When I was in high school, I worked in the local hardware store after school and on weekends. This was the late seventies, early eighties, so it was still a bit of the old-fashioned hardware store: big open bins of various fixtures, nails, joiners, pipes etc. Housewares upstairs.
I learned a lot there about how things work, though I’m a lousy handyman I do know at least a little about what goes into things. One of the coolest, and most clever, devices used in plumbing or any other piping system for fluids is the check valve. If you have a sump pump in your home, there is one (or should be one) on the pipe that takes the waste water away from the pump out to your drainage field. The check valve prevents back flow of the water that’s been pumped out. After all, what’s the use of removing something if it can flow back in?
Over the history of our country, various social movements, leaders and parties have slowly been building a reservoir of expanding liberties and opportunities for the citizenry of this country. What started out as a system primarily for wealthy white landowners has, through much struggle and a very bloody civil war, become one with many people having access to that reservoir.
There have always been people who’ve resisted this, of course. People who didn’t want to share, people who thought than only some are “worthy” of the rights we hold dear. They’ve bought politicians, unleashed Guardsmen and Pinkertons and lynch mobs … they’ve stolen, threatend, cajoled and lied to try to keep that bright blue lake reserved for a select few.
Perhaps the struggle to expand and open up this fountainhead reached it’s apex in the late sixties or early seventies, but throughout the struggle the right wing has been building the machinery to drain the pool of liberty once again. They’ve built their piping with hate, with lies, with bribes and corruption and vote suppression and the fomenting of fear, bigotry and theocracy. All they needed was a final piece, one last thing to make sure that what they were draining wouldn’t, and couldn’t, flow back in. They needed a check valve.
That check valve is the Clintonite/DLC right-of-center party heirarchy we confront now.
Some of them know what they are doing. The Zell Millers, Ben Nelsons and Joe Liebermans. The “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me” Reagan Democrats as well. Some, usually in the cause of “winning”, adopt right-wing talking points and policies, convinced that this is the country that right keeps insisting it is, a “conservative” country, as though we secretly want to return to those days when the lake was a small pond and it was gated and protected by armed men.
It’s not enough for us to destroy the pipes and pumps that the Right has built in order to reverse the slide of this country back to a darker time. We need to destroy the valve that keeps liberty from flowing back into our shared lake. We need to remove the check valve that is part of the problem. We need to replace the rightward wing of the Democratic Party.
The main tools that were used to expand the reservoir in the first place were the buckets we formed with our voices, our bodies and our votes. If the party forces another Republican trojan horse onto your local ballot, don’t reward them. You have a voice: support challengers to the zellouts, write letters to the editor and raise your voice in your community. When they ask you to help GOTV or man a phone line, refuse them if they insist on policies that work against your values. Offer your body instead to a local leader or cause you do support. As for your votes, only offer them if they have maintained an open and fair debate within the party, with truly open primary contests and with a leadership that doesn’t badmouth the liberal base of the party. If your local leadership won’t do so, withhold your vote from them. Fill the rest of the ballot with choices you support, but leave that line blank, or vote for a third party. To do otherwise only rewards and encourages continued cooperation with the anti-American right. In essence, do what the labor movement did: strike. This will be painful, like all strikes. More will be lost while you sit down and say no, but like all strikes there is no other course to take. Like most strikes, this may take a very long time, but without it we can be assured of more erosion of our hopes for a better, freer country.
We aren’t just fighting the plumbers draining our freedoms away, but also the plumbing they installed to help them accomplish their goal. The entrenched Democratic Party leadership is part of that plumbing. Time for it to be torn out.