There have been countless articles questioning why there is no equivalent of the Tea Party for the Left. From basic differences in philosophy between liberals and conservatives, to the very concept of Liberals being open to many different, and even competing ideas. It’s also worth noting that we’ve seen both the rise and demise of the Tea Party, so while it was definitely disruptive, not much was accomplished.
By David Todd McCarty | Wednesday, April 18, 2018
he Left doesn’t need their own Tea Party. We’re already a mixed bag of pet projects, ideological bubbles and special interests. Even our protests are not in unity against conservatism, but against any one of a dozen, very specific concerns that more often than not, bring various groups together. Racing. Immigration. Police Violence. Gender Equality. Women’s Rights. Sexual Harassment. And most recently, guns.
We are constantly being bombarded with attacks on both our established norms, as well as any effort to move forward with progressive change, from the Right. It’s impossible to maintain outrage against every attack. We must divide and conquer. So it’s important that we have various groups that concentrate on a single problem.
But when it comes to politics, we must unite under a single banner, and that banner is the Democratic Party.
The criticism from progressives on the Left is that the establishment’s political machine is run by power brokers more interested in maintaining power and keeping the status quo, than in moving forward a more progressive agenda. Political movement is glacial by nature with change coming slowly. Big business and power favors stability over radical change. It’s important that we understand the nature of the beast.
Most liberals are, by nature, open to new ideas and constantly re-evaluating the world around us and looking for ways we can improve. When we are our best selves, we search for injustice, we strive for excellence, we value inclusion. That is our best selves. We are not always our best selves.
I use the words liberal, left and progressive interchangeably and I refuse to start parsing the left into a spectrum. I’m not going to get into a pissing match about who is more progressive, more liberal (or what is often meant), more righteous. It’s counterproductive.
We have two parties in America. Republicans and Democrats. I’m not going to go into why I’m not a Republican, but suffice it to say it’s not an option for me. I don’t agree with any aspect of their platform. I’m not 100% behind the Democratic platform either, but it’s certainly much more representative of my beliefs than anything else.
So, I’m a Democrat. That’s my team. We should start saying it out loud. I’m a Democrat. Not “I’m a progressive or I’m a liberal.” You can be those things too, but when it comes to politics, you’re either playing for a team, or you’re yelling from the sidelines, and I’ve got news for you, the players on the field don’t really care what your sign says, or what you’re chanting. You can be an annoyance, for sure, but you are not going to have any influence over the outcome of the game.
All of this doesn’t mean we have to be satisfied with the status quo, but working within the system is much harder than shouting into the wind of social media. It takes hard work, and sacrifice, cooperation, compromise and curiosity.And listening. A lot of listening.
What the Tea Party did to the Right was shout down anyone who did not agree with them. They made a lot of noise and accomplished very little. They never got past the idea of winning elections. Once they did, they were completely unprepared for governing.
So, I say once again, the Left doesn’t need their own Tea Party, intent on making a lot of noise and accomplishing nothing. We don’t need activists, we need statesmen. We don’t need protesters, we need politicians.
We think of those as dirty words now. Politicians. Congressional approval in America is around 11%. For a little perspective, Nickelback has an approval rating in America of 39%.
We need public servants actually interested in doing the hard work of governing, not egomaniacs who want to be stars on cable news. Governing is dirty work. Even in the best case scenario, half the people are pissed off no matter what you do. But that’s why we don’t vote directly on everything. We vote for people who believe will represent us to the best of their abilities.
So, does that mean we settle for the status quo? Absolutely not. Here’s my roadmap for success.
To begin with, we need to flip as many seats as possible from Red to Blue. Period. No matter how conservative you think the candidate is, you’re 100% more likely to influence a Democratic politician to adhere to democratic ideals than you are a Republican candidate, if for no other reason, than they have the political cover within their caucus to do so. The point is, elect more Democrats then push them to the left on individual issues.
Many activists and far left advocates believe that the best way to influence a political candidate is to batter them in the primaries and force them to move to the left. This strategy lacks a fundamental understanding of human nature. No one likes being bullied, no matter how righteous you believe your stance to be. The other, usually unintended, result of this strategy is to bang up a candidate prior to a general election, where they’ll really be up against a candidate more than willing to pile on.
