That nebulous cloud of disaffected Democrat & liberal independent voters, commonly labeled “pumas,” deserves a new monicker: “cry babies.”
After a relentless, two-year campaign of whining to each other on blogs, accompanied by not a single act of political activism, our eternal outrage now compels pumas to protest, punish, or dispense penance in the 2010 midterm elections.
Protest: At a seminal crossroads for the continued viability of our Nation, the likes of which has not been witnessed since 1860, many pumas feel that a protest vote — voting for a green candidate, say, or simply abstaining — will somehow compel the Dem leadership to prick up its ears and heed our puma roar. Or at least it will assuage our aversion to voting for any but the ideal candidate;
Punish: Other pumas, for dark reasons known only to them, liken their prior affiliation to the Dem party to a romantic relationship. When their partner/party betrayed their fidelity by shacking up with obama, these furies vowed revenge. This November, they intend on taking a Louisville Slugger to both headlights, so the Democratic Party will think next time before he cheats. Not a few of these punishing pumas have undergone a total inversion, abandoning principles and ideals to become fanatic Republicans. Which makes one wonder what this was all about for them.
Penance: There’s a lot of pop psychology going about saying the Democratic Party needs to “hit rock bottom” before it can recover — to “learn its lesson” so to speak — so let’s expedite the process by helping them lose the midterms.
This thought process is flawed on at least two counts. First, it accepts the meme that ‘hitting rock bottom’ is the sole and certain path to ‘recovery.’ In reality, many people with addictions, antisocial behavior, etc. straighten themselves out before hitting bottom, while many others hit bottom and just stay there, never ‘learning their lesson.’ Second, this theory envisions the entire Democratic party as a single person. Which it is not. The Democratic Party is an (especially loose) agglomerate of individuals. Those capable of learning their lesson have already learned it; facilitating a GOP landslide will not scare straight any others.
A flawed anthropomorphizing of party dynamics, this tenuous strategy also ignores the reality that the TP juggernaut cares not one iota for the aims of liberals. A minority that includes Blanche Lincoln but lacks Russ Feingold fixes what, exactly? In short, there is no path to ‘recovery’, however you define that, which leads through a right-wing landslide in this election.
On the whole, pumas are a pissy lot. We whine, we foment, we take umbrage at every slight. On each of our shoulders sits a chip wearing an orange pant suit. This November, pumas seem eager to stage a massive pissing-into-the-wind protest. That’ll show ’em!
Yet, in this year of the Tea Party, where were all the Puma rallies? Who were the Puma candidates in the primaries? Given, unlike the TP, no billionaire benefactor jump-started our movement, but it didn’t help that there was no real movement to jump-start in the first place.
Every two years, all on her lonesome, Cindy Sheehan gets herself on the ballot to run against Nancy Pelosi. Not a single “big name” puma could be aroused from their torpor and pathetic self-pity to do likewise.
There’s no avoiding that we pumas pissed away the past two years. Oh, some of us did try to do something constructive way back. Known by the ill-chosen name “Just Say No Deal,” and despite assembling an impressive array of experience and talent, for various reasons — an incompetent narcissist as its organizer, for one — this nascent “Puma Party” never got off the ground. Thereafter followed The Denver Group, a savvy, well-crafted, but ultimately quixotic, protest of the DNC convention, and then … nothing.
Could a Puma Party have arisen then, as did the Tea party a year later? Sure, but it didn’t. It still could, and should, happen, in future. And, in an upcoming post I will be announcing the formation of a new party/movement/PAC. But back to today.
“First, Do No Harm”
Is the Democratic Party a total write-off? Absolutely not. To those who never got as close to politics as did I, it may come as a shock to discover that all politicians have an oily sheen about them. But let’s not ignore that on 5/31/08, 12 of 27 RBC powerlords voted in favor of Hillary Clinton; that most democratic primary voters chose Clinton over obama; that the obamalonians were so worried by a straw poll of delegates, which indicated Clinton might win a floor vote, that they rigged the formal nomination. Roughly, then, at least half of the Democratic rank & file membership is salvageable, as is nearly all of the Party platform.
