I had a great debate with a co-worker of mine who’s a leftie radical. She said to me that the Democratic Party needs to stop “being afraid of voters and being afraid of the media”
She’s right. The caveat being they have every reason to be afraid of voters and of the media, because those are what decides if they get to implement the policies they fight for. Because they’ve been burned over and over again in the past century by voters who claim they want policies, only to reject them when the attempt is made to implement them.
Newsweek had a great piece this week about how five times in the last century; 1938, 1946, 1966, 1978, 1994, Democrats suffered decisive victories just when they were actually beginning to implement their policies and liberals seemed to have the country’s ear, and now 2010.
There’s a reason why Democrats act so afraid, because they have every reason to be. History has shown Democrats always lose when they try to govern effectively, when they try to do what’s right. After ending the Great Depression and winning World War II, Democrats were tossed from Congress in 1946 over Communist fear-mongering. The end result, Truman moved to the right on national security issues and although he was able to regain Congress in 1948, buoyed by his plan to implement universal healthcare, they suffered another defeat in 1950 and again in 1952, again from red-baiting and the Korean War.
Though Lyndon Johnson was able to pass the Civil Rights Act and pieces of his Great Society legislation like Medicare/Medicaid, the Democratic Party suffered a huge defeat in 1966, triggered mainly by race riots that erupted in the wake of Civil Rights. This was the beginning of the Southern Strategy.
In 1978, Democrats lost a handful of seats because of the energy crisis and inflation, but these midterms also gave Democrats a stunning and disheartening reality of the voters’ thirst for imperialism. Carter’s decision to give the Panama Canal back to Panama (22 years later) was met with anger from voters who threw out a handful of Democratic Senators who voted for the treaty.
And then there’s 1994. Guns, Gays, the budget and Waco help unleash a right wing tsunami no one saw coming. The end result, Clinton was forced to govern more or less like a liberal Republican after trying to deliver on healthcare, gay rights and gun control in the first two years.
Why would any Democrat look at the history of his or her party and think doing the right thing gets rewarded? We can say it’s different now, but there’s a likely chance tomorrow, Alan Grayson and Russ Feingold will think otherwise. Raul Grijalva is vulnerable for the simple reason that he honestly said his state should be boycotted for their draconian immigration law. Anthony Weiner is considered vulnerable for scolding Republicans on the House floor. You want to see them stand up and fight? The rest of the country wants them to be adults.
I may have my own perspective coming from an area where Democrats aren’t really Democrats. Where they are proud of their support for torture and where they think tax cuts solve everything. And then I deal with the Democrats who refuse to call themselves liberal, even though they are, and when challenged on their beliefs, back off or struggle to find one issue where they’re conservative, so the right wing loon doesn’t think you’re some kind of hippie. I watch Democrats stay quiet when the right wing demagogues the public option, even though these Democrats support it, and I’ve see them backtracking their opposition to war
Our politicians mirror our voters and our Democrats mirror the Democratic voters who choose them. Democrats aren’t demagogues. They’re not ideologues. They’re willing to compromise to reach a goal, even if it’s not 100% of what they want. They’re adults…and it’s killing them.
Think purging moderates and conservatives is the answer? See how that worked in 1938 when Roosevelt’s attempts to take down the conservatives in his party after they wanted to cut the deficit (which led to a recession) only to find them uniting in a coalition to defeat him. Even liberals ran away from him when he tried to purge the party. The Newsweek article includes a great quote from then-Montana Senator James Murray;
“There was a time when I would have bled and died for him, but in view of the way he has been acting I don’t want to have any more dealings with him and I just intend to stay away from him and he can do as he pleases.”
My co-worker asked me why there weren’t any Democrats who will stand up and fight. My response was simple
They usually don’t get elected in the first place and when they do, they rarely survive.
I can’t blame politicians who are just mirror image of the voters who elected them.