Overheard during a political discussion this weekend:
"Just getting Democrats elected is not sufficient."
It hearked back to something I posted this weekend, and I immediately nodded my head when I heard it. But I realized I was the only one nodding my head, and this was in a group of Democrats/progressives. I also noted that I was the only person of color, and one of only two gay men in the discussion. At the time, there weren’t any women present.
One guy did respond to that remark. "Not if it gets us another vote on a committee." He either didn’t hear or didn’t get what was said. (Note, it was another straight white guy who said it. So at least one of them gets it.) The approach seemed to be "any Democrat will do."
This, folks, is how the Democratic party slips to the right, and leaves some of its traditional constituents holding the bag. It happens when we work to elect an anti-choice Democrat because she’s a Democrat. It happens when we work to elect an anti-gay Democrat because he’s a democrat. It happens when Democratic leadership hints that there won’t be much of a fight for the Supreme Court. And when it happens, I think the Democrats are slowly splitting progressives off from their traditional base.
Don’t believe me? Look at what Hillary’s doing; raking in contributions in Bush’s back yard.
…But her filings do show how broad her appeal has grown, as this politician from the bluest of states collects the greenest of dollars from, of all places, Texas. In fact, the heart of Bush country has ranked second this year only to New York in filling her coffers, contributing $458,874, from 456 contributors. Compare that to what she got from solidly Democratic California, which donated just $311,900, from 234 people.
…The Texas contribution list reveals a surprising gold mine for Clinton. Plenty of Austin liberals have embraced her, from Ann Richards, the former governor (who gave $1,000), to Luci Baines Johnson, the president’s daughter (ditto). Clinton’s base extends far beyond this progressive island to Houston, Dallas, and the Rio Grande Valley. A poor area along the Mexican border, the valley accounted for nearly half of all contributions, most of them at less than $1,000 a pop.
While many of these are Democratic contributors, I can’t help but wonder what "shade of blue" they are, and just what they might expect of a candidate who wins with their support. Where would a candidate — for the presidency or Congress — have to stand on issues like abortion or gay & lesbian equality in order to keep their support? And is it worth the exchange for the traditionally progressive constituents for whom these are important issues? Is it worth the exchange in order to get the White House, or another seat in Congress or another vote on a committee?
Not to me, and I suspect not to many others, if it means that Democrats will have abandon or give ground on issues of importance to progressive constituents. The benefits of a returning to a Democratic majority would likely be lost on many of us, if the party has to move further to the right to get it. Gays & lesbians and other constituencies, then, get left behind with a vague promise that they’ll come back for us later.
I think we’re moving to a point where progressives in the Democratic party will have to differentiate and possibly even organize themselves in order to stop the drift rightward. Either that, or we’ll have to choose between being progressives and being Democrats. With the Republican party appearing to move more rightward, and towing a significant portion of the Democratic party along with it. I have to wonder what’s going to happen to progressives in this country. A third party? Or several decades of wandering in the desert?