You can't always get what you want, especially if you don't even know what you need
An anonymous poster (Hmmmm, really?) made the following points on my previous comment about the disenchantment of many, including myself, in the progressive camp with the administration of President Obama:
I never expected to like everything Obama did, even though I worked hard for him.
Ad [sic] I can't imagine either voting Republican or voting for a 3rd party candidate (same as voting Republican). Keep in mind, people, that only 15% of the country identifies themselvs [sic] as liberal, while close to 50% calls themselves conservative. And many of the rest lean conservative. We can't have an all-progressive President until we do a better job of educating and enlisting our fellow voters.
I am a big girl-- as I said, I certainly never expected President Obama to be able to do everything, and I don't think anyone else who is disappointed did either, if they are rational, adult people. I was hoping for some compromise and bipartisanship from our elected leaders, especially since we certainly didn't get that from the last administration, and I hoped that President Obama would use his surge of support to pressure out congresspersons to cooperate in this. I was massively disappointed by the failure to seize this golden opportunity, and now we as a country are in even more dire straits due to that failure. Our country can never win by having only one political side capitulate. Do we really want to live in a country that designs its government and economy so that there are more losers than there are "winners," even though we are all Americans?
I also agree that there is a need to better explain what progressives and liberals believe, and why those beliefs are in the best interests of this country. And who better to help educate our fellow-citizens than our president, as I pointed out in my previous post?
But something else "anonymous" said concerns me, and helps support my point. It's this part: "I can't imagine voting Republican...." It is this kind of thinking that marginalizes a voter and sustains and exacerbates our current political and economic situation.
I certainly can imagine voting for a Republican. Of course I can! I've imagined it a LOT-- I've just never been able to do it very often. But I've always been willing to consider it, as I view each election on a case-by-case basis. As much as I joke about being a "yellow-dog Democrat" (pronounced "yel-la dawg" in my youth), I have voted for Republicans during my political life. They make great dog catchers. No, no, I'm kidding. Besides, "Republican" does not necessarily mean "conservative" as it is currently used, just as "Democrat" does not necessarily mean "liberal." Can't be repeated enough.
Seriously, I believe it is the duty of a voter to be conversant with the particular positions of each candidate regardless of party, and then vote for the person who is the most rational, most reasonable, and the most likely to represent that voter's priorities. I did not vote for Senator McCain for president because he failed all three of those tests in his current political incarnation. His choice of a running mate who eschews any thought larger than a sound bite or a snippet of Scripture merely punctuated this for me. When he stopped being a principled politician who sought to reform corrupt politics and end government-sponsored torture merely for political expediency, he lost me-- after I had admired many of his positions for years.
Our allegiance as voters must be to results, not rhetoric or labels. It is precisely the kind of thinking that refuses to consider any alternative outside one's alleged political party that has put us in the current mess in which we find ourselves. Democrats, through their failure to stick together over any issue-- ANY one! Pick ONE!-- have allowed the Republicans to peel off former Democratic supporters through scare tactics and sham social issues. Republicans have used populist rhetoric and rigid party discipline to stifle debate even within their own party, much to their detriment as well as that of our country in general, as they are now discovering. But further, as I tried to point out in my previous post: when President Obama and his advisors believe that they can count on the blind and unreasoning support of core constituencies to whom they are openly unfaithful and even contemptuous, those constituencies will be ignored. Republicans do the same thing through cynical class warfare, but no one seems to expose this.
Now to the point about the alleged loyalties of the American electorate. It certainly takes an act of political bravery to openly proclaim oneself a "liberal" in this day and age, even though I would argue that loyalty to an identity or label is completely counterproductive. Progressives need to attack the idea that being liberal is being "unAmerican" or "elitist" and that what is passed off as "conservatism" is normative. I would argue that this paradigm is a kerfuffle merely designed to forestall examination of where one's best interests truly lie.
Historically, conservatism (as an international political idea, not merely as an American phenomenon) has been, by definition, in favor of preserving the status quo. Its roots are in feudalism and preservation of the aristocracy. Modern American conservatives have at least outwardly turned this on its head, and for the last fifty or so years have told the electorate that the American government is unjust, that the American government is a form of oppression, that American government is corrupt. This is truly mind-boggling, since that is the exact same claim made by the extreme Left during the 1960s-- I mean, it's like the Yippies suddenly shaved and bathed and put themselves in suits with red power ties and declared common cause with their complete political opposites, if you think about it. But even more shockingly, these same people who hate the federal government have then been in charge of that same government for the past forty years! At this point, I think it behooves us to ask how these two facts can exist simultaneously.
I think many people who are voting and self-identifying as "conservative" are actually strongly in favor of reform, and I think the Democratic party needs to capitalize on this, as well as on certain disconnects that would help awaken these voters from their knee-jerk allegiance to a label rather than their own rational self-interests.
Let's just talk about economic well-being as a case in point. There are millions of people who have genuinely suffered during this current recession and indeed since the late 1960s, as the average standard of living for middle class people has actually slightly degraded in real terms.
I would hope that we can all agree that the middle class is the largest cohort of citizens in this country, which means that they should be able to wield a numerically significant proportion of political power. And yet, no one would argue that those in the middle class have been able to hang together and exert their influence to any real extent. There is a basic disconnect between corporate policies and their impact on the middle class, and the support of the middle class for politicians who advocate these policies. This reminds me of a Rolling Stones lyric: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need." In terms of the voting patterns of the middle class, one could rephrase our conundrum as, "You can't always get what you want, especially if you do not know what you really need." I will amplify this point at a later date.
Nonetheless, as long as voters evince the kind of blind loyalty to party, as well as by that huge mass who claims to be conservative while being phenomenally ill-served by that philosophy, it does accomplish one conservative objective. This kind of division and illogical thinking certainly will maintain the status quo. And, really, with so much dissatisfaction being voiced in public forums from polls to mass media to town hall meetings, certainly we can agree that change is demanded if this country is to become strong again.