What’s going on here couldn’t be clearer if the DNC produced neon signs explaining it. Blanche Lincoln and her corporatist/centrist Senate-friends aren’t some unfortunate outliers in the Democratic Party. They are the Democratic Party. The outliers are the progressives. The reason the Obama White House did nothing when Lincoln sabotaged the public option isn’t because they had no leverage to punish her if she was doing things they disliked. It was because she was doing exactly what the White House and the Party wanted. The same is true when she voted for Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, serves every corporate interest around, and impedes progressive legislation. Lincoln doesn’t prevent the Democratic Party from doing and being what it wishes it could do and be. She enables the Party to do and be exactly what it is, what it wants to be, what serves its interests most. That’s why they support her so vigorously and ensured her victory: the Blanche Lincolns of the world are the heart, soul and face of the national Democratic Party.
There is clearly a need for new strategies and approaches that involve things other than unconditional fealty to the Democratic Party, which weigh short-term political fears that are exploited to keep Democrats blindly loyal (look over there! It’s Sarah Palin!) against longer-term considerations (the need to truly change the political process and the stranglehold the two parties exert). In sum, any Party whose leaders are this desperate to keep someone like Blanche Lincoln in the Senate is not one that merits any loyalty.
It’s tough being a progressive.
Yesterday Tom Tomorrow, probably the most brilliant political cartoonist of our time, posted a brilliant piece on how the right wing portrays President Obama as a left wing nut, when he is in fact a very center-right president. The irony that I tried to point out in a subsequent exchange with Tom on Twitter is that many, many Democrats and progressives even view Obama as a progressive just like them, and that disconnect is not dissimilar to the one the right wing maintains.
As Glenn points out, the question of who owns the Democratic Party and which factions in it have sway over its direction is becoming a pointed issue under President Obama. The blind support of corporatist senators like Blanche Lincoln or outright Republicans like Arlen Specter is deeply troubling to anyone who thinks the party should be something greater than a mechanism for reelecting any individual with a D after their name in Washington. If this is what the Party is limited to, why would progressive activists, environmentalists, LGBT advocates, civil libertarians, or labor continue to blindly support whoever the Party puts forward?
I’m not big on turning my back on problems. It’s less about finding a way to feel better about ones vote than to force the corporatist center of the Democratic Party outwards and seize control for the base. How can this be done? Progressives need to run for office. Progressives need to support progressive candidates and progressive candidates alone. Donor strikes have to happen. Progressives have to learn to ignore the shiny object (as Glenn points out, this is what Sarah Palin is). Maybe it means in the end there will be some electoral victories for Republicans and some bad legislation will result. But it’s not like the victories won by Democrats has yielded the results progressives have wanted. To say it will get worse before it gets better isn’t saying much, because right now things are not getting better and key parts of the Democratic Party are losing influence they should have over the course of events.
That said, nothing that is happening with the administration’s response to the Lincoln primary victory makes me feel good about the administration or the people running the Democratic Party. Why be loyal to something that isn’t loyal to you?