Been Here Before
by Jason Williams, Sat Feb 12, 2011 at 10:34:56 PM EST
A strange thing happened to me this Fall. I stopped writing regularly about politics, for the first time since 2005. I absorbed about as much as I always have, but all I had little more to say than "This is stupid." Rinse, repeat.
I've always felt that the best blogging -- at least the stories I enjoyed reading the most -- were 2 parts productive anger, and one part cynicism, as least toward the two party architecture of our politics. And in November, I was angry. The Democrats had just backed away from the only winable fight on the Bush Tax Cuts, and seemed hell bent on heading into the election with nothing much to get voters, at home either content or disenfranchised, out to the polls to fight back. Part of that was the policy they were defending, and part of it was the lack of any unified, consistent message. You can't campaign on principle your policy doesn't back up, and the principle the policy does portrays -- Eh, we sorta tried? -- isn't a winning slogan. Ta-da! GOP "mandate."
We've been here before.
In 2006, I remember making MoveOn.org calls for Claire McCaskill from a coffee shop in northern Utah, almost as a rebellion against the politics of the state I live in as much as wanting to be a part of what seemed like an actual "movement" developing in the Democratic Party. Dean was out fighting, the message was tight, targeted, and right. A takeover was a-foot. Right?
In 2008, I remember sitting in that same coffee shop re-drafting talking points for a long shot congressional candidate headed to an OFA event in Salt Lake City, feeling I was still a part of something bigger. That campaign ended with the predictable 60/30 split Democrats can't seem to break here. I was a bit frustrated with the voting betrayal of some I'd worked for in 2006. But Obama was about to take the White House, Democrats were going to have their better-than-working-conservative majority, and the state party here was finally standing up, if a bit wobbly still, on two legs. There was still a sense of "movement" to it all for me. Call it naive, but for me that feeling is where it's at.
This fall, when the pre-election Bush Tax Cut vote fight was scrapped, Democrats were running away from the health care reform many of the same helped to hobble, and I found myself writing -- embarrassingly often! -- in defense of Blue Dog Jim Matheson (yes, his opponent, Morgan Philpot, was that crazy, and things were trending dangerously close to a Bishop/Chaffetz/Philpot trifecta with little to offer but pandering to the same base that had just positioned the Skousen brain-trust Mike Lee as a US Senator), my energy and productive anger fizzled. The Democratic Party suffered the same self-induced setbacks in 2010 they struggled with 2002-2005, and I was just angry.
We've been here before.
The past months, I've re-read those that had always inspired me before. Drew Western. Lakoff, Sirota, Moulitsas/Armstrong too. I even tried watching David Gregory pretend to be useful a few times, hoping that might flare me up. I buried myself in what local volunteering there was available, and gave up writing for longer than I had since first creating the ol' blogger account.
Last week though, I felt a little spark. Still a bit irked at Jon Tester's Dream Act vote (I'd made calls and volunteered for him back in the day too), I was struck by just how tone-deaf his newly announced 2012 challenger seemed, announcing along-side none other than his "President" Michelle Bachmann. This is really their world, I thought, and it's lunatic! Dream Act aside, I know if anyone asks, I'll go to work for Tester. Seriously, President Bachmann, Mikey?
But what really brought me back from the brink of silence wasn't Rehberg and Bachmann or the frightening hilarity that was CPAC'11 this week. It was Dana Carvey, circa 1996. Check it out, at least the first minute.
Notice that? Edit Fred Armisen's Obama in place of Carvey's Clinton, and you've got relevant 2012 satire, without a single script change from 1996.
This is the Republican Party, my friends. Has been for a very, very long time.
The Democratic Party is a long way from where I or you want it to be, and no doubt still room for More and Better Democrats, but as Greg Giraldo would've said: They aren't that team!
A few week's into the new GOP House, they've tried to redefine rape and leverage tax code against women, fought carbon regs for polluters, made good on their "pledge" to propose a middle class gutting budget, and continued to feed the anti-government hysteria while quietly taking credit for it's benefits. (I had to leave the PATRIOT Act extension out as example, because... well, Obama wanted a longer extension than the GOP. Thanks for that, Mr. President).
The Democratic Party has abandoned progressives many times, and will again. But once in a while, maybe by accident, progressives make gains, either in policy or poll cycles. The Democratic Party right now, with all it's warts, is still the best vehicle for progressive change. It doesn't have to stay that way, but as of this post, it is the reality.
Frustration is healthy, but at some point I let it take me almost to the point of resignation, and I doubt I'm alone in that. Political change is much more fullfilling when you've got a clearly defined ass to kick, and nothing will ever mandate that targeting corporatist hacks posing as Democrats and unhinged opportunists driving the TeaGOP back centuries in policy IQ are mutually exclusive.
Also, Dana Carvey is still funny.