Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It's an election year...

which means that, in another 11 months and change, I will again be completely devastated by how little this nation does to fulfill its mission. I felt that way in 1988 (a singularly ugly campaign), and pretty well have felt the same way for every election, midterm and presidential alike, ever since.

So, with the start of all of this soul-crushing routine in Iowa tomorrow, I thought I'd finally respond to Tommyspoon's perspectives on what needs to happen this year. He posted this nearly three months ago--the conversation started when I saw my party sinking to the same bullshit tactics I've associated with Republicans like Karl Rove and Lee Atwater (the two men who, I would argue, harmed the US political process more than anyone else in the last 100 years). Spoon's response (to grossly oversimplify) is that the end justifies the means. All's fair to gain power.

Spoon--sorry, but your way hurts the country even as it helps the party.

Your use of Al Davis's "just win, baby" as a suggested Democratic party motto is telling. You hate Al Davis. I hate him too (as a childhood Bronco fan, it was the law). Why? Because his monomaniacal desire for winning causes him to ignore such matters as the rules, respecting his opponents, and basic civility. But beyond that, any comparison of sports and politics always disgusts me for two reasons. First, if the goal is to win a football game, it's probably not surprising that our election-year discourse has all the subtlety and thoughtfulness of fans arguing whether the Red Sox or Yankees are the better team. If you want to increase the discourse, that priority needs to be echoed in your suggested actions for the party. You're advocating going the Rove/Atwater route and doing the opposite. I can't accept that. It hurst our nation.

Second, and more importantly: Winning is NOT the end goal. Governing justly and improving the world is.

"But TRP," Spoon says at this point in the conversation. "We can't govern justly if we don't win."

Perhaps, but I give you this promise: we can't govern justly if we win a Rove/Atwater style election.

You say the following:

The only thing that the current GOP will respect is their own downfall. They must know that their tactics will not work anymore. I believe the only way to do that is to give back to them in full measure. If we can beat them at their own game then they may think twice about playing it in the future.

Absolutely not. No way. Not under your own criterion.

As a matter of practicality: If the point of politics is to win, as you say, then neither party will abandon a tactic that is effective. The democratic version of power-mongering Roves and Atwaters will use buttheaded incivility MORE if it's proven effective.

Beyond that, you're using the same logic as of using chemical weapons against Iraq "because it's wrong, and our opponents need to see that it's wrong, and people will think twice before ever doing it again." It's the same logic as torturing those who torture "because it's wrong, and our opponents need to see that it's wrong, and people will think twice before ever doing it again."

Your ends-justify-the-means reasoning is identical in logic, if not in scope, as these two examples.

Democrats used to have the moral high ground. I refuse--REFUSE--to let go of it without a fight. As Jesus, an awfully fine philosopher I turn to every now and then, said: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

Say it with me, Spoon: If it's wrong when they do it, it's wrong when we do it. And worse, if I say they're wrong when they do it, I am not only wrong, but a hypocrite, when I do it.

I just don't want to go through of my quadrennial November disappointment of "Damn, there has to be a better way to run a democracy than this." I believe in the free marketplace of ideas: that if people get ideas out there, that the best ones will rise to the top, and people will consider that when they vote. But when's the last time anyone in either party actually considered doing that?

I guess I'm with Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried."

Anyhoo. I'm prepared for another bullshit election cycle that leaves me hating the nation as a whole. Bring it on.

Oh, and one other thing: First of all, be careful saying that Baird is "going against his constituents." I'm an undecided constituent, and my wife is very much in line with him about where to go next in Iraq. The third district is fairly eclectic, including whacked-out-lefties in Olympia, a big swath of mostly-conservative rural lands, and the mixed suburban land of Vancouver I call home. Saying "his constituents feel" is a 60/40 split at best, I'd wager.

But more to the point, I passionately disagree with your assertion that it is the job of a representative to do what his/her constituents say no matter what. If it were, you'd be cursing Baird's decision to vote against authorizing force in Iraq back in '03. Remember: most Americans supported the invasion by your logic, Congress' vote to invade Iraq was just, moral, and correct, and Baird's vote against it was an abrogation of his duty as a Congressman. I doubt you'd go there.

Anyway, Spoon, happy new year. You know I respect you. If my tone was off, blame it on my dread for the upcoming bullshit we call an election year.

I still haven't picked a candidate. They're either at odds with me on critical issues, voted for the war, or rub me the wrong way. Without Gore in the race, there's nobody I can feel enthusiastic about.


Alison said...

Y'know, I was dreading the election season, especially since it's been going on for 2 years already, but now I am kind of looking forward to something *happening*.

I have not picked a candidate either, but not for any particular idealogical reason. I just cannot bring myself to get attached to someone, when odds are they'll be out of the race by the time I get to vote.

tommyspoon said...

Nice response. I don't agree with you, but it was a pleasure to read.

I think our disagreement lies here:

* You assume that there is a free marketplace of ideas so your method should work.

* I believe that the "free marketplace of ideas" doesn't exist anymore so your method seems like a waste of time.

Maybe I need to spend more time in your world, or you need to spend more time in mine. Whichever works, I suppose.

One more observation before I let this go: You quote this fellow named Jesus. This is the same guy who threw the moneychangers out of the temple, right? See, that's the Jesus I admire.

Maybe we need to throw the moneychangers out of our collective temple so we both can get our wish.

TeacherRefPoet said...


Get the moneychangers out! Agreed. That's an issue I can get behind, and so can (I dare say) a majority of the electorate.

But the thing is, it's an -issue-. It's not an ad hominem attack.

If we don't vote based on ideas--and you're saying it's not possible--than your idea doesn't get out there.

And, if you're right, I stop voting. Because our democracy isn't worth anything, and I will never have a real reason to pick candidate A over candidate B. Is that an election worth winning?

Paula said...

TRP, I'm with you. If we use their tactics, we only escalate the crap. Somewhere we voters have to refuse to bend to this stuff. Unfortunately, too many folks vote on soundbites. Soooo much easier than reading and--God forbid--thinking.