In 2003, I worked my butt of for Howard Dean.

It was the first time I had ever gotten that involved in politics. I gave money to the candidate. (Imagine!) I posted on blogs. (After I finally figured out what they were and how you signed on.) I spent weeks in Iowa. I spent a week in Wisconsin. I watched the take down of Dean. The media did its part.  The mainstream Dems played their share of dirty tricks. I heard about how he was too outspoken and too liberal.  Howard Dean too liberal?! Whatever. It was not to be.
That experience got me far more attuned to political issues. The more involved I got, the more liberal I got. I didn’t expect it to happen but it just did.  I also became much more cynical about politics and its practitioners.

I watched Kerry deny responsibility for his vote authorizing the war, for his vote for No Child Left Behind, for his vote for the Patriot Act and I became sick to my stomach.  His votes were never wrong – other people just screwed up the implementation. I watched as the “Progressive” community demanded unquestioning fealty to Kerry’s candidacy, a fealty that was offered without requiring any quid pro quo from Kerry.  The Dems were not above spreading fear.  “Anybody but Bush!”  “Anybody but Bush!” Don’t demand principle of the candidate.  Don’t demand clarity.  Don’t demand passionate leadership.  Just shut up and support the man.  After he is elected, you can hold his feet to the fire.

That strategy didn’t work out so well.

It did appear that Kerry, in fact, might have won the election.  A few brave Dems went out on a limb (Boxer, Tubbs Jones), but the rest of us were told to shut up it.  It would piss off the American people if the Dems looked like sore losers. No, there was no reason to fight tooth and nail to ensure that the people’s choice was inaugurated.  In certain “liberal” circles, people were shunned for even suggesting fighting for the truth.

W . took office and brought greater and greater shame to his position. (Torture, suspension of habeus corpus, signing statements, illegal wire tapping, horrendous judicial nominations.)  Very few Democrats tried to stop his reign of terror.  Oh, there was a half-hearted attempt here and there, mostly for show.  As progressive citizens expressed our outrage, we were once again told to shut up.  The Dems had no power.  They couldn’t do anything.  And taking a strong stand against this stuff would just upset certain segments of the populace.  If they did ever take power in Congress, then we could hold their feet to the fire.

And now less than 48 hours after the Democrats won control of both houses, we are again being told to shut up.  Don’t demand too much.  Subpoenas?  Maybe, if they get around to it.  Assuring the rights of gays, immigrants and women?  Well…  Universal health care?  They like the sound of that.  Don’t expect any action.  A tax policy that might help us crawl out of our mountain of debt?  Perhaps a little  tax  on the rich, but  nothing meaningful.  And could we please stop pointing out that the debt puts us in a weak position vis a vis our foreign investors.

And now that they have power they can’t really do anything with it. The 2008 election is right around the corner and they have to stay in power so they can stay in power.  After that, you can hold their feet to the fire.

We supercilious liberals often made fun of the right wing base.  They were being played by the power brokers. Yet, we progressives consent to be played too.  Coming from Chicago, I’m very familiar with the “Wait till Next Year” philosophy.  But that is only baseball.  As long as you have blue skies, cold beer and ivy-covered walls, nothing else matters.

But we are not talking baseball.  We are talking peace, war, health, justice, community.
I’m done waiting.  I’m starting a little bonfire for feet warming and I hope you’ll join me.

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