Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

One hand washes the other

One of the issues that I think is important to consider between now and the November 2008 elections is the relationship between the democratic party leadership and the grass roots progressives. The 2006 elections were a wonderful example of how well these two groups could coordinate efforts: the grass roots progressives were outraged by the Bush administration’s war of occupation in Iraq, and the party leadership indicated that they would work to bring the war to an end, if they could get a majority in congress.

The grass roots translated the public discontent into huge democratic victories in the House and Senate. Then the democratic leadership translated these majorities into further support of the Bush administration’s policies.

As a result, there is a growing divide between the progressive/liberal branch of the democratic party, which is found at the grass roots, and the moderate/conservative democrats, who are in the leadership and machine positions.

Both groups have some strengths and some weaknesses. The leadership/machine folks, who take a Hamiltonian approach, have become well-organized. Why, hardly a day passes when I do not get either a letter in the mail, or a call on my phone, asking me to donate yet again to this campaign or that group. They learned from the Dean movement in 2004 that the grass roots can put together enough small donations to make a big impact on any campaign.

I’ve taken the time to talk to different callers about issues such as ending the war and impeaching VP Cheney, and been told these are important to the Hamiltonians, and if I could please send a check, they’ll get right on it. When I’ve spoken of the strength of ideas among the progressive communities found at places like DU, many of those people calling expressed interest. And, in recent months, I’ve found myself thinking that there are many Hamiltonians on DU, attempting to organize support for the machine politicians.

Yet when the grass roots progressives call their representatives, they are frequently frustrated. Yesterday, a number of DUers said that the workers at one of the democratic leader’s office were hanging up on them when they were attempting to express their opinions. When we remind them of their responsibility to end the war, the machinists say that this wasn’t what the 2006 elections were about. Progressives recognize that this is just as much a lie when a democratic leader says it, than if Karl Rove said it.

As a result, the hostility between the leadership/machine and the progressive/liberal grass roots is intensifying. I notice this when I get phone calls, asking me for another donation for a candidate or group. When I say that I am unsatisfied with the leadership’s refusal to listen to the grass roots, and that I will not be donating another penny until they change, the callers have become obnoxious and rude.

I am instead investing my time and money in those democratic politicians and groups that share the progressive values of the progressive grass roots. That includes donating to things like DU, TruthOut, local independent media sources, anti-war and pro-impeachment groups, and those politicians that I believe are voices of conscience. I am not going to leave the democratic party, and I’m not going to sit the 2008 elections out. Instead, I’m going to take a Jeffersonian approach.

If the party leadership were smart, they would not only accept this type of decision by progressives, but they would endorse it. If the past nine months have shown nothing else, it has become clear that the party leadership/machine can access plenty of corporate money. They should be encouraging progressives and liberals to be investing in their small, local community-based groups. Look at the amount of money that the top presidential contenders have accumulated, and tell me that they need your hard-earned dollars more than your local anti-war group, or the Center for Constitutional Rights’ impeachment program, or a non-corporate media source.

When the grass roots begins to take this approach on a larger scale, then the party leadership will begin to understand the true meaning of "one hand washes the other."


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