When choosing a Democratic candidate the two most important things to consider is one, their ability to get elected, and two, once elected, their ability to govern. The job of running for office bears little resemblance to that of actual governing. If you’re good at one, you’re probably not all that good at the other. Finding that balance is extremely difficult.
So we need candidates that have experience that would suggest they would be good at governing, but at the same time, because of temperament, personality, political stance or history, present themselves as someone with a good shot at winning a general election. There are a lot of factors, not the least of which is how well-connected to people in power they are, and their ability to fundraise.
The New Jersey 2nd Congressional District race is a prime example of this situation. The DCCC, as well as all the precinct leaders have thrown in with State Senator Jeff Van Drew, despite the apoplectic response from progressives who view Van Drew as a DINO (Democrat In Name Only).
Even conservatives have gotten in on this. Rick Trader, producer and co-host of the nationally syndicated Conservative Commandos radio show wrote, “But, rest assured, once Van Drew is elected and seated with Nancy Pelosi, he WILL vote with the liberal left. Van Drew will be seen as the Joe Manchin of the House — that is, to get elected, says all the things the people back home want to hear, but once elected, he will vote with his Democrat friends. That is how political careers are made.”
Trader didn’t mean that as a compliment either. His view is very indicative of conservative pundits everywhere when he said, “Just as Republicans have a reputation of running as conservatives and governing as moderates, Democrats are known to run as moderates but govern as liberals.”
This is, of course, complete self-serving, self-aggrandizing, unadulterated bullshit. The idea that Republicans have been governing as moderates flies in the face of a decade of stagnation in Congress. But they don’t believe Democrats have the will to win. Christopher Bedford, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Caller wrote recently:
Democrats are in a frenzy. They’ve finally nailed the blueprint for defeating Republicans in Trump Country.
“If we’re going to take the majority, it’s going to be because we win districts like that,” Texas Democrat Rep. Filemon Vela said in a Beltway news story that claims incoming Democratic Rep. Conor ‘Lamb’s success could provide a blueprint for other Democrats in tough races.’”
The Democrats, to be sure, will win seats in the midterm elections, and might even take the House, but not the way they took Pennsylvania 18.
The “blueprint” goes something like this: Run a young, handsome Marine, make sure he’s pro-Second Amendment, make sure he’s anti-Nancy Pelosi, make sure he’s quiet on plans for amnesty, make sure he says he’s personally against abortion but runs like hell from any specific questions, and make sure he’s quiet about Democrats’ anti-energy agenda.
Sound unlikely in today’s Democratic Party? It’s preposterous. That might not seem apparent to giddy D.C. election consultants, so of course it didn’t dawn on the gossip-mongers of Washington’s press corps, but three things –Democratic leadership, the party’s faithful, and the man in the White House — conspire to ensure this blueprint never happens on any kind of national scale.
It will remain to be seen if Democrats can put away their swords and stop in-fighting long enough to defeat a far more insidious enemy; one that is bent on their destruction at all cost.
Now, I would love to see us get to a place where we outlaw private campaign contributions, and move to a system where all elections are government-funded. Everyone gets the same amount of money. You have three months to campaign for a primary. Six months for a general. When and if that ever happens, all the rules will change. Until then, we have to work with what we’ve got. And what we have is a system run by money and power, and all the wishing in the world isn’t going to make that go away.
Politically, I’m pretty far left. I believe that government can be an instrument of good. I believe that we as a society should care for those on the fringes; that unbridled wealth is the antithesis of the American Dream, and that everyone should have their basic needs met. In the richest country in the world, no one should be homeless or hungry and no one should want for education or healthcare.
But I’m also a practical guy.
If we can’t win elections, we can’t even begin to change things, so all our factions, with all our special interests, need to take a back seat to the common good, and we need to elect more Democrats to all levels of public office. Once we do that, we can start the truly difficult work of transforming a nation.
In the meantime, feel free to shout about the causes close to your heart. They’re critical to our growth. But remember the end goal. You can’t win the game if you’re not on the field.
It’s time Democrats stopped getting outgunned.
We need a longer game than one election.