Leave yesterday be; we’ll deal with that tomorrow. Today, we must be pragmatic about what we can and cannot accomplish at this juncture. Yes, ideally things would be better with true liberals in the Senate rather than the likes of Reid and Boxer. But we blew our chance to improve those particular seats during this Spring’s primaries. Our next opportunity to improve on Reid & Boxer, et al., comes around in 2016. In 2010, we can only prevent those seats from getting FAR WORSE. As political surgeons, we must all abide by the Hippocratic Oath.
It’s A Dirty Job
It’s 2010, and there’s no Puma Party around to throw our weight behind. As disaffected dems and liberal independents, we’re stuck with making the best of a bad situation with what’s on hand. What’s on hand are the existing Democrats and the TP-laden GOP. The situation is too dire, the threats to our institutions, liberties and democracy too grave, for protests or statements. For all intents and purposes, we have a Republican president in obama — handing him a GOP Congress would be disastrous. This will be no small nudge to the right: there will be an all-out assault on the institutions, principles, the very foundation of our American Liberty.
Our task today is simple, and it is narrow: pick the lesser of two evils. And the greater is very evil, indeed. In 2008, this true liberal was prepared to vote for McCain, had the race in California proved close, simply to avert the pending obamalonian disaster. I do not like John McCain, and share but few of his ideals. So when a fellow puma tells me they cannot, in principle, vote for Barbara Boxer, who despite her many flaws, closely matches their political views, I have no sympathy. It’s a dirty job, but we’ve got to hold our noses and cast a vote that matters. No more crying: do your duty. The welfare of our Nation demands it.
(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’ All rights reserved.
Good post Tamer — it made me think.
Here’s what I can’t reconcile. You point out:
” The situation is too dire, the threats to our institutions, liberties and democracy too grave, for protests or statements.”
When you have no trust, NOT ONE OUNCE, that the politicians are going to address the plight you’ve cited, how do you get up a head of steam to vote? A vote is saying, “I believe in this person.” What if you don’t believe in any of them? Isn’t that just repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result?
For me, a vote is just saying, “you’re hired.” As someone who’s had to “hire” – cast – actors, you know you just gotta do the best job you can with the talent that’s available.
But if you really have no confidence that any politician is of any use whatsoever, then I’m not sure what course of action is left to you.
It would be false to say that I think a politician is of no use whatsoever. But I do think my vote should be cast on higher grounds than that standard.
That Hillary isn’t our president right now really makes me believe that I’d previously been believing in the wrong things. I think that the system is shot and useless to the average American. I am an average American.
I think most of us were believing in a fantasy picture of politics. 2008 woke us up with a bucket of ice water in the face.
What I hear you saying, Jay, is: that unless you can find a candidate who meet your ‘higher grounds’, then you’ll simply withhold your vote. I understand the principle behind that, but will that course of action effect any real changes?
Myself, I’m prepared – forced, actually — to use whoever is available on the ballot to get as much of what I want as possible.
I do see your point. I’m just leaning toward mine at the moment. I want something genuinely revolutionary to happen in this country, and I don’t think that will happen until enough people become completely disenchanted by the status quo.
We are enablers; Dems swears by us, abused, but loyal, faithful, submissive every two or four years come November.
So, what should we do instead? I need specifics to be persuaded. Also, in “enabler”, I’m hearing again a personification of an entire national Party. That just doesn’t jive for me.
Where’s a halfway house? If we file for divorce, we’re cut off from support. Politically, we have nowhere to seek shelter. We complain, we despair, but we choose–given the alternative of a crueler GOP partner–to sustain a toxic relationship with the party who manipulates our weakness to show us off in public. My analogy falters, but we are trapped.
No third party exists in a viable sense. The Dems know they can rely on us given the fear of the greater evil. Our districts and our representatives thrive on a gerrymandered, corporate-controlled, lobbyist-tainted system that ossified decades ago. Where I live, the Dems have a stranglehold on power, and no opposition has any clout. No legislator dares reform it: both parties in Cal. quash initiatives.
A few idealists who somehow attain office may genuinely care for the everyday voter. But, they’re then compromised by the powers behind the curtain, the oligarchies and plutocracies. The kind-hearted, the ethical politicians: I doubt if they’re able to get elected or stay in office without selling out. Maybe a Bernie Sanders or two survives on the fringes, but I bet he has had to give in, even if running as a Vermont “socialist.”
Excellent essay and fantastic points that need to be shared.
