Yesterday in a remarkable thread it was suggested that if we didn't agree with the poster we were "Republicans in Democrat clothing".
The thread was allowed to stand to allow for a discussion of the the reality that DU has split into two parts and it was seen as helpful to talk about this particular elephant in the room (irony intended).
In that thread Mr. Skinner made the following comment:
My intent was not to insult anyone.
I did not know that calling people idealists or pragmatists was insulting. If you have a better way of characterizing it, which is not insulting to either side, I would appreciate hearing it.
This is in response to that thread and Mr. Skinner's challenge.
First I think that there are three distinct groups not two at DU.
Three not two groups at DU
In referring to these groups I think it should be noted that in reality there is, for the most part, little disagreement in policy. The health care debate was a clear example. Virtually everyone here, and all three groups I refer to, strongly supported single payer systems. When it became clear that single payer was not going to be passed most supported the bill with a Public Option. Others looking at the final bill accepted it as a bill that would bring some immediate benefit and would provide a platform for further reform. Others felt that it should not be passed without at least some public option, that it was more effective to push back and wait for a better bill than to settle for incremental ism now and a third group felt that even with the public option it was a sell out to have mandatory insurance and that all compromises should be put aside until we have real structural reform.
I think it is possible to describe the groups in non pejorative terms and describe their point of view in a way that outlines the strongest points of their argument.
Solidarity Democrats feel that history has shown that real change comes when coalitions are built and some degree of party discipline facilitates passing actual legislation. Solidarity Democrats are more willing to make calculations to get 80% of a good bill than to wait and get a much better bill. They strongly support the President because he leads the party but also because in many ways he shares their opinion and approach. Solidarity Democrats have strong principles but feel that interim victories bring us closer to those principles, and are not a sell out. Solidarity Democrats strongest argument is based on the fact that the Senate requires not a super majority but a super-super majority where Senators from the 20 smallest states (and only 20% of the population) can effect a veto on all legislation. Solidarity Democrats therefore are not against compromises, as distasteful as they are, that split the harmony of the Republican Caucus. One big step today can be added on to make a big leap over time.
Principle Democrats feel that too much compromise has undermined the essential message of the Democratic Party. "If the salt has lost its taste then what is it good for". Many in this group feel that the President is a good and decent person but is too trustful of institutions in general and of the Republicans and Big Business in particular. Even if a clearer more decisive message now meant that there would be some electoral loss in the short term it would be much more effective a few years out because the public will respond to the True Product rather than become disillusioned with tepid compromises. For example if the country lost Roe-Wade just wait and see the public's reaction when their daughter can't get an abortion. Just as Solidarity Democrats have principles Principle Democrats embrace solidarity. They are not always against every compromise, they just believe that it has been given away at too cheap a price.
Radical Alternative Democrats
Radical Alternative Democrats feel that there is a deep structural problem in the country that has corrupted not just the Republican Party but has fatally wounded the Democratic Party. All politicians are basically corrupt. The President may have started out as a community organizer and not taken the easy street but has sold out now. Today he is a corporatist. Whether he has sold out or been duped he doesn't get it. These Democrats (and third party supporters) believe that all of the incremental steps undermine real structural reform. The Democratic Party is just as corrupt as the Republican Party and is only paying lip service to the crushing problems of poverty and long term joblessness. In some ways these small improvements that the President makes only further delay real change and in that way the Presidents successes actually benefit the super rich of the country far more than the homeless, the sick, the permanently unemployed, and those that have been objectified by a consumerist society that is diverted by shiny new objects and blind to the tremendous human suffering that is easily viewed in the streets of every major downtown city in America. Only when we take on the basic premises of society, they argue, are we going to effect structural and real change. All other attempts are window dressing and the President is simply the designer for superficial window changes.
Now recently it was posted that Senator Feingold has one of the highest records of voting with the Republicans in the Senate.
Here are the statics
Feingold proves to be an even bigger enemy of the Democratic agenda when the votes really matter. He votes with the Republicans 37.33% of the time, ranking him the 4th most conservative in the Democratic Caucus. The list of Senators with a better voting record reads like a netroots hit list – Specter, Baucus, Pryor, Landrieu. Joe Lieberman, the most hated man in the caucus, votes with the Democrats 84% of the time on crucial votes and 89.5% of the time overall. At this point, Feingold has more in common with Scott Brown than Sherrod Brown.
For the sake of illustration let us assume the following:
Senator Feingold is an outstanding US Senator and tremendous asset to the Senate and the caucus.
That Sen. Feingold is both principled and intelligent.
In most cases Sen. Feingold represents the thinking of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
With those assumptions we can use Senator Feingold in context as a prism how the three factions at DU respond.
