WHAT THE HELL IS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY ANYMORE?
I heard a lot of pain and a lot of frustration on the radio today from Democrats who felt Paul Hackett has been speaking for them. Hackett, like pretty much everyone, didn't come up through the Democratic Party organization; he was a maverick with a clear, straightforward, un-nuanced, from-the-gut message. Sherrod Brown may be more traditionally "progressive," even more politically correct in a good sort of way, and more reliable and a known-quantity. But Hackett's passion and guts have come to strike a nerve among people all over the country-- not just in Ohio and not even just among Democrats. The pain and frustration-- and anger-- I heard coming out of my radio speakers goes right to the heart of a bigger question than Paul Hackett's Ohio senatorial primary drama. Who actually is the Democratic Party?
Historically it grew out of Thomas Jefferson's 1790s coalition of small farmers, traders and artisans and it was always, more or less, the anti-elite "people's" party, as opposed to the "aristocratic" party. It has always been riven with sectional and ideological tensions. It didn't plan on being a big tent; it was born and raised that way.
Today there is an intense kind of tension between two major groups tugging in different-- though not necessarily ideologically different-- directions. The grassroots citizens who vote and, to some extent, financially support, the party are finding themselves less and less aligned with the careerist politicians, consultants, managers, party bureaucrats and assorted other pro's who run it. With the advent of the internet and the netroots, the citizens are finding it more and more easy to express themselves and to define themselves-- and to challenge the status quo the careerists want more than anything.
Without the unifying figure of a president to have the last word and for both groups to rally around, the tension is putting the whole concept of Will Rogers' old party under severe stress-- and he said "I don't belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat!"
What virtually all the folks calling in on the radio were saying today is "Who are Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, 3 Inside the Beltway careerist hacks, to think they can derail democracy in Ohio and kill a chance for a primary?" If tempers won't cool these 3 bungling imbeciles just guaranteed another 6-year term to Mike DeWine by making sure Hackett admirers are now invested in Sherrod Brown's defeat.
Today Kos talks about how the party establishment dragged Hackett out of the race and how idiotic they are for fearing, instead of embracing, primaries. That's because today the Inside the Beltway political parties-- both of them-- are businesses, run primarily for the benefit not of the stakeholders, let alone the shareholders, but for the managers. And more specifically, the party has become a vehicle not for social change, not for any ideologies or values, not even for creating an effective strategy to counter the right wing onslaught that they have so abysmally failed to protect us from, but for the career protection and advancement of the pros.
These are the trashy slimeballs we fought tooth-and-nail to get Howard Dean elected Chairman of the DNC. And these are the trashy slimeballs who have done everything they could to sabotage Dean every step of the way. Take for example, one of the most disgusting examples of a self-indulgent, pompous, Inside-the-Beltway, thrilled-with-the-sound-of-his-own-voice windbag, the plagiarist-who-would-be-president, Joe "not as bad as Lieberman" Biden. Soon after the grassroots overwhelmed the Beltway opposition to make Howard Dean DNC Chairman, the ridiculously arrogant senior senator from... Delaware (a constituency smaller than my neighborhood) puffed himself up and babbled "The Democratic chairman does not speak for me, an elected United States senator. No party official speaks for me anytime, anyplace, under any circumstances." Wow! Isn't he something! John Edwards made a similarly unhelpful remark about the Party's popular chairman, calling him "a voice" he doesn't agree with and asserting that Dean "is not the spokesman for the party."
The Inside the Beltway crew did a lot of damage to the Democratic Party today by what they did to Paul Hackett, a man far more admired and respected than most senators and congressmen of either party. Howard Dean's sincere attempt to clean up the mess made by his mortal enemies may have started the process of healing. But a statement that probably resonates louder with progressives and activists was made by the DNC's chairman's brother, Jim Dean, head of DFA. "Today we are deeply saddened by the announcement that Paul Hackett is withdrawing from the race for U.S. Senate in Ohio. We and many of you supported Paul in the Ohio-2 special congressional election last year. While we had not taken a position in his senate race (in deference to DFA members in Ohio who support Sherrod Brown), we nonetheless were thrilled that Paul had stepped up to run for higher office. The integrity and activism that his campaign embodied were—and remain—critical to a Democratic victory over the Republican incumbent. Paul has been, and always will be a man of integrity, guts, authenticity, and courage—characteristics that too often don't seem to matter to our Party's congressional leaders in Washington. Whether you agree with Paul's positions or not, his campaign has represented the resurgence of the authentic candidate. One who speaks honestly and openly about his or her values and political positions because it is the right way to communicate with voters, and the ONLY way to gain their respect.
"Anyone who has looked at poll results knows that the Democrats have been losing for over 15 years because voters don't trust Democrats on the issues. Paul's campaign gave all of us hope that the Democratic Party can again have candidates who are honest and open about their positions; thereby regaining the interest of the voters. More importantly, Paul's campaign gave us hope that the Democratic Party has the discipline and drive to innovate by embracing the entrepreneurial competition of ideas and candidates which are so critical to honing our message and preparing candidates to battle the right-wing spin machine. Our community understands the importance of this, and regrets that we must continue to baby-sit the congressional leadership until they have the maturity, confidence, and discipline to embrace and encourage the kind of innovative campaigns that Paul brought to the Party. Today that baby-sitting job got a lot tougher. Even after 15 years of losing, too much of our leadership continues to waste valuable time and donors' hard earned money trying to maintain a party machine in second place. They do this by trying to bring new and exciting ideas to heal for the sake of their own second place status, because to them second place in DC is better than fighting for our country, our values and our party.
"Thanks to Paul, the drive to take our country back for those who built it continues at full speed.
Paul, thank you for everything you have done. Take some well-deserved time off, but please, please, come back to the fight as soon as you can. You are the future of our democracy. You are the future of the Democratic Party—or the next Party—depending on whether the Democratic leadership in Congress can ever get beyond its remarkably oversized sense of entitlement.
Today they lost, but you kept your word and didn't compromise your values. We thank you for this, hope to see you soon, and wish you and your great family all the best."
Can you imagine a statesmanlike message like that coming from a lowlife sleazeball like Rahm Emanuel or Joe Biden or Chuck Schumer or any of the Inside the Beltway hacks? I can't-- but until I can, I'll think of the DFA more as my party than the Democrats.