progressives

We Need You to Roar

I supported Sanders in the primary. I can’t know for sure whether or not the primaries were influenced by the DNC in any truly meaningful way, and frankly, I don’t care. I’m not here to argue that the outcome in the general would have been any different had he been the nominee. And I’m not about to start beating the “2020” drum because we’ve got four hellish years to survive, and that’s my priority right now.

What I am saying is that we need more Sanders-esque progressives in the Democratic party if they want to remain remotely relevant. No, scratch that. I just want some true progressives.

One of my largest frustrations with Democrats in even the past eight years has been their reticence to truly carry the torch of progressive politics. There is this perpetual gravitation to the center in order to dodge the label of being too “liberal.” When it comes to my grandparents’ generation, I might understand that. But that’s no longer the world we’re living in, and Democrats need to act like it.

There is so, so, SO much at risk — not only in the next four years, but in the next hundred days. And realistically speaking, a lot of the burden of stopping things from completely going to hell in a hand basket is on citizens. Democrats don’t have the majority in the House or Senate. Even if every single one of them stands in the way of the potentially disastrous GOP agenda, it will not be enough. Make no mistake: when it comes to healthcare, reproductive rights, tax reform, cabinet appointments, and more, we, the people, are going to have to get off our asses, get on the phone, and get to our elected officials to turn up the heat, regardless of party.

That said, if we want to see change in the midterms and 2020 and beyond, Democrats are going to need to step up their game in a massive way.

For instance, Cory Booker, one of the rising stars in the Democratic party, might have testified against Jeff Sessions in his hearing for Attorney General, but he also voted against an amendment to the (inevitable) ACA repeal that would have allowed the importation of cheaper Canadian drugs, helping millions, while 12 Republican senators actually voted for it.

In response to the deluge of criticism for his vote, he said:

I support the importation of prescription drugs as a key part of a strategy to help control the skyrocketing cost of medications. Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.

Except that’s bullshit. The approval process for new drugs in Canada typically lags 14 months behind U.S. approval by the FDA. Booker knows that. But you know what else Booker knows? Big Pharma in the U.S. has donated more than $267k to Booker’s campaigns.

All the nope.

And he’s just the latest example. I voted for Clinton, largely because I was hoping there would be a massive rebuke of Trumpian bigotry when all was said and done. That didn’t happen. I don’t blame that on Clinton entirely, but she is also representative of that crippling move to the center. Many of her progressive shifts didn’t come until she started actually running for president. Prior to that, her record on race, in particular, wasn’t fantastic, and she was known for her hawkish inclinations. Her entire campaign was built on incremental moves to the left.

Can we stop pretending that’s a viable strategy please?

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the 2016 presidential election. One of them, though, should be a wake-up call to Democrats. Trump won for many reasons — racism, sexism, and economic illiteracy/frustration chief among them — but another contributing factor had to do with populism. The electorate on both sides of the aisle is tired of being fed excuses seeped in the language of bureaucracy on both sides of the aisle. And while the GOP — from the Tea Party to Trump — have figured that out, Democrats continue to insist that reason will win the day.

Reason can win the day, but it doesn’t look like concessions, mild manners, and centrist positioning. You want to know why folks see the Democratic party as “elitist”? A big chunk of that has to do with the fact that they insist on ignoring the left-leaning, populist members of their party. During the Bill Clinton years, that might have worked. Today, with uber-liberal Millennials usurping their more conservative elders as a driving force in the electorate, that’s not going to cut it.

That doesn’t mean that Millenials are going to swing Republican. It means they’re not going to show up. Most of the time, when folks feel like there’s no one in the game who represents them, they don’t bother. My own parents, though insignificant in this particular election, are an example of that on the right this year. They wrote in my daughter for president this year.

The entirety of the American electorate NEEDS the Democrats to regain some control in Congress in 2018, whether they know it or not. But the only way that happens is if Democrats are fierce enough advocates for those they claim to represent that those folks actually WANT to show up. Centrist, amicable concessions are the best way to ensure that doesn’t happen. We want lions, not teddy bears.

In fairness, this fiercely aggressive approach does not necessarily address the biggest factor in Trump’s win: white women. We sucked this election. Seriously. I’d argue that has more to do with internalized misogyny manifested as bias against Hillary, but even if that weren’t the case, had Democrats energized the 50% of voters who stayed home on election day with policies and rhetoric that made them feel like they had a team who would make a difference instead of a team that would give up feet for inches, things might have been a lot different.

We’re not going to convince that 50% to get to the polls in the midterms, because… well, midterms. Neither party is going to get the full 50% who showed up in the presidential cycle to show up either, because… well, midterms. But if Democrats want a shot at getting things right, they need to step up to the plate and prove themselves firebrands. Why in the hell would we elect folks who’ve already shown they’ll roll over to appease right wing extremists?

