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Retaking Our Party, Two: How We Got Here

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.

Henry David Thoreau, "Walden; or, Life in the Woods"

What "Enthusiasm Gap"?

As the 2010 U.S. Senate and House primaries have given way to the general election season, calls on the Left for action by disillusioned, disheartened, disgusted progressives have gained in volume and frequency, refuting the party line that Democrats are unenthused. (I can enumerate the reasons that this is a steaming heap of horse droppings no more clearly than did OilFieldGuy, last week.)

Fact is, for the past two months and then some – and right up to now – ideas have vigorously percolated here at FDL and throughout the Lefty blogosphere about how best to register our displeasure over the the past two godforsaken years of establishment Democratic Party “leadership” at the national level.

From an outright boycott of the midterms to dutifully marching, lemming-like, to the polls and voting straight into the sea Democratic – since, the logic goes, Democrats remain the "lesser of two evils" (I disagree) – the full spectrum of tactics has been fleshed out, up to and including writing off the midterms altogether and focusing instead on a 2012 “Dump Obama” campaign.

This second of three parts collects much of the writing and user commentary along this continuum. As stated in the user’s guide to the series, I hope folks will take the time to read (or re-read) the diaries and comments linked here, in preparation for part three, which goes up tomorrow and calls for individual commitment to very specific action. Merely repeating the things we’ve already discussed will get us nowhere – even faster than we’re headed there now.

The Ideas

There appears to be growing consensus, voiced here by Pogue, that “lesser-of-two-evils” voting is futile, and we need to stop doing it. I agree wholeheartedly. hctomorrow made a terrific contribution to this facet of the conversation too, and readers certainly responded.

Staying home is a longtime favorite of many Lefties, Democrats and otherwise. It is a tactic I’ve practiced and promoted at various times, and I wondered whether we are brave enough to do it.

But these are midterms; low turnouts are the norm, and even a lower-than-the-normally low turnout is going to be characterized, as it always is by our surface-skimming mainstream media, as “Voter Apathy.”

Or, “The weather.”

Or, “Disillusionment with the fact that Bud Selig is still the Commissioner of Baseball.”

In a word: whatever.

Three weeks beofre the election, the narrative is already taking shape. "Apathy" was a theme in an NPR report I heard just this morning, in which at least one young interviewee in Philadelphia made clear that she would not vote this year because, referring to President Obama, she "was hoping for someone more liberal."

This is the group we must mobilize if we are truly interested in pushing this president to lead based on his campaign rhetoric. And we need the final message conveyed to be so clear that even the MSM can’t fuck it up in translation.

So, how to do that?

The third-party route has been noted in numerous diaries, and is, I believe, one of three tactics mutinous progressives must put to work at the polls next month in sending the kind of "even-a-FoxNews-anchor-can-understand-it" message I’m talking about. As rossl detailed here:

…[there are] three U.S. Green Party U.S. Senate candidates who stand a real chance of doing well this year and who can certainly use your help to pull off wins or, failing those, enough of a showing to send a clear message where voters want Democrats to go.

Another of those three tactics would be to vote for "real progressives." My litmus test is anyone running as a Democrat who primaried and beat the IncumbaDem by running hard to his or her left, which Jason Rosenbaum pushesregularly.

But then, in a comment on Jason’s diary, TheCallUp crystallized for me the third tactic, one which large numbers across the diverse left can get behind:

I do think it would be a better idea to go to the voting booth and write in […] a word like ‘public option’

This is sheer genius as far as I’m concerned. "Public Option" is a clear non-participation message, to Democrats, from the Left that cannot be misconstrued. Others seemed to agree on my subsequent diary, and since then, several pups have mentioned their intention to do it.

The "Dump Obama" idea is one in need of longer-tern strategic focus, in the words of it most vocal proponent here, jeffroby. A primary threat is something we must hold over this president’s head – beginning November 3, if there is any hope of moving him to lead based on his campaign.

It Looks Like Rayne

Speaking of plans, no summary of recent thinking about ridding the Democratic Party of its DINOs once and for all would be complete without reference to Rayne’s wonderful four-part series, which ran September 17 through the twenty-first. The kind of determined, years-long local- and state-level activism it describes makes clear how such involvement is progressives’ best tool for nipping would-be co-option of basic progressive ideals in the bud. Locally engaged progressives knew YEARS sooner than anyone that the national party was bankrupt and why, and this is an early warning system we ignore at our peril. As Rayne says, opportunities to have a big impact in your local pond abound – but you’ve got to be willing to stay engaged and activist over the long haul.

The road map Rayne details in part four is, quite simply, the definitive course in organized activism. For ease of reference, here are the first, second, and third parts of this must-read series.

"Retaking Our Party" concludes tomorrow with "A Three-Election Strategy." A user’s guide to the series is here.

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Anthony Noel

Anthony Noel