I am not a fan of anger. Having been an angry teen and knowing the white hot rush of indulging it, I tend to resist its stoking in other people. Just like a physical fire, once anger gets out of control it eats through every bit of fuel around it. It eats up careers, it eats up families and it eats up lives.

That said, it is also one of the emotions that we all feel. And there seems to be a lot more of it around these days than any time in recent history. Take a look at this video below. It is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker being shouted down and off the stage at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Is this good anger? Those of us on the Left will reflexively say yes. After all Gov. Walker has gone far, far out of his way to be the poster child for the mean spirited austerity and union busting measures that are favored by the Right. He is exactly who and what the Koch brothers want from a politician.

It is important to recognize that just because a reaction is reflexive does not automatically make it wrong. We all have a reflexive horror of those who sexually abuse children, the fact that it is nearly instinctive does not make it wrong.

Anger can power a lot of politics. Anger and alienation have long been used to activate the Right in the U.S. This is where talk of “taking our nation back” and “culture wars” have come from. By framing a disagreement on policy in the direst terms and linking it to the idea of physical conflict the Right has managed to build up a very hard core group who do treat political issues as existential ones.

That has not been the case on the Left, at least not in the last 30 years. However, just as it is a bad idea to give free reign to anger when it is not called for it is also a bad idea to downplay that emotion when it is legitimately earned. I think that we can all agree there is more than enough issues where people can be legitimately angry with the conduction of our government.

As a life long Democrat I am more likely to talk about the problems of the Republicans, but that does not mean I can not and do not recognize the problems (and they are many) inside the Democratic Party. What we have in our party (assuming you are a Democrat, I know many are not or are flirting with leaving) is a failure to focus on policy that should make us distinct from the Republicans.

Too often we start in the middle and then move to right to try to keep our own moderate and conservative Democrats voting with the caucus. It has distorted our policy and ruined our ability to have the native constituency of the Democrats, middle and lower class voters, really understand that we are on their side.

Given that there is this level of anger on all sides, what is the right course to take? That depends on what it is you want to achieve. If you are a “burn it down and start over” type then the answer is obvious, push on the system in all areas where it looks weak, and try to bring it down. Hoping (since there is no way of knowing for sure) that after suffering the inevitable and large scale pain things will be better by virtue of being different.

History doesn’t give a lot of hope for this method. Many revolutions turn into terrors or other kinds of adverse outcomes. While it all looks cut and dried in hindsight the ones that went bad and the ones that had positive outcomes often turned on luck for these results, rather than planning.

What is the alternative then? Well it is not going to be a very satisfying one if you want immediate change. If you want a new choice in politics, it is going to require a long term strategy. And really it is going to need to be an everything all the time strategy.

We get too wrapped up in the tyranny of “Or”. The system we have grown up in has taught us that we must be Left or Right, Democrat or Republican, right or wrong. What if there is room for being a Democrat and working for change that might supplant that party?

What is the goal of our political activism? Is it to support a party or is it to support the people and policies that we believe are necessary for a health nation and a happy, free and productive people? As a life long Democrat, I have to say my allegiance is to the people of the United States and the idea of governance that is set forth in our laws and our Constitution.

I am and have been a Democrat because it is the political party that is the best tool available to achieve my goals. But just because a tool is useful does not mean that it is the only one you have.

I have detailed the issues facing a creating a third party. They are legion, but one of the biggest is getting on the ballot in all 50 states and then having the money needed to be competitive.

Dan Ellsberg (the guy who leaked the Pentagon Papers) gave a Membership webinar here at FDL, yesterday. He had what I think is a brilliant idea for getting around, to some extent, these problems. What he proposes for those that want to create a third party is to use the presidential contest in 2012 to get around them.

Ellsberg is very specific. As unhappy as he is with the Democrats and President Obama, they are indeed better than the Republican alternative. So any plan to establish a third party needs to be one that does not act as a spoiler to the Presidents re-election, while at the same time showing the numbers of unhappy voters and the viability of third party.

The way to do this is to run a third party candidate, but not to campaign in swing states. There are only about 10 states whose votes are really up for grabs and will decide the 2012 election. Places like Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, the so-called battle ground states.

That leave places like Texas or California where the outcome is pretty much guaranteed, and this is where you offer the choice of a third party. The goal is not to win the election. That is for later. The only goal of this run would be to establish the third party. By capturing 5% of the national vote this new party would guaranteed that they would be on the ballots next cycle and they would qualify for Federal funds as well.

I think that this is a brilliant piece of out of the box thinking. I still have my doubts about the viability of a third party, but if there was a showing that there are millions of voters who want something different, who show that they are not happy with the direction of the Democratic Party to the point where they use a vote which would not affect the final outcome anyway to say so that could be a wake up call to the Democrats that they must shore up their liberal base and not just count on those votes as ones that have nowhere else to go.

For those that do want a third party (or rather another third party since the Greens and Libertarians have been around for 30 years) this offers an outlet. There is no chance of winning in 2012, but setting the stage for 2016 so that there is, at the very least, a perceived need to court this group is a step forward. It also gives that nascent party time to build and grow.

There are other things that can be done as well. Instant runoff voting would be an important way for non-party candidates to have a fair chance. With the current zero sum game style of voting a vote for a third party candidate is more often a spoiler voter and the problem of lesser of two evils keeps a disproportional number of voters in the realm of their party, even if they don’t really feel represented by their party.

By providing a way for them to express more than one choice, in order of preference, that would mean a wider range of options and a different set of requirements for winning election. This too would be a big shake up.

It all comes down to the question of anger and how we manage it. There are many truly pissed off people on this blog. That anger does translate to energy, but like all energy it is a question of focusing and harnessing it, lest it get out of control and burn us all. There are outlets which allow us to pressure the Democrats in office and in the party hierarchy. The question is, will we take them?

The floor is yours.

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 Govtrak.org

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