacks leadership.” They’ll moan endlessly about what should be done, and sob about how horrible it was that they were “sold out.” They’ll rant about how there’s no difference between the two parties, and it really doesn’t matter which candidate you choose, because they’re all bad. If only the Party would listen to them, we’d be ever so much better off! But because it doesn’t (fill in the justification), they’re going to stay home to send a message about how they won’t be taken for granted! Yes, everyone should stay home and not vote, to protest a “corrupt system!” How dare the Party ignore them, they’re “the base!” Sound familiar? I’ve been talking about that here for the past 6 years.
Read them, and you’d be hard pressed to figure out that there’s another major political party out there. In fact, one which stands for everything they’re against. Oh, they’ll mention it, but then pivot right back to how bad the Democratic Party is, and how horrible Democratic elected officials are. Here’s the other shoe: As their outrage peaks, we end up with a Republican President, who tries their level best to roll back those achievements. You see, not only are they staying at home to protest, they’ve managed to persuade a lot of undecided voters that it doesn’t matter who gets elected. It won’t make a difference after all, they’re “both the same.”
That’s despite a lot of objective evidence that there are major differences between the two parties, and if you’re a progressive, you most definitely do not want Republicans in office! All I have to do is look around at all the states which are totally controlled by them. High poverty, low healthcare coverage, lowest income, greatest income disparity, miserable education systems, attempts to roll back women’s and LGBT rights, destroying unions, and removing environmental protections. All of them have happened, or are trying to happen in Republican states. Notice something? None of that is happening in Democratic controlled states. In the first two years of President Obama’s administration, we had a Democratic Congress. We passed a stimulus bill which helped alleviate the major recession, saved the automobile industry, we passed a law reining in health insurance companies and providing affordable health insurance to people, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was done away with, and we started re-regulating Wall Street and the “too big to fail” banks, along with creating a consumer financial protection bureau. None of it perfect, but a good foundation on which to build. But because it wasn’t “perfect,” the frustrati made it a point to throw public tantrums. The end result? Extremely low voter turnout, a Republican House, and now a Republican Congress. Zero progressive legislation, numerous attempts to roll back all those achievements, and stubborn obstruction. So no, they’re not the same. Even the worst “Blue Dog” had something that is lacking in Republicans these days: They wanted government to work.
One might note that most these “pure progressives” are almost never found at the local Democratic Party levels, where the real action is. They never seem to be able to point to a potential candidate, they’re not in evidence in the months ahead of a primary season when those same local parties are out searching for people to run, and they’re most definitely not around doing the grunt work of running a campaign. It’s always someone else who is supposed to do that. More often than not, they themselves don’t show up at the voting booth on election day. Oh, it’s just a “matter of principle” to them, because their criteria for a candidate wasn’t met. Because said candidate didn’t meet their purity test, it’s all the Democratic Party’s fault. If only the Party would pick someone acceptable to them, they’d be willing to do something!
Here’s the reality check: Republicans win when voter turnout is suppressed. They want that to happen, because they know that their “base” are the voter demographics who most reliably show up at the voting booth. But they know that isn’t enough to win, except in certain areas. What they need is to keep Democrats and independents out of the booth, and the best way to do that is to discourage them from showing up. Their biggest ally in this? The “pure progressives.” Yes, the people who say they want progressive action, and progressive legislation are the biggest ally for the Republican Party. You see, those of us who are pragmatic progressives know that we have to keep working on things, and we’re damn tired of having to fight to keep what was gained, or try to regain what was lost. The purists are just going to sit around complaining about not having “perfect,” and because they didn’t get their way, they help the Party that wants to remove all those progressive achievements.