The Fog of Election Day

We can all recall the hysteria surrounding the election of our nation’s first black president, and the optimism that abounded amongst American workers at seeing him win the election.

Barack Obama had made some of the most remarkable promises on the campaign trail that anyone in our generation had ever seen. He was going to end the Iraq war, close Guantanamo Bay prison, and go to bat for the workers by standing up for gay and immigrant rights, reforming NAFTA, and urging the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

For the past two years, American progressives have watched as their hope for a brighter future has been thrashed against the sharp rocks of our political reality.

This midterm election, Obama and the Democratic Party’s base are falling apart at the seams, because they simply can’t live up to their own rhetoric.

It’s plain as day. Even so, election day has a way of blinding some of us to the world as it exists outside of campaign advertisements.

It is just remarkable that after 4 years of failure, there are still those on the Left who can, with a straight face, tell us that there is “still hope;” that if we just give the Democrats another chance, they’ll live up to their commitments.

What, we might ask, could they possibly do in the next two years that they could not have done during the last two? They had complete control of congress (a “supermajority,” in fact) four years ago, and since 2008 they have arguably had the most liberal president since Carter. What they couldn’t accomplish then, they certainly will not be able to accomplish now.

In light of the desperate drive to get out the votes for the Democrats this year, I thought it would be appropriate to post the introduction to my book, which deals in length with the Democratic Party, and the problems we have had with it.

Bellow is a sample of that text, edited and formatted as a short political pamphlet, which this author hopes will get you to seriously think, not about our politics, so much as about  our tactics. Is the strategy of voting for the Democrats delivering satisfactory change? If it isn’t, than it may be time to consider other ways to assert our power over our lives and communities.

Meaningful Alternatives, the Democrats and Republicans:

“From compromise and things half done,
Keep me with stern and stubborn pride;
And when at last the fight is won,
God, keep me still unsatisfied.”
–  Louis Untermeyer

The great political crisis of our generation – perhaps our great spiritual crisis as well – is a crisis of futility. No matter what we do, it seems, the same problems just keep reappearing.

We serve ladle after ladle of soup to lines of hungry families. We hand out blanket after blanket to a never ending population of destitute, wretched faces. We sign petition after petition. We put up poster after poster. We go to rally after rally. We bang our heads against the wall.

Our great political crisis – the one that will be ascribed to us in any honest history book – is a crisis of meaningful alternatives. The Established Left, the wide array of NGO’s, non-profits and civil societies in the United States, united by their support for the Democratic Party, dominates half of the political landscape of the U.S., with only the Republicans and their backers seriously competing for the other half.

Roughly 65% of Americans today say they would vote with either the Democratic or Republican Parties (35% and 33.8%, respectively). (Rasmussen Reports, LLC, 2010) The rest of the country – roughly the other 35% – may identify mostly as “independent,” but are still stuck voting along partisan lines when Election Day rolls around. Those Americans voting either Republican or Democrat, moreover, do so more out of force of habit than anything else. In fact, when asked why they were voting either Republican or Democratic, registered American voters in the 2010 midterm elections overwhelmingly answered by responding simply that they “always vote Democratic,” or that they “always vote Republican.”

This contrasted greatly with the other options poll respondents were given. They could have, for example, responded by choosing “I favor the candidates agenda, policy,” “I support the Democratic/Republican Party platform,” or even “the candidate is more supportive of the lower/middle class.” (Jones, 2010)

The vast majority of Americans vote either Democrat or Republican, then, because they either have nowhere else to go, or because their principles dictate that they stay loyal to whichever party they happened to vote for last election.

The two-party system of our country is, then, truly monolithic. Our lives, like those of our parents and our parents’ parents, are lived under its long shadow. If we want to participate in the political sphere, it has to be on the terms of the party elite. There is simply nowhere else for us to go.

As much as I dislike this picture of life – the one we are given by people who insist we must forever choose between the “lesser of two evils” – I think the argument is fair; that is, if we believe that electoralism is our only option. Objective observation overwhelmingly confirms the idea that there will never be a successful third-party in the United States.

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