Even if they agree with the Senators point of view the Senator should make his views known and vote with the caucus. He should not give the Republicans the vote they need to sustain a veto. When liberal Senators from liberal states vote against the caucus they undermine the arguments for caucus discipline that we want to use against Blue Dog Senators to keep them in line voting for progressive issues. Blue Dog's will say "if liberal Democrats from liberal states can vote against the caucus then certainly I as a moderate from a conservative state should be able to.
Solidarity Democrats bottom line: Make your point, scream like hell but vote with the caucus. If Sanders and Franken and the others can do it so can you.
Senator Feingold is helping the progressive wing. He doesn't vote against every bill but if a few big pieces go down then the caucus will start listening more to the progressives and we will get better legislation. Will the Blue Dog's lose? Maybe but if we start showing the people that we can deliver real change that will have a bigger impact on people's life we will be able to effect a larger mobilization of the people.
Principle Democrats bottom line: Senator Feingold should bring some bills down. It will wake up the administration and the Senate and House Leadership that our interests have to have a higher priority. Obviously he could go too far but so far the Senator has gone along with alto of big legislation including health care. Bringing down this watered down Financial Reform bill is a good example of waking people up.
Radical Alternative Democrats
Senator Feingold is on the right track but he needs to go further. He shouldn't have voted for the HCR. Until people wake up and see how structural the problem is no real change is going to take place.
Radical Alternative Bottom line: The other "progressive Senators" should listen to their own speeches and join Feingold. Until this country makes a major move against capitalism as it is now defined, corporations as they now exist and a system that sucks wealth to the top and keeps the bottom 20% of the country in a state of near slavery and the middle 50% in a state of real usury it is all for show.
The problem for DU is not that a "divided house cannot stand" its that a perpetual war is no fun.
The attraction of DU is not the homogeneity of its discussion but the fascinating combination of backgrounds that bring forth such an illuminating debate.
We have devolved from an engaged discussion of issues to a trading of slogans and posts that represent the sloganeering of bumper stickers.
Virtually everyone who bothers to keep track of such things probably realizes that I am in the first group (except for a few including the hapless poster who PM'd me yesterday asking for the location of those that are not following the DLC leanings of DU. He asked about a particular DUer who had moved on and wondered where he could find him. I gave him a link to that poster's current thread: Fuck you, Grantcart). I would like to think that a part of me is in the second group and another part is in the third.
If you go downtown and see block after block of homelessness and don't want to pick up a brick and throw it thru a window then you aren't seeing the deep shallow wells of despair that are written into the eyes of families with small children that now huddle with no shelter, no sanitation, no food and, worst of all no hope. I notice however that many of our top contributors, people who I would read and learn from, even as I disagree with them are hard to find. Bigtree and Kurt_and_Hunter are two.
People just get tired of incessant infighting.
But here is the bottom line.
Democratic Underground can survive with two groups but not three.
You cannot expect Solidarity Democrats to come here and see a President who they like and support to keep getting bashed in thread after thread after thread as a corporate sell out. Even if you feel that is the truth you certainly can understand why people who support the President wouldn't want to continue to come to a site that promotes attacks against the President that, in many cases, approach the venom of the right wing.
On the other hand you cannot expect Radical Alternative Democrats to participate in a forum where their basic point of view is always rubbing against the rules and they have to temper their real sentiment to stay within the rules of the site.
Principled Democrats just have to be satisfied being pissed off at everyone else.
In the end this site will institute rules that will allow Solidarity Democrats to come here and participate without having to put on asbestos suits to say something good about the President or they will wander off and no longer participate. No we are not talking about disagreements with particular policy but the common refrains that the President has sold out and become a "corporatist" and the Democratic Party is no different than the Republican.
The reality is that there are other places for Radical Alternative Democrats to go and express themselves where the rules of the site will remove disruptor's who don't agree with their basic agenda.
Currently this is theoretically Democratic Underground. If it is decided to cater to Principled Democrats and Radical Alternative Democrats (and the third party allies that are active here) then it would be wise to change the name to Progressive Underground.
If however the site is meant to be a home for people who share progressive values but are committed to advancing the interests of the Democratic Party, as flawed as it is, then additional boundaries will be necessary or the Solidarity Democrats will disappear.
My suggestion is that principled and specific criticisms of the President, Democratic office holders and the Democratic Party will be welcomed here but categorical statements will not. Statements like "Obama has sold out" or "the Democratic Party is no different than the Republican Party" really are not consistent with the over all stated theme that this is a home for Democrats to come to find common cause.
The reality is that DU now has two seasons, Campaign season and Governance Season. During campaigns attacks against Democratic candidates are clearly not allowed. When they govern they are. For people who support the President and the Democratic Party and the STATED principles of DU the reflexive incessant basing of the President and the Party are making it very difficult to remain in this community.
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