On every election night of my adult life, prior to the 2018 primary, watching returns was a solitary affair that ended in sadness. The first one, I proudly cast my ballot for George Dubya and then watched in horror as he stole the presidency. I was born into conservatism, but between that night and the Iraq War, I just kept sliding further and further left. Eventually I found a group that aligns with my values, and in the process learned that I’m actually a progressive pro-constitution Dem.
There is nothing more pathetic than a red state liberal. Cleveland Browns fans have nothing on us. We’re fatalistic and lack hope. We can only be arsed to fight against the worst people and ideas, because nothing about the entire political process inspires our confidence. We’re apathetic. Our votes are meaningless unless we sign up in the other party as a mole voter to keep the other side from cutting all of our noses off just to own the libs.
So, because *waves hands dramatically at above paragraphs*, I would spend election night getting drunk on my couch, alone, shitposting on the internet and lamenting how another election showed that most of the people voting in my state would rather have a fire and brimstone GOP idiot than a levelheaded Democrat that probably aligns more closely with the voters actual values.
Well, in 2018, something amazing has happened. A once in a lifetime type candidate has stepped up locally, and in keeping close track of the process in action and volunteering a little bit, its been easy to see some things that are likely to lead us, once again, to the abyss.
- Alienation of the base before the primary
Nationally, the Democratic party hasn’t been doing the work to keep a solid ground game outside of presidential elections. So, local democratic parties end up being ran by those who are the most adept at raising money. (This is also a problem in the GOP, except their propaganda arm is keeping the ground game strong and everyone talking about the same stuff and it makes it easier to overlook.) This means that the talking to people and connecting on a visceral level has not been happening in order to support campaigns, and all that must be built from scratch. When the party brass step in to make their preferences known before the first vote has even happened, it makes voters feel disempowered and chases off potential future candidates.
- Being all about the little guy, right up until its time to act in their defense
The Democratic party is changing. It once was the party of the Clintons, but 2018 is a totally different beast. Progressivism is in. Nonsense is out. Two generations of youth were born into information, molded by it, and are voting in droves. Women and people of color are participating more than ever before, and won’t be silenced by whisper campaigns and media buys. So when old guard dems try to play old guard games (dogwhistle racism, pushing capitalist ideals that hurt more people than they help, drowning out new voices), citizens see it, discuss it, and get pissed off by the blatant attempt to manipulate things behind the scenes. If you want to try to convince people openly with facts and arguments and clarity, have at it. But playing games and refusing to do the right thing because it costs too much money for some folks personally, is almost over for both parties. The Dems will just be forced into it first.
- Insisting on ideological purity
Bernie vs. Hillary is tired. The new smart progressive movement isn’t Bernie bots vs. the wimmins, its people who are sick of their government being shit shows vs. people who enable government to be a shit show. Ideological purity is not inclusive. It is not intersectional. And requiring policy to be inclusive and intersectional is not the same as stifling free expression of ideas or the free market.
- Not supporting candidates and down ballot candidates in a helpful way
All those amazing fundraisers who have floated to the top of Democratic life in the last decade have a place in the newest iteration of it, both as the stewards of experience, and as the bringers of the cash. Give advice and money, and stop telling great candidates that they can never win. Doomsdaying a burgeoning change by talking shit and staying home and refusing to help because you don’t think weed is good or are scared of a Bernie bot coming to confiscate your wealth will definitely result in yet another L.
- Mishandling the Bullies
You know how Americans don’t negotiate with terrorists? That’s not entirely true. We negotiate with internal ones all the time. The biggest, orangest example is sitting in the White House right now, but every place has unreasonable people. Politically, how Democrats have traditionally handled these folks is to work with them in good faith, then act shocked when it doesn’t work out, and look weak after handing over the high ground before negotiations even began. If we want to be taken seriously, we have to learn that nothing can be taken in good faith legislatively, and stop tripping over our own dicks.
Today it was reported that ICE in Arizona lost over 1400 kids. LOST. KIDS. Trump pulled out of talks with North Korea over lord only knows what, and failed to notify our allies in South Korea first. Everyone around him is in massive legal trouble, and he’s screaming about witch hunts. His team has rolled back thousands of regulations, which sounds great until you realize that your city’s water is poisoned with lead or your island’s power has been cut off for an entire winter and wait, don’t I pay taxes for reasons?
Enough. The only way to make government great again is to inch ourselves closer to being a representative democracy rather than a oligarchical banana republic. We can get there through connecting with people, giving of ourselves and our resources, and showing up to vote.
The L’s are painful, but the W’s? They are absolutely intoxicating. But not more intoxicating than helping build our towns, states, country into something that can be a framework for the kids to build off of when it’s their turn to run this mess. There’s no buzz more intense than looking toward the future with hope for once.