As far as the mechanics of political activism go, I’m a novice, despite having been around for a long time. While I did some volunteer work on behalf of first McCarthy and then, (somewhat reluctantly), Humphrey back in ’68, seeking to keep the obviously dangerous nutcase Nixon from ascending to the throne, I was basically one of the least engaged grunts in those efforts; part of the herd, but indistinguishable from the rest. And, even having realized Nixon was a significant threat to the country and to our way of life, had I been eligible to vote in ’68, (I missed eligibility by under a year because the voting age then was still 21 years), I probably wouldn’t have involved myself in the democratic campaigns against him. I would have, (like so many others did), simply used my vote against him to fulfill what I saw as my democratic responsibility to oppose the bad guy. All of this is preamble, a disclaimer of sorts, a way of acknowledging that I was never really an enthusiastic participant in the day to day dynamics of political activism, and because of this, I don’t want anyone to think I’m attempting to represent myself as some sort of authority on that subject. I definitely am not such an authority.
In the current political climate, it seems indisputable that for those of us who regard the Bush regime in toto as the biggest threat to our country, to our way of life, and to the world at large that’s ever come down the pike, we generally agree that we need to get these lunatics out of office and reclaim control of our own government. I think it’s fair to say that we agree in general that if we can somehow achieve Democratic Party electoral majorities in the House and/or the Senate that our chances of restoring the mechanisms of democracy and strengthening our constitutional liberties and protections are greatly improved. Similarly, I think we (on the “left”) generally perceive the Democratic Party in it’s current state as an institution that is failing us; one that doesn’t stand up for us often enough or with sufficient enthusiasm to have any meaningful effect.
But where we disagree, where we have, in my opinion a huge, (and widening) problem, is in what we think we need to do in order to achieve the aims of regaining control of the government and getting the BushCo maniacs out.
There are many who argue that we need to elect Democrats, plain and simple, in order to change the numerical calculus in congress, if we are to have a hope of restoring government by the people and for the people. And those who argue this point support the notion that even if you have to vote for a Dem that doesn’t necessarily support what you yourself believe in, it’s still the smart thing to vote for him if doing so will unseat a Repub. In short, removing the “R” from that congressional seat and replacing it with a “D” is a first priority and should generally trump every other consideration.
There is another point of view which has finally reached prominence, (especially here in the free-thinking blogosphere, and especially in the wake of recent political maneuvers nand propagandizing by the DLC and by the poor voting choices made by prominent Dems), which argues that, in the end, if we choose to vote for the “go along to get along” Dems who too often vote their support for the Repub agenda, that ultimately such a strategy is a “lose-lose” one because either the Repub beats the “Repub-lite” Dem anyway, and, more importantly, because even in those rare cases where the Dem might win, the fact that his win betrays the principles we believe the party should stand for means the victory is hollow, virtually worthless. And if we add to this the idea that a series of such “victories through capitulation to the rightwing” only rewards, and thus encourages), the party’s movement toward the “right”, then the damage done is multiplied exponentially.
So, finally, here’s my question, and I think it’s pretty simple.
“Would we on the Left, (whether we call ourselves progressives or liberals or moderates or centrists or radicals or whatever), benefit from having a constructive dialog that examines the relative merits and pitfalls of each of these two divergent strategic positions in relation to each other in a way that might help us determine where one strategy might be more beneficial than the other in specific instances?”
Can we acknowledge that both strategies above have merit, and that each has its place in an effective strategic calculus? And can we have a civilized, respectful dialog about it without advocates for either position insisting the other is useless and irrelevant and ineffective?
Maybe I’ve missed it but it seems to me that there’s been little if any dialog along the lines I describe taking place anywhere. Yesterday in a comment thread on another very well-regarded left-progressive blog I proposed the idea that such a dialog as I refer to here might be a good idea, and I was surprised to be on the receiving end of a certain level of hostility from the blog host, who, for whatever reason, chose to actually delete my final comment. I thought I was proposing a constructive add-on to the blogger’s story, a story which generally reflected views I agreed with. But instead I got sniping and disparagement.
So, I’m asking you all, am I whistling in the wind when I suggest those us of with differing perspectives on these strategic issues might benefit from seeking ways in which we might utilize both to maximum effectiveness in pursuit of our aims. Do we perceive a meaningful benefit can be derived from acknowledgement that both strategies have advantages we can make use of? Or, is such a dialog not seen important enough to mention. My political naïveté might have me reading more into this than it’s worth, so I hope some of you will offer your thoughts.