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On Being a Better Democrat

This post is really for all the Democrats out there. Independents (or as we call them in CO Unaffiliated), Progressive, Liberals or other folks are welcome to read and comment, of course, but it is pointed toward those that identify themselves as Democrats. Markos Moulitsas the redoubtable Kos himself has pushed the idea of electing better Democrats as a part of his mission. It is a good mission to the Dog’s way of thinking but the better Dems has to not only extend to those we elect, it has to extend to those of us in the Party as well.

Crossposted at Square State

The Dog is a Liberal and he is a Democrat. He is a Liberal because he believes that there is a strong role for government in lives of the people. He is a Democrat because he knows that we are the Party that has the ideas and the desire to have that role be a positive one. Your reasons for being a Democrat may be different, but the Dog thinks that we can all agree that we feel as a general proposition that the very worst of the Democrats on their worst day (think Evan Bayh channeling his inner obstructionist) is still better at just about every level of government that the very best of the Republicans on their very best day.

This is not to say that we should not criticize our Democratic politicians, far, far from it! It is just that we, as the base of the Party have to have some perspective and keep it, at all times. After all if we throw our hands in the air and quit trying to make our Democratic office holders better, or get frustrated to the point where we disengage then we wind up with the Republicans. This is a fact, but the knowledge of this fact leads to some behaviors that make it harder for us to get those better Dems elected.

In the older (what Kos would call the establishment) Dems there is this; well it can only be called a terror of primaries. In many situations it leaves us at the whim of fate in terms of who our elected Dems are. Take the situation here isn Colorado; Governor Ritter, for reasons Dems have yet to fathom, appointed Michael Bennett to fill Sen. Salazar’s seat, when the Senator become the Secretary of the Interior. Sen. Bennett has been less than enthusiastically received by the Dems here, especially with his statements about the EFCA.

This has lead to a lot of talk about Andrew Romanoff perhaps mounting a primary challenge to Sen. Bennett in the 2010 election. The Dog has heard from some pretty liberal Dems that they fear such a primary challenge would lead to a “civil war” or “blood bath” in the Party, as Mr. Romanoff would be challenging a sitting Democratic United States Senator. The problem is while Sen. Bennett is indeed a sitting Dem, he has only ever received one vote for this seat, the vote of Governor Ritter who appointed him.

What is best, from a small d democratic point of view is both Democrats and the State have a chance to affirm his position or remove him from it. The question is why should the Governors choice for which Democrat is best for the seat bind the rest of the Party? Especially when many of us are already expressing strong disagreement with him on this issue? It is true a primary can be divisive, but that it gets out of hand is actually the fault of we the base.

We talk about holding our elected officials accountable, but it is rare that we are willing to hold the candidates accountable, even though we should. It is fine, important in fact, for us to aggressively contend for the nomination of our Party. This is a good (if not perfect) system for getting the very best candidate to represent what the Party actually stands for as a whole. However it is not a no holds barred fight, like a general election is.

This might seem like a contradiction in terms, but the Dog points to the long (really, really, really long) primary season as for the Presidential nomination as an example. There were memes about President (then Senator) Obama that were floated that truly pissed of his partisans. The Dog thinks the anger about some of the Rezko associations was earned, but it also brought them out, where they could be dealt with in early rather than in the General Election.

There is also the way in which Sec. State Clinton, once it was completely clear that she could not win the nomination, put her support and asked her supporters to put their support behind Sen. Obama. This is something which is required not just of candidates, but of regular Dems as well. We can not expect donors to donate, the Party structure to support contested primaries if we, as the base, are not going to do our part to make sure the process works as it should.

We should be able to fight like two wet cats in a sack for any nomination, and once we know who the nominee is, close ranks and go forward to stick it to the Republicans as one. The Dog will remind you again, the worst ass-backward Dem is still a better deal for us and the people than any Republican. Even if there are Dems that are going to break ranks about policy, who will run to the press and make moving our agenda forward one quantum harder, it is still always better to have them and have the majorities which at the very least prevent the Republicans from using their discipline and unity to rail road their horrible policies through.

What is so strange to the Dog is that most of us know how to make this behavior work. The Dog comes from this sprawling pugnacious Irish family. To put it bluntly we fight, a lot. Sometimes it is even physical, but mostly it is really cutting and often true personal observations of ones failings presented at about 125 decibels. We can do this because we are family, but God and the State of Colorado help you if, as an outsider, you think you are allowed to join in. At that point we close ranks and fall on the poor hapless putz like the wrath of….well a giant Irish family.

This is what we need in order to elect more and better Dems; clear eyed and aggressive contention for the nomination, and unity of purpose after it is decided. This allows us to get those who will truly represent the Liberal part of our party (which really is the big sloppy heart) and remove those who will not do as the majority of the Party, and hence the majority of their voters want. This does not mean we won’t have some Dems that are way to the right of us, there are places where this is the will of the Party, so we have to respect it, but it does mean those elected Dems who are having trouble living up to the courage of their (and the bases) convictions will not be able to hide behind incumbency by saying they have to be this way in order to get elected. This is not their choice, this is the voter’s choice, and they should have to face this check on their power as a regular part of being a public servant.

So, if you as a Dem want a better party, it is up to you to make sure any Dem who would use campaigning of personal destruction in a primary has had the last primary of their career, regardless of their success or failure to receive the nomination. We may elect them but we must also make sure they do not receive the nomination again. Any Dem that will not close ranks and support our candidate for election, should be a Dem that you will never support for election themselves, as they are failing the most important test of all, doing what is best for the people by doing what is best for the Party.

Once they are elected we can and should criticize the hell out of actions they take. This is also part of the process, but we have to get Dems into office first and foremost. If they fail to hear or heed us, then we have a process, called the primaries, to make clear the errors of their ways. It is up to us to be better Dems so we can make sure our elected officials are too.

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for