The “Mystery Series” is a response to Palace blogger and (self-proclaimed) Loyal Subject™ SJ’s questions, posed in a comment on my earlier post. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll see if loyal readers guess my Super Secret title for this series after I’ve posted all (or most) of it.
In the last installment I discussed this excellent piece by Ted Glick at Reader Supported News, entitled “Strategic Presidential Voting.” The upshot of Glick’s argument is that in states such as New York or Utah where the outcome of the presidential election is all but certain, it would be a very good strategic development if Green Party candidates were to garner a respectable portion of the Democratic party vote. I concurred that this is indeed an excellent tactic, if one’s desire is to (a) keep Democrats in power, and (b) push individual Democrats and the party as whole leftward. As I said, a real and growing liberal voting bloc is a scary thing to conservative Democrats.
And that fear is a very good thing. Unless and until Democrats fear consequences for their conservative sins, we will continue to see more and more Democrats taking conservative positions on the economy, wars, financial reform, reproductive rights, executive power, the environment, health care, Israel, climate change, immigration, education, drug policy, entitlement reform, defense spending, and almost every other issue of importance on which liberals have a diametrically opposing view.
But let’s be real: assuming it were possible to achieve, how much real fear would be engendered by cutting into Obama’s margin of victory by 5% in New York, from 25% to 20%? A groundswell of enthusiasm for Green Party candidates in a handful of states would certainly get the party’s attention, but the pressure to change policies is significantly lessened… if nobody actually loses an election.
Let me tell you a little story. (I have told it before, and I have a strong suspicion I will have plenty of occasions to tell it again).
Once upon a time, the Democratic Party received substantial funding and 85% of the vote from gay and lesbian Americans. “Vote for us, gay people!” Democrats said cheerfully. “Give us money, too! Because OMFG just look how scary that Michele Bachmann is!”
And gay and lesbian Americans did indeed look at Michele Bachmann, and noted, correctly, that she was actually quite frightening. And so gay and lesbian Americans did give their votes and their money to Democrats.
Then an extraordinary thing happened: in 2008 Barack Obama won the White House and Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. Two years went by. And yet, Democrats had done nothing meaningful for their gay and lesbian constituencies. Nothing.
Like clockwork, the 2010 midterm elections rolled around, and sure enough there were the Democrats saying cheerfully, “Vote for us, gay people! Give us money, too! Because OMFG just look how scary that Michelle Bachmann is!” And once again, the gay and lesbian Americans did indeed look at Michelle Bachmann, and noted, once again correctly, that she was still really, really terrifying.
But then they turned around and looked at these congressional Democrats—the very same ones to whom they had been giving 85% of their vote and untold sums of campaign cash, and from whom they had received nothing meaningful in return. DADT (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which precludes gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military) was still in place. Worse, the Obama administration continued to actively press its federal appeals in support of DOMA (the odious and discriminatory “Defense Of Marriage Act,” which among other things bars the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions and prohibits immigration rights for same-sex spouses).
And so it was that a significant number of gay and lesbian Americans cheerfully said to these Democrats, “Fuck you.”
Not only that, but they did not sit out the 2010 midterms either. Nope. They gave 30% of their vote to Republicans! Republicans!
Just as a little refresher, here is what the national Republican platform (pdf) said about gay marriage:
Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it.
The national Republican platform (pdf) also stated flat-out that gays and lesbians should not be permitted to serve in the military:
To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America’s Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.
Well, the Democrats lost the House in the 2010 midterms. But suddenly, a wondrous thing happened: during the lame duck session before the Tea Baggers were sworn in, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, and the Obama administration suddenly stopped pressing its federal appeals in support of DOMA.
Here is Dan Savage discussing this tactic:
Well, I think my feelings began to evolve after the midterms in 2010. I think the Democrats saw the writing on the wall, with the percentage of the gay vote going to Republicans [doubling] to 30 percent; donations from gays — gay groups, gay orgs, gay people — to Democrats plummeting; that they realized they could no longer just fob us off with speeches and the occasional appearance with the Human Rights Campaign — that they had to deliver. It wasn’t until after that, that we got “don’t ask, don’t tell” [effectively ended], that they stopped the DOMA appeal. Anyone that argues that this was the plan all along, to pass the DADT repeal at the 11th hour in a lame duck session, a hail-mary pass thrown by Joe fucking Lieberman, is an apologist and an idiot. But we got those things because we began to push back and play hardball.
To recap: in the 2010 midterms, the percentage of the gay vote going to Republicans doubled, to 30% (!), and donations to Democrats, who made a lot of promises but never delivered, dried up. Democrats lost elections, in part because of a backlash from their gay and lesbian constituents whose votes they have long taken for granted without representing their interests in any meaningful way. 30% of the gay and lesbian constituency voted for a party that would do absolutely nothing to advance their interests and would in fact actively work against them.
Again, here’s Savage:
And the gay vote is bigger than the Jewish vote. It’s bigger than the Miami-Cuban vote. And Jews and Miami Cubans get everything they want. Tremendously powerful blocs. And it was after the November 2010 midterms that we suddenly, in the eyes of the Democrats, overnight morphed into Jewish Miami-Cuban cocksuckers who couldn’t be taken for granted anymore.
I don’t doubt we wouldn’t have seen these things, that these things would not have been delivered, if we didn’t make it clear there would be a price to pay if they weren’t.
What is the moral of my little story?
That this message is a very powerful one:
“Represent our interests, or lose.”
In fact, it just may be the best weapon we have.
What this story illustrates is a constituency on the left adopting an effective tactic, one employed successfully and routinely by right-wing conservatives. Remember that doucheweasel Christine O’Donnell? The Senate candidate from Delaware who makes Sarah Palin look like a Rhodes Scholar by comparison? Well, rather than support the Republicans party’s anointed assclown, Delaware’s wingnuts were perfectly willing to let Republicans lose a winnable Senate seat to Democrats—and lose it they did. But the key lesson is what happened in response: the Republican party immediately moved even further to the right, and actually started taking the fringe positions of the Christian Right Tea Party—the Tea Party!—seriously.
But never mind all that, amirite? No matter how far rightward the Democratic Party lurches, year after year, good liberals must always, always support them anyway. (Remember, people: you are all “ungrateful,” “fucking retarded” “drug addicts“ if you don’t get in line.) Because OMFG just look how scary that Michelle Bachmann is!” Liberal votes are taken for granted by Democrats only because they can be: Democrats pay no price at the polls for dismissing, ignoring and diminishing the left. Until that dynamic changes, nothing else will.
I will grant that the hardball option is fraught with significant risks: a Romney presidency and a Republican congress is obviously no laughing matter, and could prove especially deadly for Vagina-Americans, such as Your Humble Monarch here.
But you know what else is fraught with risk? Enabling Democrats to keep doing exactly what they’ve been doing. This includes, among other evils, shoring up the total corporate takeover of our democracy, and entrenching some of the very worst policies of the Bush administration with a bipartisan stamp of approval. Actually, that the Democrats will continue to do so cannot even be accurately characterized as a “risk.” It’s a certainty.
If you think it’s too late to deploy this tactic out of the (perfectly rational) fear that a Republican president and Congress will cause horrific damage to the country more quickly than Democrats will, ask yourself whether the timing is likely to be better four years from now. Or eight.
Until the left plays hardball, the conservatives in both parties will continue to push the country right — off a cliff.