Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why We Need Conservative Democrats

Like it or not, America is not a dictatorship.  I happen to like that, not necessarily because democracy is the best form of government for coming up with the right answers, because it isn't.  If we wanted the "right" answers, we'd give dictator powers to technocrats and let them solve all our problems. 

Democracy's strength, on the other hand, has to do with giving people power over their own lives in order to give them an interest in seeing it continue; much like how some businesses give company stock to their employees, to give those employees an incentive to see it improve.  But for many people on both ends of the political spectrum, that's not good enough.  Yeah, sure, they'll pay lip service to democracy, but if it doesn't give them the right policies, they'd just as soon choose a form of government that allowed them to get the right policies. 

And we saw that on the right during the Bush years, when conservatives celebrated a rubber-stamp Congress that they've written out of existence, now that Bush's policies turned out to suck and they were forced to declare that he wasn't a conservative after all.  And even now, they'll insist that the results of elections only mean something if their side wins.  And that completely goes against the idea of democracy.

A chief pillar of democracy is that you support the system, win or lose.  It's not about getting the right results.  It's about having the right system.  And if you only support the system when it gives you the answers you wanted, then you're not talking about a democracy at all. 

Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Live Without 'Em

And we also see that on the left, with people who blame Obama for not giving us everything he said he would.  And it's as if Congress doesn't exist and Obama can do anything he wants, were he to choose to do so.  And if he falls back and blames Congress for not passing his agenda, it's all part of a kabuki theater he's using to trick us.  And they'll insist that we're all just patsies and that this isn't democracy because both sides are the same; all evidence to the contrary.  And that's why these people have to ignore all the great things Obama got for us, while emphasizing very tenuous similarities between Obama and Bush.

And I was thinking about this while reading a post at Washington Monthly, which points out how House Democrats are now relishing the fight to defend the healthcare law.  And that's in contrast to last year, when they wanted to talk about anything but the healthcare law.  And at first this seems dumb, as the time to fight was last year, before the election.  And now, some might see this as more kabuki theater, in that they're only willing to fight as long as they can't actually do anything about it.

But this misreads the situation.  Because our chief problem is that there were conservative Democrats who refused to support the law.  For example, Lieberman and others had made it clear that they would absolutely kill the bill if it had a Public Option, so it had to be dropped.  And for as much as Obama's critics on the left use that as proof that Obama's a fraud, it's well known that this wasn't his fault.  There are conservative Democrats who didn't like this debate at all and were quite happy to insert as many poison pills as possible to get it off the table.

And now that many of these conservatives lost anyway, the remaining Democrats are free to act more like Democrats in defending the law.  And of course, progressives on the left may say that this is reason enough for us to always oppose conservative Democrats, so that they can't sabotage our platform like this.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work either.  Because without conservative Democrats, we don't have control of Congress.  And rather than freeing us to pass our agenda, it prevents us from pushing an agenda at all.  And without conservative Democrats, we're stuck with conservative Republicans; who are almost always going to be further to the right than any of the Democrats who are screwing us up. 

Conservatives Vote, Too

And so we're screwed.  If we have conservative Democrats in Congress, they'll water down our bills, undermine our agenda, and screw us up.  If we don't have conservative Democrats in Congress, then we lose control of Congress and spend all our time preventing Republicans from steamrolling us.  And yes, in an ideal world, we could push for all liberal Democrats and get everything we want.  But that's simply not a possibility.  Not right now, anyway. 

For as much as places like Kentucky, Indiana, and Wyoming would benefit from liberal policies, that's simply not part of the current political background and no amount of attacking conservative Democrats will change that.  Right or wrong, the people in those states are conservatives, and we're stuck working with the people they send to Congress; just as our Founding Fathers were stuck making compromises with people who were screwing things up.  That's just the nature of democracy.

And so our biggest problem is democracy, as it allows people in Kentucky just as much say over their lives as it does people in California.  And as much as that causes problems, there is no alternative.  Because for as much as you and I know the right policies for our nation, these people think they know the right answers, too.  And were we to eschew our democracy for one in which we elected the "right" people, it would be at the cost of alienating people who didn't agree and it'd soon spell the end of our nation.

And so our democracy is both a blessing and a curse.  And for as much as some people don't like the answers it gives us, it's really the only option we have.  And so that means we're stuck with conservative Democrats who oppose good policies for bad reasons, and tie our hands behind our back when we were already short-handed.  And as much as that's a problem we have to deal with, it's a lot better than the one's we'd face if we had a system that allowed Obama to get everything he wanted.


mahakal said...

