I ticked off a lot of people up here in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts with this one. From my day job at The Justice:
The United States is, by most accounts, significantly skewed to the right in terms of its political positions. What would be considered “conservative” in the United States is significantly farther to the right of the cultural equivalent in Europe, namely the United Kingdom. According to many ultra-liberals within the Democratic Party, this is a tragedy. But is this really a bad thing?
The Democrats, of course, are in one of the best electoral positions they have been in generations. The party has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and has demographics on its side, particularly the invaluably increasing Hispanic voting percentage. When most political pundits agree that the only way for the Republican Party to survive is for it to take a leftward step, it would appear that the ostensibly center-left political party, the Democratic Party, holds the leverage in the future of this country’s political discourse.
The Democrats are now attempting to use this newfound leverage to usher in more liberal control of the party, and a much more liberal agenda for this country. Such an attempt, though woul be misguided and unwise. The United States is a center-right nation politically, but this is not because there is no viable left-wing alternative.
The recent mayoral election in New York has been a fine example of this lurch to the left by the party. Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker who was supported by much of the Democratic establishment, came in an embarrassing third-place finish in the Democratic primary as her more liberal opponents berated her alleged centrism. Quinn supported many items of incumbent Michael Bloomberg’s agenda, including those that made die-hard liberals uneasy, such as her support for education reform. Bloomberg, a former Republican, may not have been the best endorser himself for Quinn. The victor of this primary, Bill de Blasio, is significantly more liberal on many of these issues.
Other examples of this phenomenon have been seen in the last month, like when fast food workers throughout the nation went on strike in search of higher wages. Ultra-liberals throughout the country flocked to stand in complete solidarity with the strikers’ demand of a $15.50 minimum wage. While many in this country, including myself, agree that the minimum wage is too low, the amount demanded is somewhat excessive. Similarly, ultra-liberals have fought any and all attempts of military intervention, however limited, in Syria. The new tactic has apparently conflated a desire of the party for only just or reasonable wars with a dovish foreign policy reminiscent of George McGovern.
These cries from the left-wing are growing louder, and are being heeded more often. Cory Booker, the charismatic mayor of Newark, N.J. and Democratic nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey, has been panned heavily by the left for not being liberal enough. Elizabeth Warren, the junior senator from this Commonwealth, is now being talked up by the left as a serious candidate for president in 2016, following an unwillingness by many ultra-liberals to consider Hillary Clinton. In an article from last December, Salon Magazine already castigated Clinton’s future candidacy that blasted her “entitlement” and declared that “the left wing of the Democratic Party has gotten stronger.” However, while Cory Booker and Hillary Clinton are feasible candidates for national office, their significantly more liberal counterparts are not.
The ultra-liberals must face the fact that the United States does not, and will not, support ultra-liberal candidates for office in swing states and on national platforms, just as the American people do not and will not support Tea Party Republicans in those circumstances. One does not have to go beyond the crushing defeats of recent Republican Senate candidates, such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who both took ideological extreme positions on social issues, to know how abundantly obvious this is.
A pacifist foreign policy and a $15 minimum wage are wonderful sound-bites for winning a Democratic primary in a blue state, but they are not realistic opinions shared by the majority of a country with center-right political views. Have these ultra-liberals forgotten the era of Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan, when it was the Republicans who won the national popular vote in five out of six consecutive presidential elections? One of the reasons for this is that the excessively liberal positions of the Democratic Party of the time were increasingly out of touch with the American people.
Candidates in this era, such as George McGovern and Michael Dukakis, lost not necessarily because they ran poor campaigns (though the jury is still out on that question), but because they held positions on issues that were out of step with most Americans. McGovern endorsed dangerously drastic cuts to our military and Dukakis actually allowed a program to continue under his watch that allowed weekend passes from prison to murderers, rapists, and other severe criminals.
We have seen ugly resurgences of these views in recent months, as more and more in the Democratic Party have turned to pacifist positions.
Such extreme ideological positions are what have been tearing the Republican Party apart in recent years. I hope the same fate will not occur in the Democratic Party.
This leads me into the other comment/criticism I have about the Democratic Party, specifically the people therein it. A couple of days ago, I was talking about the basic problems of the world with a contemporary of mine at my college. He identified as a Democrat, though in retrospect, he probably would have felt more at home with the Wobblies or as a de Blasio sandinista.
Anyways, this individual was extolling the qualities of Occupy Wall Street, and discussing the need for direct action in political protests. Further, and this is what truly struck a cord with me, he declared that the United States “is not a democracy.”
This country elects its leaders. While we have disagreements about who are the better campaigners, or who is given undue advantages, we have free, fair and open elections. This country is a democracy, I would like to get that out in the open before I continue analyzing this pinko diatribe.
It is true, however, that we do not live in a very functional democracy. Often times,the needs and desires of the people are not adhere to. Campaigns slave away to money, and spent a disgusting amount of time groveling for it. But this is not the fault of our government, or even our institutions. This is the fault of our lazy populous.
Two out of every five voters are too lazy to vote in Presidential election. Three out of every five voters are too lazy to vote in a Midterm election. The number reaches a shocking level of apathy when applied to off-year elections, which is what the City of Houston exclusively deals with, or Primary election.
With very few exceptions, if you choose to not vote in an election, you are lazy and you are part of the problem. Last year, I shared a room with a young man from a little town outside of Beijing, in China. I distinctly remember him gazing in amazement as I filled out my absentee ballot. The concept of a contested election, wherein candidates are not recruited but may run on their own desires, was completely foreign to him. What I do on Texpatriate, writing my thoughts on a public forum, often criticizing high government officials in the process, is a serious crime where he lives. As much as the domestic pinkos like to complain about our system, the United States is still one of the only countries in the world with such vivid constitutional rights protecting civic participation.
This individual I was interacting with, when backed into a corner by reason and logic, declared the tired old cliche of, “If voting could change anything, it would have in 2008.” The only issue with this is that much of the recalcitrant responses of the US Congress in President Obama’s first few years of office stemmed from the fact that Obama’s base was too lazy to support him in the Midterm election as turnout fell below 40% in many States, including Texas.
For the vast majority of people, voting is not very hard. Astute readers of this blog will be quite familiar with my opposition to Voter ID laws. However, this is not because I find it will be a huge impediment to millions of voter. I simply oppose the bill because it does little protect those older individuals without Driver’s Licenses, who have already been voting without-a-hitch for years.
Otherwise, it is remarkably easy to vote. When I turned 18, and renewed my Driver’s License, I simply checked a box. Poof, I was registered to vote. When I moved to Boston, I simply mailed a letter to the County Clerk, and was returned a full absentee ballot.
When I am home, I am given two workweeks and one weekend of early voting (12 days in all) to vote in addition to election day. Additionally, during early voting, I may cast my ballot at any location throughout the city. As much as people like to discuss the alleged backwardness of Texas, we make it significantly easier to vote than Massachusetts.
I believe that the Government still must do more make it easier to vote. Whether this includes expanding early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, same day voter registration or making Election Day a Federal holiday, I am fully in support. However, the American people need to meet its Government half way, and put a little effort into upholding this nation’s most basic and most central theme: the consent of the governed.