Constituents need to step up, yes. But we need progressives in office to carry their weight, too.

Rand Paul and Offending… Almost Everyone

Rand Paul is a self-proclaimed libertarian, and most of the time, his policy platform reflects this. He’s not a fan of government interference in private lives. He loathes the NSA. He’s far more isolationist than his peers in the race. He favors simplifying the tax code down to a flat rate. And, much to the delight of stoners everywhere, he’s a fan of legalizing marijuana. While many of the GOP contenders shy away from the subject, not wishing to offend traditional members of the base nor isolate Millennials, Rand Paul has no problem standing loud and proud in the name of weed. As the Denver Post reports:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s trip to Colorado this week includes a first for a presidential candidate: a fundraiser with the marijuana industry.

The Republican is raising money Tuesday at the Cannabis Business Summit in Denver in what an industry trade group is billing as a history making event. “Never before has a major-party presidential candidate held a reception at a cannabis industry event, and NCIA is proud to host Senator Paul,” the National Cannabis Industry Association said in an email promoting the event, which was first reported by Yahoo News.

The minimum donation to attend the Tuesday event is $2,700, according to organizers.

Taylor West, the group’s deputy director, said the private “VIP reception” is designed to let marijuana insiders hear from Paul, who supports legislation to legalize medical marijuana and give the pot industry access to banking.

Paul’s position may be popular with young voters and consistent with a libertarian worldview, but it’s another example of the uncomfortable demographic straddle he’s facing. Scaling back on practices associated with a police state and legalizing marijuana are incredibly appealing to younger voters, but on issues like access to abortion, he’s way out of sync. Apparently when he says small government, he means small enough to fit in my uterus.

And then there are issues where adherence to a libertarian philosophy of governance makes him unpopular with the majority of the electorate on both sides of the aisle. Paul’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality is the perfect example of this. While the rest of the GOP field issued condemnations that ranged from curt to incendiary, Paul had to take it a step further, arguing that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether.

There are certainly good reasons to keep the government out of marriage. After all, preferential treatment in the tax code on the basis of relational status is arbitrary and unfair to those engaged in alternative relationships, and arguably cheapens what marriage is intended to mean. But in his op-ed for Time, Paul manages to offend basically anyone with an opinion on the matter, affirming his support of “traditional” marriage before going on to state:

The government should not prevent people from making contracts but that does not mean that the government must confer a special imprimatur upon a new definition of marriage.

Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.

Talk about stepping in it. For those who oppose marriage equality for religious reasons, Paul’s characterization of marriage as a matter of contract law is an offensive minimization of what they view as a holy union. For those who believe in marriage equality, his steadfast commitment to the whole “marriage is one man and one woman” way of thinking is narrow-minded, antiquated, bigoted. And frankly, when considering historical context, it’s a classic, transparent form of marginalization that dates back to the days of separate but equal — a work around for those who oppose same sex marriage but don’t want to be accused of intolerance. Plus, while it might treat all potential unions the same, it also serves to reinforce class-based privilege. As Amanda Marcotte writes for Slate:

Paul’s plan to privatize marriage rather than share it with gay people is reminiscent of how segregationists reacted to Brown v. Board of Education. Rather than allow their children to go to school with black students, white people throughout the South started private, often religious schools, nicknamed “segregation academies.” It wasn’t just schools, either. As my colleague Jamelle Bouie explained recently, the decline of the public pool is also a symptom of this reactionary urge to privatize an institution rather than share it with people who conservatives consider undesirable. That the same logic is being whipped out by Paul is no big surprise. This is a man who famously opposed the Civil Rights Act that made the “privatize instead of share” goal harder to achieve.

But although this strategy has a lengthy conservative pedigree, it’s hard to imagine it really taking off as a way to shut gay people out of marriage. If the government really did stop issuing standard marriage contracts and couples were forced to write their own contracts, all that would do is make marriage a privilege of those who can afford lawyers. It wouldn’t preserve marriage as a right for straight people—it would just turn it into a benefit for the wealthy.

This is the challenge Paul faces as a Libertarian. When he sticks to his guns, he turns off the Conservative base AND alienates social issue voters on the left. It’s also representative of the dominant problem with Libertarian ideology. While the “hands off” approach to governance is appealing in theory to both small government enthusiasts and “live and let live” progressives, it doesn’t work in reality. Greed guides business. Privatization serves as a proxy for discrimination. Self-interest leaves the most vulnerable among us to fend for themselves on an uneven playing field. We don’t live in Utopia, which is why government intervention is often necessary, if imperfect.

Paul is unlikely to abandon his Libertarian ideals anytime soon. Unfortunately for his presidential bid, that leaves him in a precarious position with the electorate. But who knows? Get the nation stoned enough, and maybe he’s got a chance.