Democracy is not something given to us by the political elite. We the people are the principals in our form of government, and we do not have to be satisfied with bad service by our representatives. Your argument makes no sense, because it assumes a static polity, whereas by engaging in politics we change that polity. Without the blogs, Barack Obama had no chance to be elected president. The future is as liberal or conservative as we are.

But your argument compels you to support not only Democrats but elected Republicans, because that too is the result of "Democracy". I don't expect you to admit as much or anything at all, however.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Yes, I support the result of all elections, including the ones we lose. As I said, that's one pillar of democracy.

But where did I say that democracy was given to us by the elite? Oh, that's right: In your mind.

And where did I say that we have to accept the political situation as it is without trying to change it? Once again: Only in your mind.

The point of democracy is that we be engaged in it and try to have it reflect our will as much as possible. also means we have to accept that we can't always win. There are conservatives in this country and they get to have their will represented, too.

The reality is that conservatives sent conservative Democrats to Congress. Those Democrats have just as much power as liberal Democrats. Conservative Democrats killed liberal policies and without them, we'd have gotten conservative policies; and that's worse. And it's our job to promote liberal Democrats when we can, and accept conservative Democrats when we must.

And the alternative: Fantasyland.

Look, I understand that you don't care about getting healthcare to children born with birth defects or helping the unemployed or repealing DADT. I get it. You'd rather stand on your principles than see liberal policies succeed. And you're clearly arguing in favor of having more Republicans in Congress, in the hopes that having liberals lose in conservative states will eventually convince them to stop being conservative. But it doesn't make me a bad person for disagreeing.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Oh, and just to help you out: One of your implicit arguments is that we get conservative Democrats because the political elite force them upon us. That's the next step for you in this debate. Stop re-arguing points I've already refuted and move on to your next argument. Otherwise, this debate will never go anywhere, as you keep saying things I've already refuted.

If you like, I can take a stab at writing your argument for you, just to help move this on. But you'll just accuse me of arguing with myself, which would be true, but only because you leave me with no other choice.

mahakal said...

There is no argument. You manufacture facts, so there is no point.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Would it be possible for you to explain what these manufactured facts are, seeing as how this is the first I've heard of it? Or are you pretending as if you've already done so?

And of course, the REAL reason there is no argument is because you are utterly incapable of making one. Either people accept your assertions without explanation or they're ignorant fools denying reality. You feel no need to explain anything because you don't even understand the basis for your own positions and believe it all to be self-evident. So you're attacking me for not seeing the self-evidence of your statements, even though I have good reason to disagree with them.

For example, the basis of your current argument would seem to be that the Democratic Establishment won't allow us to have liberal candidates in conservative districts, which you think is foolish because it denies us the chance to pitch liberal policies to these people. And from there, we could discuss the merits and limitations of such a policy, as well as discuss how much of a problem this really is.

Yet, you never made that point and I'm forced to make a wild guess that this is your point, as you refuse to explain anything. And so we can never take any debate to the next level, but instead just keep repeating the same damn things over and over; incapable of getting anywhere. All because you refuse to explain your position.

For as much as I'd like to hear your point of view, you continually fail to give it. I don't see how this is my fault.

mahakal said...

Nothing is your fault. You are perfect and never make mistakes. Everything you assume must be true. You never lied to make a false political point. It must be that nobody understands what you really mean.

As far as I'm concerned, you are discredited and I'm unwilling to debate anything with you.

Doctor Biobrain said...

What are you talking about? Which assumptions am I making? Who said I never make mistakes? Because no, it's not my fault that you won't explain anything. How could it be? I keep begging you to explain what you're talking about and you continue to refuse to explain anything. This is all you.

And for god's sake, could you please explain how what I wrote was a lie? I don't even see how it was wrong. I fully stand by what I wrote and you never even hinted at how it might be wrong. Please, explain it to me. I'm begging you. Treat me like a lying moron and explain it.

Oh, and what about your lies? You said Social Security was defunded? Any chance you'll retract that lie?

libhom said...

Actually, conservative Democrats make it more difficult for Democrats to get majorities in Congress. These rightists alienate core Democratic constituencies and lower turnout.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Libhom, as much as I can see a point to that and am sure this is a factor to some extent, I wonder how strong of an effect that is.