Every single thing that you have said is absolutely true. The overall message is to prevent the debacle just waiting to happen unless we at least cast a vote by saying “no”.
I am not faced with these Tea Party candidates in my state of MA but this does not mean I am willing to stay home and do nothing.
Thanks for clarifying the need to get up off our asses and send our own message that there are still some of us out here willing to stand up for what is right.
I don’t think anyone should try to persuade you,tammerlane. Nor do I feel I have to explain to anyone why I will vote for a candidate. John’s thread has more of an “us against them” feeling than civil discourse. I think we all believe in the same bottom line, but we don’t agree on how to get there.
Well, the JWS discussion includes people who actually like what the TP/GOP wants to do, and I really don’t see much value in arguing with “them.” But among “us”, who do share the same goals, I do not fear a vehement debate on the best way to achieve our common goals. So, please, Cyn, do try to persuade me! I actually changed my view on this issue only recently.
The fact is, I have no desire to change what you believe. I do what I do (boycott certain companies, donate to certain causes, grow veggies, etc.), as it resonates with who I am. Same with voting. I just cannot vote for someone I don’t believe in.
I do understand where you are coming from and you make great points. However, that is what resonates within you. OK, I’m probably sounding like a Buddhist monk or something, but what I am trying to say is that I respect you and your opinions and I wouldn’t change them if I could.
Tamerlane, I truly feel your pain! I tried to start a PUMA activist organization after the election. We held a conference in NYC on the anniversary of the RBC decision, set goals for the organization, made speeches, showed slides, etc.. It seemed promising.
Unfortunately the group ended up being mostly made up of rightwingers (surprise, surprise!) who had taken their disappointment and rage at the way the Dem Party tanked Hillary’s candidacy to a level I was not comfortable with at all. They didn’t agree with me on anything I wanted to do, and finally we had to close the group down.
I eventually stopped calling myself a PUMA entirely, since I could not reconcile my feelings about women’s rights and gay rights with the PUMA idea that “every woman is a feminist” and thus we should embrace rightwing women despite their blatant anti-feminism and homophobia. Equal representation only works if both liberals and conservatives pursue it, and right now, the liberals are out to lunch.
If you are going to start an activist group, that’s fantastic. I will look forward to it with anticipation.
You are one of the first I will ask to serve, madamab!
I mean, what have we got to lose by trying?
Not a darned thing.
It is not easy, though. People who have the strength to go against the CW are also usually the ones with strong opinions and healthy egos. But then, if you are a director, you are probably used to herding cats.
“I do what I do … as it resonates with who I am.” – Cyn
Which is a totally introspective approach, divorced from the situation on the ground. And while I think that’s a very admirable (& even buddhish) approach to things like boycotts and sustainable living, I don’t feel that is a luxury any of us have with our vote.
On principle, I don’t ever shop Walmart. But if a family member was ill, say, and needed a heating pad or some medication, and Walmart was the only place open, I’d buy it there.
Actually, I don’t boycott Walmart on principle. I do because I believe my action tangibly lessens — even if only a smidgeon — that beast’s negative impact. If I thought it did no good, or even hurt, I wouldn’t do anything “on principle.”
And that’s more of a tangental raga than a response to you, Cyn. If this is a topic you don’t want to discuss, I’m cool with that.
Tamer, I don’t mind discussing this. I just don’t believe that voting while holding my nose does any good. After watching the 2 Bush elections, I had little faith in the electoral system. After watching what the DNC did to Hillary, I have lost all faith. I don’t have it in me to vote for a politician who was willing to look the other way or sell his or her soul to please those in the party who thought they knew better and rigged the outcome.
I cannot control what happened, but I can control how I react. I could forget about all of the underhanded dealings and keep on voting for Dems who participated. Or, I can look at candidates that I can support and vote my conscience. A victim of domestic violence stays with the person who abuses, as the abuser keeps telling the victim he or she is sorry and it won’t happen again. But it continues to happen until the victim walks away. Given your post, this is probably a bad analogy and I don’t want you to think that I am “mad at” or trying to “get even” with the party. I simply have lost faith that Democrats will do the right thing. That said, I will be voting for Democrats in some of the elections. I just won’t tow the straight D line anymore.
Evil happens not when evil people come out but when good people stay home.
It’s a cliche, but either you’re part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem. There is no middle ground, no way to wash one’s hands.