Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not buying the hysteria or the cynicism

During his speech on voting rights a few days ago, President Obama said something that we should all take a minute to absorb.
If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that’s not a sign of strength, that’s a sign of weakness.
Wait a minute! Did he just suggest that the Republican Party is weak? Yes mam, he sure did. But, you might ask, how can he say that when they've managed to obstruct almost everything he's tried to do for the last four years and the pundits are predicting bad news for Democrats in the 2014 midterms?

I'd suggest two reasons for it. First of all, you have to be someone who sees the long game in order to understand what he's saying. If you are addicted to the 24 hour hysteria-inducing media, you might miss it.

Interestingly enough, one person who has recently shown that he gets it is Markos at Daily Kos. His latest is titled: Liberalism has won, which is why conservatives do what they do. In it he points out that Republicans have basically lost their "culture wars" and that the rise of economic populism has the billionaires so scared they've taken to calling us Nazis. If you think of it in terms of the stages of grief, the current battles inside the Republican Party are between those who are in the denial stage (Sarah Palin), those in the anger stage (Ted Cruz) and those who are ready to bargain (Chamber of Commerce).

But Markos nails it when he points out that we've still got work to do.
We certainly have won the battle of ideas. But power isn't just about ideas. It's about wrestling the institutional levers of government from the retrogrades. Those entrenched economic and conservative interests wield power via the Supreme Court, through gross gerrymandering, through voter suppression efforts. So we've got a lot of work ahead of us.
That brings us to the second reason why President Obama defines the Republican Party as weak...he still believes in the democratic process.
James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner believed so strongly that change was possible they were willing to lay down their lives for it. The least you can do is take them up on the gift that they have given you. Go out there and vote. You can make a change. You do have the power.
The cynics among us are suggesting the end of democracy - especially since the latest Supreme Court ruling on campaign financing. I have to admit that there have been times in my past that I've gone there. But that all changed for me on November 4, 2008. As President-Elect Barack Obama said that night:
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
The old cynic in me says that's corny. But the realist says that I had just watched a grassroots small donor-funded campaign beat both the establishment Democrats (in the primary) and Republicans (in the general election). Now we've seen it happen twice. The second time around, all the big money Karl Rove could put his hands on after Citizens United opened the floodgates couldn't defeat the will of the Obama coalition in the voting booth.

So as we watch the white male patriarchy lash out in its death throes and speculate about what that means for the future of the Republican Party, I'm not going to take my eyes off the prize by getting caught up in either hysteria or cynicism. That's because I can see the long game and I still believe in the democratic process. Here's what that looks like:
For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.


  1. I was talking about this with regards to the necessity of voting in one of my classes yesterday hoping to instil in them the desire to be a voter when they turn 18. Great post!


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