Democrats: Stand Up!

election2014_0Firstly, very sorry for being a day late!  Despite a reminder from our fearless leader, my own phone alarms, and reminder emails, I happily finished my work day yesterday, watched a documentary, and then went to bed only thereafter remembering that it was “my” Monday to post here.  Could I have prepared the post and scheduled it to go live?  Sure, but I never know what I want to write about until much closer to the due date.  But, I digress.

So, an election happened and it didn’t really work out for the Democrats on the tickets.  Hell, in my own very blue state of Massachusetts, we couldn’t even be bothered to elect the Democratic candidate for governor, Martha Coakley.  There’s all sorts of reasons why this was the case:  gerrymandered districts, seats won in 2008 in conservative areas of the country that are, perhaps, only swinging back to their more usual voting patterns, the perceived incompetence of the federal government, and more.

But, I think there’s another reason, one that almost caused me to stay home last Tuesday despite my passion for all things politics:  the Democrats ran away from their own accomplishments.  Hell, some wouldn’t even admit to voting for Obama or supporting the Affordable Care Act, arguably one of the most influential pieces of legislation in the last few decades, flawed though it may be.

The kicker is, it’s not the the country wasn’t feeling rather progressive on Tuesday, we just didn’t feel like the Democrats could do anything for us.  Rachel Maddow talks about a variety of ways that voters in the country were voting for progressive ballot measures (the first four minutes deal with a California mayoral race; skip to 4:25 for more national topics):

To sum up, (in case you don’t want to watch the video):

  • Increasing the minimum wage was approved in Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, and South Dakotah.
  • Personhood — a radical anti-abortion measure that would also ban common forms of birth control — lost in Colorado and South Dakota.
  • Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
  • Paid sick leave measures passed state-wide in Massachusetts and locally in Oakland, CA; Trenton, NJ; and Montclair, NJ.
  • The first female governor was elected in Rhode Island.
  • Washington state voted in favor of background checks for gun purchases closing, if I understand the measure correctly, the loophole allowing you to get around such checks at gun shows.
  • Speaking of guns, gun control championing governors in Colorado and Connecticut both won re-election over vociferous (and financial) pressure from the NRA.

And on and on.  That list is only about the first two thirds of the video so there’s some more in there, but perhaps this tweet from Ben Casselman at fivethirtyeight.com says it best:

So if voters in diverse places like California, Colorado, South Dakota, Arkansas, New Jersey, and Massachusetts could all come together to vote for progressive and liberal ballot measures, what’s up with all the success for conservative candidates?

In short, I maintain that too many democrats tried to move too far away from their own positions in an effort to win conservative voters (that they were unlikely to win anyway) that they actually lost a bunch of us liberal types.

When Obama was on the ballot in 2008, it was the first campaign for which I went door-to-door to talk to voters.  I drove with others from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois over to the Quad Cities in Iowa where I met up with campaign staffers, was quickly trained, and sent out to talk to the locals.  It was snowing, about 30º F (-1º C), and we got caught in a massive snow storm on the way home.  So massive that I was watching for each mile marker so that, should we lose control and crash as so many other motorists had, I’d know roughly where we were when we called for help.  Despite all that, it was a great time and I truly felt that I was a part of something grand.

I haven’t felt that again since.  Maybe it’s the intransigent opposition stridently determined to ensure that nothing with a hint of progressiveness gets passed through Congress that’s just beaten Democratic candidates into submission, but that doesn’t hold water when you look at the information above.

Consider the reelection of governors Hickenlooper and Malloy in Colorado and Connecticut, respectively.  Sure, they were incumbents and incumbents are difficult to unseat, but they were facing massive headwinds because of their support for gun control.  And, remember, this support existed only because of mass shootings that have taken place in those states in recent years.  Despite that headwind, they stood for what they thought was right, and I would have felt honored to go to the polls and cast a vote for them.

Then, look at democratic senatorial candidate and Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes who was the opponent of soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.  Asked if she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, Grimes wouldn’t even answer the question.  She fell over her own two feet to avoid looking like a liberal progressive even though her prior statements in opposing the defunding of Obamacare, in favor of pro-choice measures within her state, and measures to increase child care for employees, equal pay for females, and an increase to the federal minimum wage.  From this outsider’s perspective, she spent so long trying to curry favor with conservatives, that she forgot to stand up and share everyone else what it was that she actually stood for!

I talk a lot about politics.  I am by no means an expert, but I consider myself to be well informed not only locally but nationally and, to a lesser extent, internationally.  And what this progressive liberal can’t understand is why so many liberal candidates don’t have the courage of their convictions.  Sure, we might still lose, but I’d rather lose standing for something than not.

For a conversation related to last week’s election that I found both enjoyable and informative — and discusses this very topic — I recommend catching last week’s edition of the Slate.com Political GabfestMultitudinous States Incarnadine.

See you in December!