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Pressure cooking

By Owen Paine on Thursday June 15, 2006 12:24 PM

In a comment here, robber.baron writes:
... I think before abandoning the Democratic Party completely and voting third party the left needs to work on pressure and influence who wins the nomination.
I, J S Paine, as official rep in virtual residence of the 'don't give up on em ...yet ' faction, want to reply to this.

The nugget here is "pressure and influence." I translate that as pressure equals threats of votes cast or withheld or placed elsewhere; and influence equals... well, money, mostly, but there's also volunteer time and energy. We'll return to that, but first let's think about the pressure side of the equation.

Withholding your vote -- the stay-at-home strategy -- obviously helps a little, since it proves the "elephants are coming!" cries of lesser-evilism have failed to terrify. Locally, that can matter, in tight districts, in a close race.

But the semiotics are more important. One way to read a stay-at-home vote is like this: "You're both stinkers, and I won't hold my nose and pull the jackass lever. It only encourages you hacks along your venal pathway."

But it can also be read other ways -- ways more consistent with the strategic thinking of the Demo poobahs. It's an ambiguous gesture.

So apathy is not a serious enough threat to get Party leadership's blood boiling. It takes a third-party vote to do that.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, fires up a donk pol pro hack like third party efforts. The evidence is everywhere -- from the Know-Nothings to the Populists to the several Prog incarnations to the recent Green scene.

My favorite almost-event:

We would have gotten Dewey in '48 if the Wallace prog ticket hadn't been kept off the Illinois ballot by wild dirty donkey foul play. 1948 would have been like 1848, 1912, 1992, or 2000, and maybe the fall of China and the Korean war would have been seen as Republican failures, and the donks might have moved left... okay, okay, I know I'm over the top with that last one.

But at any rate, since the cutting edge of pressure is threat threat threat, the more credible the threat, the better. And consequently, the higher the chance respect will turn into substantive accommodation.

Now as for influence, which comes from money and volunteer time -- nobody reading this, I'm sure, has enough money to make much of an impact -- not even all of us put together. So it comes down to our time and energy.

Just as the withheld vote is ambiguous, the withheld effort is ambiguous. If you really want 'em to miss you, you have to let 'em know what they're missing, by putting it elsewhere -- referenda, independent runs, activism outside the electoral arena... lots of possibilities.

robber.baron continues:

Of those who decided to run in 2004 there were drastically better options for a progressive agenda than John Kerry.
Okay, let's see what happens when a real choice, or even a shadow of a real choice, seizes the convention and the party levers. Let's look at George McGovern.

When the progs win control, the old pros will do all they can to see you lose the election. Unlike the progs, they don't at all mind scuttling the party's chances if they can't control it.


I think we progressives need to fight to promote those potential candidates from within similar to how the religious right fights for socially conservative leanings from candidates in the Republican Party"
But... RB... we're already just exactly what the religious right is to the Repubs -- those poor religious caterpillars don't run anything. The business right runs the Republican party; those tub-thumpers and snake-handlers are just window-dressing. They're just as trapped as we donk prog secularists are in the Orthrian bind.

Comments (1)


John Kerry in 2004 could have been to the left of John Kerry. Here was a politician who had done many admirable things: taking a lead in the anti-war movement. Going to Vietnam and putting the rest the POW myths which fueled the right-wing for so long. Voting against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Instead, we got John Kerry, American War Hero. The Republicans decried his pathetic baby-killing record. The Democrats and the left jumped to support his stellar record of babies slaughtered.

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