Readers Write: Bring On the Rebels
William Greider's December 27 article "Bring On the Rebels" argued that a group of upstart citizens in Connecticut, looking to run an anti-war candidate against Sen. Joe Lieberman in the fall, could be just the thing to bring about party reform. Some 110 comments on the article attested to the fact that our readers had plenty to say about how (or, indeed, whether) we should breathe new life into the Democratic Party:
Oldgringo started off the debate by calling for the "rank and file to rise up and take control of the party," adding that "Lieberman should be the first to follow Zell Miller into the oblivion of line-crossing has-beens."
Lincoln fan argued that it might take more than just one-party reform, writing, "Taking control of the party is all well and good but to take control of both parties is better. If every voter were to choose the one issue that is most important to him/her and tell both parties that he/she will not vote for any candidate who doesn't support his/her issue, both parties would support the most popular issues. They would be off the table before the election. Both parties would represent the majority of voters and not the 'corporatocracy.'"
But Pepper disagreed, noting that focusing on an issue rather than a person may do more harm than good: "That doesn't work. No candidate can give you everything you want because we are too diverse; what he can give you is where he stands with regard to how he sees his job and convince me and you that he has integrity and will be honest about his votes. He must tell us why he is voting as he does. Otherwise, you force the candidate to lie, and they are already doing that one right now. Every single Repub is now turning face and saying what we want to hear. Pepper went so far as to explain why it is that certain politicians get away with these lies: "'Fast Food' politics. We have short memories and they know that. It's good for one year. All they have to do is say what we want to hear and then after the election do what they are told like they did in the last two elections."
Bobjinfl argued that the entire system needs to be changed rather than just the Democratic Party: "The system is in error. Two political parties have sapped any sense of democracy in this country. They have sold us a bill of goods ever since Tommie Jeff invented the political party in 1800. The founders warned us about political parties, and they warned us about letting money take control over Congress. The people did not listen, and we are now paying the price of a sick, entrenched system. OK, so how do we do it? First, we need at least one and maybe two or three truly viable parties to contest the Demlicans."
Sojourner seemed tired of the talk of Democrats when "the issue is the GOP." He writes, "Does Lieberman act like GOP? If not, then get the hell off his case. Anyone who thinks we have an opportunity now for a leftist revolution has his/her head up his/her you-know-what The political cartoonists can make fun of Lieberman for his hawkishness, but if you expect lockstep uniformity in order to qualify as a Demo, you also have your head up your you-know-what. Stop dreaming and get to work to get some political power.
But what if all that work to gain political power through reforming the Democratic Party was for naught? So asked Mwillse: "Why waste resources trying to fix something that's systemically broken? Why misplace our faith in a flat name and our memory of its former role? What are we holding on to? We can build sustainable change through the Green Party, Working Families, etc., or we can continue to struggle for a quick fix every four years, doom ourselves."
Liberalibrarian seemed skeptical of the current relevance of the Green Party, writing, "A third party is a long way off. It can rise up through local endeavors and hopefully be around in 30 years, but insisting on the evolvement of our present (I say Democrat) party is a beginning."
Doubtom disagreed vehemently, writing, "Where did you get the idea that third parties are unrealistic? Since when has democratic participation been defined as the play between two parties only? It is in the interest of both major parties to propagate that third parties are a waste of time. That and money are the only two things on which they can agree. There are many well-functioning governments with multiple parties, and when neither major party represents the people, it's time to seek representation elsewhere."
Robchapman noted that the real problem with progressives may be their inability to compromise: "As much as I sympathize with the Democratic rank and file frustration with the party leadership's weak stands on the Iraqi invasion, it pains me to see how the progressive activists' quest for ideological purity outweighs their interest in allowing the the majority among the voters the ability to become the majority in our state and federal legislatures and to govern. The American system of representation is designed to favor the conservative elements We Progressives can challenge the GOP in these counties if we talk to the voters about our issues in their language. All too often they agree with us but are put off by our manner, our purity and our rigidity."
Deha, a self-described teacher at "redstateland's largest state university," argued that the real root of progressives' problems is a lack of appropriate education, observing that "the vast majority of these kids suffer from two serious impediments to their intellectual and ethical development: the belief that they are living in the best of all possible worlds, and that nothing they do affects anyone else. We fondly call this the 'only person on the planet syndrome.' These kids have never been taught to consider themselves as part of a whole, as citizens not only of the U.S., but as citizens of the world. No one has ever shown them how each individual action has some consequence in the 'real' world, often affecting people they'll never see So all of those interesting ideas being discussed above will remain just that until our educational system is reformed and enough Americans really understand our political and social history."
Mrsmagoo seemed to think that, no matter how you cut it, "A lot of bloodletting is in order indeed on both sides of the political spectrum. Take the MONEY out of politics (yes, you Mr. & Ms. Corporate America) and let elections become what they once were long ago -- for the people!" Jnc took this one step further, offering, "What progressives need is a fund that candidates can draw from. Not many people who would like to run can afford to take off work for a couple years. Also if they lose, will they have a job to go back to? We need to figure all this out."
It was a spirited dialogue in response to Greider's article, and a testament to the fact that there are plenty of people out there trying to figure out how to more effectively fight the good fight. Thanks to all our readers who contributed.