Because the problem we had with the mid-term elections isn't with low turnout among core Democrats, but standard turn-out by Dems in a mid-term election when wingnuts were more motivated to vote. I haven't crunched the numbers myself, but understand that core Dems turned out in respectable numbers for a mid-term. It was soft Dems and independents we lost. And even then, it was Dems in conservative districts that lost, while most liberal and moderate districts held firm. I don't know of any conservative Dems that lost liberal districts. Meanwhile, we did see liberal Dems lose in conservative districts.

The question isn't why we lost these seats, but rather, how they won in the first place. I assert that had they not been conservative, they wouldn't even have been in Congress and our majority would have been vastly smaller or non-existent. Years like 2006 and 2008 were the outlier in these districts; not the norm.

And that's the crux of my argument: We need these people because they give us a majority, which more than compensates for the damage they do to us. As I said, it's better to have a majority with conservative Dems watering things down than a minority without them. After all, we wouldn't have repealed DADT without conservative Dems in Congress who opposed repeal. As much as we needed their votes, having their seats was more important.

And beyond that, the problem you're describing isn't necessarily with conservative Democrats or Democrats who tolerate them, but rather, with the core Democratic constituencies who feel alienated.

If they'd understand that conservative Democrats were a necessary evil that was better than the alternative, we wouldn't have the effect you're describing. It's like me saying studios shouldn't hire Mel Gibson for movies because people like me don't go to Mel Gibson movies because people like me don't go to Mel Gibson movies.

Similarly, if core Democrats oppose conservative Democrats because core Democrats oppose conservative Democrats, then the obvious solution would be for them to stop opposing conservative Democrats. Then, we wouldn't have the effect you're describing.

But that's not to say that we should support conservative Dems when we have an alternative, or that we shouldn't try to pressure them to allow liberal policies. Of course we should do these things. But when the option is between a conservative Dem and a conservative Republican, we need to plug our noses and support the Democrat. And again, that's because a congressional majority is vastly more important than the vote of a single congressman.

But just to be clear, there are many core Democrats who do NOT oppose conservative Democrats on these grounds. For example, minorities, union members, and the professional class Obama wooed are not turned off by rightwing Dems; and they constitute a sizable portion of the party and would prefer conservative Dems over Republicans. The Democrats you're describing are an important part of the party, but they're not the only part.

Moreover, if Democrats tried to purge our party of heretics in the manner Republicans have, I would most certainly be alienated; just as many longtime Republicans abandoned their party. And so if we engaged in the sort of Lefter-than-Thou behavior some core Dems advocate, we'd lose more Democrats than we'd gain. Liberals would have more power within the party, but less power in Congress. I fail to see how that's to our advantage.

And again, the trick is for us to convince them that allowing Republicans to win is the problem, not the solution. And more importantly, they need to stop attacking Obama for the behavior of people he can't control.

mahakal said...

You are correct, Libhom. But in case disenchanted voters don't turn out, it's our fault for not clapping harder.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Mahakal, what are you talking about? In that post you linked to, I specifically argued AGAINST your "clapping harder" strategy of sending messages to Democratic politicians.

I specifically said we should vote and get off our asses to work towards getting better liberal policies. That's the exact opposite of a "clap harder" strategy, as it involves doing something, rather than sending messages that will never be heard.

But hey, keep clapping harder and maybe you'll finally get conservative voters in Kentuky and Indiana to elect liberals. God knows it couldn't work any worse than your strategy so far. My strategy ended DADT and rescission. Your strategy got us a Republican House which investigates scientists and Muslims.

Sorry, but I'll take my strategy, thank you very much. As I keep saying, conservative Democrats are better than conservative Republicans.

Oh, and any chance you'll retract your lie about Obama defunding Social Security? No, didn't think so. Liar.

mahakal said...

"Oh, and any chance you'll retract your lie about Obama defunding Social Security? No, didn't think so. Liar."

You really are psychotic.

Doctor Biobrain said...'re going to ignore all that stuff I wrote, in which I showed how the post you linked to said the exact opposite of what you implied it meant, and the best you can do is to insult me for asking you to retract your lie?

Look, if you don't want to be a liar, you shouldn't be so dishonest. You said Obama defunded Social Security. That was a lie. If you don't want to admit it, that's fine. Just don't blame me for mentioning it.

But perhaps you know I'm just razzing you, because you did this to me; acting like you wouldn't respond to me in one debate because I had supposedly lied in a different one. The difference is that I wasn't lying and you were.

But hell, you know I can't hold a grudge against you, even if you tell lies about liberal programs that help working Americans. Damn my liberal bleeding heart!