Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why We Need Conservative Democrats, Part II

On my recent post about why we need conservative Democrats, a commenter wrote:
Actually, conservative Democrats make it more difficult for Democrats to get majorities in Congress. These rightists alienate core Democratic constituencies and lower turnout.
And that's a valid point, as I know there are many core Democrats who are turned-off by conservative Democrats who water-down our policies, undermine our positions, and make things unnecessarily difficult for us.  I mean, I can understand if they don't want to vote for our bills.  But why must they support Republican filibusters which deny us the opportunity to discuss our bills in the Senate?  Or repeat Republican lies which make it more difficult for themselves, due to their affiliation with our party? 

And I share that frustration, as these Democrats are engaging in practices that are too clever by half, and end up hurting everyone in the long run; including themselves.  Because Democrats can win in conservative districts, and they have to be conservative in order to do so.  And as long as they're better than the Republican alternative, I'll reluctantly approve of their victories. 

But supporting filibusters and Republican lies isn't necessary in order to win these seats.  They can vote their conscience, but they don't have to undermine us like this. Because it's not scoring them any points.  The only voters who will be angered if they don't support a filibuster or repeat rightwing lies are the hardcore wingnuts who wouldn't vote for them anyway.  And by doing these things, it makes their party id a bigger liability to them with people who are conservative, but still willing to vote for a Democrat. 

It's like a black man who tells everyone how scary black people are and why you can't trust them.  The racists still won't like him, while anyone who listens will be less likely to trust him.  So it'd be smarter for conservative Democrats if they expressed their conservativism, but without damaging the Democratic Party as a whole.  And if the party is liberal, it only hurts them when they demonize liberalism.

Why We Still Need Them

And so I understand perfectly how frustrating these fools can be.  But all the same, we need these seats.  And if anyone imagines that liberals can routinely win congressional seats in places like Kentucky and Indiana, they're delusional.  It's not going to happen.

Nor should it, as long as the voters in those districts are conservative.  We have a representative democracy for a reason and I fully believe that our politicians should represent their constituents, even if they're wrong.  That's a basic pillar of democracy.  It's not about coming up with the right answers.  It's about having the right system.  And that means supporting our system, even when it comes up with the wrong answers.  We don't have to like the answers it gives, but it's wrong to suggest that they're illegitimate. 

After all, America was founded with a compromise that said slaves were less than human; and we've moved past that into something far better.  Had our Founding Fathers held out for a more perfect solution, we might not be here today.  Supporting our opponents when we lose is the only way we can expect them to support us when we win.  That's what democracy is all about and if we always hold out until we get everything we want, we'll never get anything.

And if that means we need a Democrat in Kentucky who supports gun rights and opposes abortion, so be it.  Because no matter how conservative he is, he's still better than the alternative.  Because the alternative to a conservative Democrat isn't a Republican who supports gun rights and opposes abortion.  It's a Republican who wants to impeach Obama and investigate scientists and Muslims.  Anyone who suggests that Democrats and Republicans are essentially the same simply isn't paying attention.

 Who's Zooming Whom

And that's why it's wrong for liberals to diss on Democrats because of the actions of conservative Democrats.  The idea is that if we punish Obama and moderate Democrats for the actions of conservative Democrats, we'll get fewer conservative Democrats.  And that's great, if you want Congress to investigate Muslims and scientists, rather than reforming student loans and repealing DADT.

And the comment I quoted above is really quite circular, as he's arguing that we shouldn't support conservative Democrats because many core Democrats will hurt the party because many core Democrats will hurt the party.  Because the solution, therefore, would be for them to stop hurting the party because of these conservative Democrats.  Then, the problem he mentioned would vanish.  We'd still support liberalism when we could, but would plug our noses and support the conservative Democrats, when we had no other choice.

Yet these people refuse to do that, and create the very problem my commenter was blaming on conservative Democrats.  Because we're going to have conservative Democrats.  It's inevitable.  We'll always have Joe Liebermans and Ben Nelsons that win office.  And if we continue hurting the Democratic Party until all the Liebermans and Nelsons are gone, then we'll always hurt the party. 

I mean, hell, there's no reason for Lieberman to be conservative, as he's not from a conservative state.  But as long as he's in office, we're stuck with him.  And if we purged the party of every politician who stood in the way of our agenda, then we'd never have a majority in Congress and our laws will become more conservative.  Perhaps I'm stupid, but I fail to see how that helps liberalism.

Bigger than Liberalism

And mind you, I fully believe that Americans are liberal, including the most conservative of them.  It's easy to be a conservative, until reality hits us personally.  After that, we all want the government to be our friend and demand a liberal interpretation of the Constitution that permits the federal government to do as much as possible to help us out.

But perceptions are more important than reality when you're dealing with people outside of yourself, so if that means we need to woo voters who desire to hurt their own interests in order to help them, so be it.  I'm a pragmatist.  I'll do whatever it takes to get liberal policies.  Unfortunately, many of the people who consider themselves the purest liberals don't agree.  Sure, they'll demand liberal policies.  They just don't want to have to sacrifice their purity in order to get them. 

But with all the problems we need to fix, I'll take my liberalism any way I can get it.  If that means we have to whore ourselves in order to repeal DADT and help the unemployed, so be it.  Ideological purity isn't going to put food on anyone's table or get them the cancer treatments they need.  It's better to help people with compromises than hurt them with purity.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.

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