Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's Not About You

from the Last Chance Democracy Cafe:

A letter to three Democrats: it isn’t about you

Let’s take a moment to think about a particularly disconcerting “what if.” What if a Republican wins in November? What if we’re looking at four (probably eight) more years of Bush-like governance? What will that mean? What will it do to progressive dreams? To the nation as a whole?

There’s actually no mystery to the answer. Whatever else one may accuse the Republican candidates of, one thing they’re clean as a whistle on is giving fair notice of the truly radical nature of their agenda (the same radical agenda, of course, we’ve been living under for the past seven years).

What will that mean? Well, here are just a few things:

It will mean a Supreme Court with not just four radical Scalia-style right wing judicial activists (with a fifth justice who usually, but not always, goes along with them), but six, seven or even eight such justices. An ultra-reactionary Supreme Court of a type not seen in this country for 70 years, a Court happy to use principles of federalism to strike down federal legislation designed to protect workers, consumers and the environment, but equally happy to ignore federalism in order to strike down state statutes passed to achieve these same ends.

It will mean war without end in Iraq. Year after year of staggering human loss. Year after year of treasure, desperately needed here at home, being thrown into a black hole of stupidity. A waste of resources that will gradually sap this nation of its greatness.

It will mean more wars like Iraq — maybe against Iran, maybe Syria, maybe even North Korea, as the neoconservatives continue to double down on a losing bet.

It will mean an America that gradually grows less free, as we continue to be led by people who see fear as a political opportunity, rather than a common nemesis to be expunged.

It will mean ever increasing inequality between the rich and the poor, with ever fewer Americans enjoying a standard of living that falls between the two extremes.

It will mean Americans living in an increasingly undemocratic society as the growing wealth inequality carries with it increasing political inequality.

It will mean the end of reproductive choice for women.

It will mean a United States that continues to sabotage efforts to address global warming until, quite possibly, it will be too late to prevent an almost unthinkable worst case scenario (assuming it isn’t already too late).

To borrow from Rick in the movie Casablanca, it isn’t hard to see that the desires for high office of three little candidates in this crazy world don’t amount to a hill of beans. Yet, right now, by making this campaign profoundly personal in the pursuit of individual glory, and in the process seeding anger deep into the heart and soul of the base of the Democratic Party, these three candidates are sabotaging our best chance to snuff out this nightmare. And that is nothing less than irresponsibility of historic proportions. It must stop now.

And no, I don’t think the three major candidates bear equal blame. Anyone who has been reading my posts knows where I think the majority of the blame lies, even if none of the three have been angels.

But you know, as a litigation lawyer I’ve seen a lot of tragic outcomes. And at the end of the day, regardless of which driver, for example, was at fault in a fatal accident, everyone is still as dead.

And in case you think I’m exaggerating the danger here, let me tell you what set me off on this rant. About an hour ago a good friend of mine came to visit: he’s a longtime Democrat, of the hard-boiled school. He likes a good fight — the sort of person who can admire the skill behind of an expertly placed political knife in the back.

Here’s what this hard-boiled politico said to me: “Steve, when the nomination is settled, you need to take me aside to remind me of why I have to vote Democratic. Because I’ve got to tell you, right now I can’t see how I can vote for Hillary Clinton. I just don’t like her. I used to, but after the debate, I just don’t anymore.”

I have no doubt whatsoever that conversations just like this are happening all across the country. Sometimes the object of the anger is Hillary Clinton, sometimes it’s Barack Obama. In the case of Edwards’s supporters, I’m sure sometimes it’s both of the above.

This campaign has gone past the point of people taking it personally. It’s becoming the kind of taking something personally that engenders anger that will still be with many people come the general election. And have no doubt: that is precisely the sort of thing that could put a Bush-style Republican back into the White House. And if you don’t think so, you’re not paying attention.

God damn it, at the end of the day, this isn’t about any of these three candidates. It’s about leading America back onto the path of greatness. And to the extent that all three of the leading candidates have made it about them at a personal level, they’ve all already failed the party, not to mention the nation.

The time to step back from the brink is now. Once the nomination has been settled, it will be way too late.

Update: I need to add something. Many commentators, in defending the current epidemic of Democratic primary hardball politics, point out that if the three leading candidates in general — and Obama in particular — can’t handle intra-party attacks — then it’s unlikely they’ll (or he’ll) be able to handle the much more ferocious attacks sure to come from the other side in the general election. This is true, but it’s also beside the point to what I’m saying.

The problem here isn’t that the candidates are being abused; it’s that many of their supporters are becoming irreconcilably angry at the other candidates, one of whom may be the nominee. That, obviously, won’t be a concern in the general election. We don’t care how angry our people get at the GOP nominee.