Much handwringing over the Democratic party’s electoral fortunes has taken place this past week. Teabaggers are ecstatic. The most loathesome wingnuts are going to make our lives even more miserable than we have already endured. Some young people justify young voter apathy by saying Democrats did not give them what they wanted, as shown below in the Carl Gibson piece titled:
And Democratic Party leaders will probably learn the wrong lessons and move further repub-lite.
I think differently about what happened. I believe what we are seeing is the brick wall that Coalition Politics slams into when the regular institutions of Democracy have been irreparably subverted and perverted by oligarchs and their political minions who have convinced many Americans that nihilism is their birthright. What do I mean?
Normally, in a democracy, aspiring politicians and party platforms woo voters with promises of what they will DO for said voters, and the campaigns go full steam ahead in competition. And whoever wins tries to maintain voter approval and possible reelection based on their ability to account to the voter. Otherwise how do you win power again, right?
Wrong. Voters? What voters? GOP-Oligarchs’ answer to electoral imperatives and demographic change, is to shrink the electorate till they could “drown it in a bathtub”!
The institutions of our democracy, plus the inbuilt checks-and-balances ensured that feedback loop between voters and political office-seekers prevailed, warts and all. But, not so since 2010 when the “consent of the people” was literally killed off. Republicans actually threw out their own previous narrow pursuit of 50%+1 path to power. Instead, they developed a scheme to win without the “consent of the people” by changing the very institutions and rules of our democracy. So being in the “majority” or “minority”, for them, did not matter. Outwardly we saw Citizens United, gerrymandering, voter suppression etc. bear obscene fruit. But those alone did not put the nail in the coffin of our Democracy.
The second plank in GOP-Oligarchs’ scheme, was to reorient their voters’ understanding of what a Democracy should be. Their voters were molded to give up expecting government and politicians to do ANYTHING FOR THEM, nor ACCOUNT to them. They got their voters to hate the idea of “the commons” that they benefit from themselves. This was a more cynical perversion of even Reaganism on steroids. Ideology trumped rights and responsibilities.
And here is the clincher. They got their voters to champion NIHILISM as a birthright, relabeled “FREEDOM.” An article of faith, it became. Nothing can shake that. But what it does shake is the compact we thought we had on what Democracy is supposed to be. The Equation changed. We were no longer fighting on the same wavelength, let alone, turf.
The effect has been a Democratic coalition left on the field that still believes in the prior idea of how Democracy is supposed to work. It still wants politicians, political parties, and public institutions to do something FOR the people.
“DOING” is the glue that holds our diverse Democratic Party coalition together, because ours has always been a struggle to get what our various coalition groups NEVER had, or wrest back rights we lost. DOING. DOING DOING. Progressive ideology has become at its root FUNCTIONAL. The democratic coalition cannot operate outside those parameters. We are like un-herdable cats, we don’t do ideology for ideology’s sake! Because from our various frontlines we always ask “How does that get us our rights?” We bicker and moan, but we DID things. Some died in the trenches, or it took some 100s of years for some things, but, We DO things.
Social Security, Medicare, Women’s rights, OSHA regulations, Clean Air, Fuel standards, Environmental protection, Gay Rights, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and on and on…
Sure we have been suckers for believing in the IDEALS this country was founded on, even if it never lived up to them. We believed those ideals of equal rights, freedom, the pursuit of happiness could be attained if we fought for them. A union that COULD be perfected, we believed.
However there are risks to this type of coalition that is glued together only by DOING things, but not undergirded by an active LIBERAL movement in the streets. Why? The coalition has little to keep its eyes on the ultimate prize, when DOING suffers setbacks, or slowdowns, or even reversals. The coalition without a movement has no practice in treading water STRATEGICALLY in the interim, and making lots of noticeable NOISE.
A coalition without a movement outside the halls of government and politicians’ fortunes, has little to fall back on when electoral fortunes go south, as happened this past Tuesday. So rather than continue building the movement, or shift to second tier priorities on its larger agenda, or even indulge in some ratfuckery of its own in the other camp, it sinks into apathy.
Noise warfare is very critical in this increasingly ADHD country of ours. A sustained movement in the streets chips away at corporate media recalcitrance (e.g Rev Dr. William Barber’s Moral Monday’s writ large). It also peps up beat up voters and liberal politicians, and also holds them accountable. We did not have a movement. All our eggs were in the finicky electoral basket. But the GOP-Oligarchy had already perverted that basket over the last 4 years!