Being a Democrat and a Puma: What does it Mean?Posted: October 27, 2008
Several articles I’ve read recently have me questioning what being a Democrat means to me and why I have aligned myself with the party. This election has me questioning if the party has left me or I should leave the party. I am still voting democrat from Senator on down. To me, this says something about that question.
This process really started as I became increasingly dismayed at the tactics used by Democrats during this presidential election season. Early in my blog posts, I see myself struggling with the concept of accepting the Democrat party as the party that is slightly less evil version of the Republican party. They give lip service to many issues that I care about. Chief among these are civil rights and liberties for all Americans regardless of sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, or social/economic class. However, my emotional response to being a Democrat has always been based on the idea that we stand up for the underdog to ensure everyone can participate fully in this great experience. To me, that is the nature of democracy and the nature of being a democrat. As I continually experience the Chicago way of being a democrat, I see more of the bullying abuse of power I’ve seen overplayed by the Republican party and I find it extremely upsetting.
Unabashed Leftist Alexander Cockburn wrote a recent article for Counterpunch entitled ‘Obama, the First Rate Republican’. This short essay distills much of my dismay at the current state of the DNC and their relentless bullying of those who do not see Senator Barack Obama as anything more than a second rate, junior Senator who does well when reading from a teleprompter. He has put the meat to the bone.
After eight years of unrelenting assault on constitutional liberties by Bush and Cheney, public and judicial enthusiasm for tyranny has waned. Obama has preferred to stand with Bush and Cheney. In February, seeking a liberal profile in the primaries, Obama stood against warrantless wiretapping. His support for liberty did not survive for long. Five months later, he voted in favour and declared that “the ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counter-terrorism tool”.
Every politician, good or bad, is an ambitious opportunist. But beneath this topsoil, the ones who make a constructive dent on history have some bedrock of fidelity to some central idea. In Obama’s case, this “idea” is the ultimate distillation of identity politics: the idea of his blackness. Those who claim that if he were white he would be cantering effortlessly into the White House do not understand that without his most salient physical characteristic Obama would be seen as a second-tier senator with unimpressive credentials.
As a political organiser of his own advancement, Obama is a wonder. But I have yet to identify a single uplifting intention to which he has remained constant if it has presented any risk to his progress.
His entire essay is reprinted here.
As my friends send me email after email of Neocons for Obama, I tripped across this line that gave me more than just a pause.
Obama has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines. He is more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain, and has been the most popular of the candidates with Washington lobbyists. He has been fearless in offending progressives, constant in appeasing the powerful.
The description of constant in appeasing the powerful, to me, is the most undemocratic thing you could say about a Democratic candidate for anything, let alone the presidency. I am continually reminded of the number of democrats (Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, LBJ) that basically threw entire elections and states away to do the right thing for the little guy. In this case, I am thinking Harry Truman who integrated the military, Eleanor Roosevelt who was a relentless champion of minorites and the poor, and LBJ whose great society programs are next to only Franklin Roosevelt in providing a basic safety net to the disenfranchised in our country. What would they say to a democratic candidate, in the guise of change, appeases the powerful?
I read another articlein the New York Times today. “Rethinking the Notion of Political Dominance” reviews many of the issues that drive a party with a seemlingly endless future into the wilderness. This is also something I worry about as a Democrat in Exile. This quote is from Bernadette Budde, a political strategist for theBusiness Industry Political Action Committee in Washington which the Times labels as a Republican-friendly Organization.
A new generation of voters, consuming political information in different ways than their forebears, is “very action-oriented, very issue-driven, very solutions-oriented,” Ms. Budde said. “It would be very foolhardy for either political party to think they could dominate the age politically.”
Does this imply that we should just do the expedient thing and remove the guise that democrats bring to the future what they valued in the past? I hope not. For me, being a democrat actually means something more than clicking the button next to some name with the D next to it on the ballot. It means a certain set of issues and values that I support will be the priorities of the candidates I support. I expect tolerance of differences and civil discourse. I expect fair and just treatment of folks. I expect fair play and justice for those who can’t buy it in the court system. I expect that civil rights and liberties include all folks and not just those of the correct religion, proper social affiliations, or physiques.
Now is the time to discuss what it means to be a Democrat and what we expect the party to do. It is not just about Bush bashing and change for the sake of change. It is time to prioritize our values and to tell our officials that we expect them to follow them. This means they should follow these values even if it means we loose a few states or seats in an election, a few recruits to the military, or a few religious folks to their own private pews. Democracy is not for the faint of heart and it is not a tool for the expedient opportunist who will say or do anythign to appease power. The Democratic Party should look to empower the powerless. Pumas must unite and remind the party that we are still essentially a movement from within the democratic party. We are not faux Republicans or recent Republican converts. We must make that clear if we are to have a voice and a future towards bring the party back to its roots and its values.