You can argue economic and regulatory policy until you are blue in the face, win every single time, and those you have bettered will simply slink off and find someone they can better. You can shout at the impenetrable fortress of bigotry until your larynx bleeds and accomplish nothing but a self inflicted wound. Logic, fact, science, philosophy and the messages of great religions matter not, some number of us remain unmoved by reason. Words are all but useless it seems, at times so anyway.
But we do make progress. Fraught with war and peace and progress and digressions, we have, nonetheless, moved out of the geologic caves and can now build facsimiles of them wherever we like. We can move, and have moved from the absolute authoritarianism of potentates to hybrids of money tainted democracy. It just all takes time. It just takes time and the courage to invest a hundred lifetimes in it that our forefathers had in fits and starts.
Both poles of the political spectrum complain that Washington is not listening to them, even though if Washington were to act on what they hear it would be self canceling. The opposite poles want opposite things. The only thing they agree on is that no jobs are being created and even then the public is schizophrenic on how to fix that. We do not yet even agree that we can disagree and still accomplish something, what with political objectives, the party of "NO", canceling out even the most modest attempts at effective policy. We desperately need to break the gridlock and doing with argument does not seem possible any time soon.
Unfortunately, elections happen on a schedule that waits for no argument to be complete, no victory nor vindication everlasting. We must decide the path of the next two or six years in November, without any winning or losing of the argument on the issues before us, or resolving the immutable tensions of class and power.
Progressives have not yet become accustomed to winning. Thirty years in the wasteland of Reaganism has cowed the left. The left is not accustomed as to what to expect in a victory or how to consolidate one. You did win you know. You sent an African American to the White House. If in just that, it was an historic victory against the white parapets of control, against bigotry, against the lies of millennia that counseled mistrust of our differences. It was a grand victory, and it should be consolidated.
Instead, the progressive base appears to want to surrender after they were disappointed in how much they gained in an heroic victory over odds that were insurmountable a decade ago. It's hard to detect any fighting spirit in a left that would rather whine that the victory was not big enough rather than prepare for the next fight.
Fight we must, but it is discouraging that we are at war with our own sick body politick. Half the country views the world differently than do you in a patchwork of political microcosms that tote up to perfect political gridlock from Alaska to Florida. Unless there is change, Palestine is the model of the country's future, unending firefights powered by inexplicable inherited hate and laser-focused in micro issues when those micro issues are the product of macro policy failures and worthless right wing ideologies.
Obama may not have fulfilled your personal vision for a resounding progressive victory over the stone age values of the right. Many single issue voters on the left are particularly disappointed. I'm not denigrating any of those important issues, but being a single issue voter makes you a pawn for politicians no less than a single issue right to life voter. In order to move your issue, you must first move on everyone's issue, a stable economy and progressive government with the means and will to solve the multitude of individual issues. To reach that end requires a solid progressive majority in all three branches. That takes time and work, but any other outcome is a certain disaster equal and very likely exceeding Bush 43 with his GOP Congressional rubber stamps.
Think past your one issue to your own general welfare and the welfare of those with you at the docket of political justice. Obama and the milk toast Democrats of our legislative bodies do not seem like conquering heroes, and they are not. They are better than the GOP on almost everything, even on Wall Street. Luminaries like Grayson, Wiener, Frank and Brown could not exist in a Republican party, ever, yet there is a home for them with Democrats. That is the essential difference. Democrats, as a party, are better by inches or not at all, it may seem at times, but that is because they suffer from the malady I'm going to call 51% spine.
Some call 51% spine picking your battles or living to fight another day or getting re-elected. The fact is plainer. No Democrat in government is yet convinced that you meant to elect liberals to power. No one thinks you intend to win because you are not acting like you even want to fight on.
By contrast, the GOP has tossed caution to the wind. They are playing to their base and 51% be damned. The GOP is retrenching. They are preparing for the onslaught of a consolidated victorious left. The John Birch Society is back in the fold having been exorcised 50 years ago. They need every vote they can get no matter how decrepit the mind of the voter. The Tea Party is mostly comprised of completely demented septuagenarian anti-anything berserkers. Their game is to scare the bajubas out of you, discourage you, and make you stay home in November. In the mean time the 51% spine Democrats are giving you precious little reason to not stay home, even though they are definitely not trying to make the world over in the image of John Birch revisionism.
You have to ask yourself if you would, for the next two years, like to live in a world where Republicans control the House and they do everything from vote the repeal of Wall Street reform to impeach Obama for lying about his birth certificate and to repeal the 14th Amendment. You have to wonder what damage they can do beyond undoing even the half hearted 51% spine down payment on a progressive future that has come from two years of Obama working with a 51% spine Congress.
The one thing that the Tea Party has is passion. Who would have thought that a granny with tea bags tied to her sun hat would have more stamina than a coalition of young visionaries, the downtrodden, the outsourced and the outraged Americans with nothing to lose? Progressives curl up in a little ball of self pity that Obama is just a 51% president while granny tea bag straps on a sidearm and grabs the microphone at the rally to shout whatever incoherent crap that comes to mind. Is insanity really that much more compelling than reason?
Reason is good and inevitably just. The Age of Reason, men of letters and Enlightenment thinking created America. But every two years we have to set the library books aside and go out to vote armed as we are with what it is that we currently think. There is no make up test, no incomplete, no credit for trying, and you don't get a trophy for just playing in the ball game. Progress is made in two year chunks. Lose a cycle and lose two more years. Win this one, win the next one, and the pattern becomes the one thing Washington can't ignore, their fate. Assurance of their fate is the cure for the 51% spine. Vote and work for the best candidates, but working on electing Democrats over Republicans, no matter how marginal they are, will send an unmistakable message to Washington. That message will be that we are your spine, now use it.
If nothing else, since the Republicans have run so hard to the right, it is the chance of a lifetime to show unmistakable rejection of their miscreant's philosophy. So get out this summer and fall and work for and vote for a Democrat whether you feel like it or not. Ignore the bad taste of this battle and the next and next. It will all taste of victory when the war is won.
The Monday Morning Economist