2010 was a devastating election for Democrats. We've been witness to that over the past seven months, with horrendous policy changes taking place all across this nation. And at no time have we felt it harder than the last several weeks of pit-bull style fighting that the tea party wing of the Republican Party have engaged in over what should have been nothing more than a procedural vote to raise the Debt Ceiling of the United States.
The day following President Barack Obama's announcement that a "compromise deal" had been hammered out between all the parties was fraught with outrage by the more liberal members of the Democratic Party. And it was an all-too-familiar image of the anger felt by those same liberal Democrats that gave us the results of the 2010 election, which is directly responsible for the very thing that's causing today's anger.
So why is it that when Democrats get angry they stay home on election day, but when Republicans get angry, they vote?
The "leg up" that the GOP has on Democrats and Liberals in most elections is that they formulate their message in the broader, bigger picture. They get people to care more about the ideology than self. We see evidence of the success of this strategy every time middle-class Republicans go to the polls and vote "against their own self-interest." Democrats, on the other hand, have a habit of seeing everything through the lens of "self." And if they feel personally slighted ("That's not what I elected him to do!"), they don't vote.
I understand why Democrats frame their message more towards the individual. We are a party focused on protecting individual rights and freedoms. We stand for a helping hand when it's needed, equal access to marriage, giving teachers and students the tools and resources they need to learn and grow, for immigrants to feel welcome here and bring needed skills with them, and for more people to be able to vote, not fewer.
I don't suggest for a moment that Democrats abandon those principles, only that we re-frame the way in which we present these ideals, from focusing on the "individual," to focusing on the "collective." And not because the individual isn’t important, but because a) the country on the whole really is more important, and b) because we have enough evidence to show that that strategy works.
And the reason it’s not just important, but critical, that we adopt a messaging strategy that works, is because the future of our nation for generations to come is quite literally at stake.
We will all live and die. Our lives are finite. And while we all want to have laws that make our lives better in the here and now, it matters little if the enjoyment of those laws do not outlive us all, thriving for generations as the country becomes centuries and centuries older. This is what made our Founding Fathers so remarkable. They were visionaries not just for themselves to have better laws than those they were escaping, but for the building of a nation that would far, far outlive themselves.
While modern-day Democrats are focused on wanting to win today's battle (whatever that may be in the moment), ever since the Reagan years, the GOP has been singularly focused on the long game*. They have not wavered from a core, central determination to dismantle government and turn it over to the Corporations and enrich themselves in the process. The GOP has spent the better part of the last 30 years whittling away at our laws, bit by bit, regulation by regulation, court ruling by court ruling. Make no mistake, Republicans have a Grand Plan for this nation that looks nothing like the America that liberals or Democrats envision. Worse yet, it won't even resemble the one our Forefathers envisioned.
With "fundamental change" as their goal, and decades of experience manipulating the populace under their belt, in 2010 Republicans were once again able to control the debate; this time making it about the deficit. All they had to say was, "Look how HUGE this number is! We’ll never pay it in our lifetimes. Democrats are spending all of your children's children's money and they're going to have to pay our bills." The Republican base ate that up. They didn’t care if it would mean more job losses today.
Democrats, on the other hand, did not frame their message as one that was critical to the nation as a whole, not just for now, but for life. After a grueling year-long battle to get any kind of health care reform passed into law, all the energy they could muster was, "You really are better off with our new Health Care plan—just wait and see when it takes effect!"
Wiped out and angry, Democrats stayed home on election day. Riled up and angry, Republicans showed up in droves.
Democrats have to be smarter in 2012. Not just because we want to win now, but because one very critical aspect of our government will be "up for grabs" during the term of the president who next sits in that office: The Supreme Court.
Most, if not every single "bedrock" issue the Republicans have undertaken to destroy over the past 12 years will probably be heard by the Court that’s presiding from 2013 to 2016: abortion rights, workers’ rights, health care rights and voting rights. We already have the Citizens United ruling that gives non-living corporations the same privileges as individuals in campaign spending. Next we'll have challenges to multi-state voter ID laws that disenfranchise the people who most need the government to work for them, challenges to anti-choice laws that are cropping up all over the place, challenges to the Affordable Care Act, and challenges to Union-stripping that has been taking place in state after state after state.
The chances are strong that there may be two retiring Justices during the next president's term. That would give whoever is sitting in the White House the power to make 2 choices that will have an impact on the entire nation for generations. Those who are fighting to strip women of the right to autonomous control over their own bodies, are already chomping at the bit over the potential retirement of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg.
Democrats must open their eyes and see, not just the fact that Wisconsin's public employee unions no longer have bargaining power, not just that Kansas has enacted draconian measures that dictate the room size of janitorial closets in clinics that provide abortion services or risk being shut down, but the great landscape of changes that are taking shape in this country. We must start looking beyond our current individual struggles and anger and disappointment. This battle isn't just about you or Michigan or Barack Obama, it's about the United States of America.
We have got to transform ourselves into the kind of visionaries our Founding Fathers were and start defending this country for the long haul.
Even though the debt reduction plan hammered out by President Obama and House & Senate Leaders is not a progressive ideal, and even if you see the steps our president was forced to take in this ugly process as capitulation or "caving," we can't forget that we gave the president this Congress to work with. And we have to be the ones to correct that or our country is in the hands of destroyers.
In order to repair the damage that has already been done by the tea party Republicans, and to guarantee the freedom of choice, the freedom to collectively bargain, the freedom to vote, for our children's children's children, it is imperative that we re-elect Barack Obama to the presidency and give him big enough majorities in both houses of congress so that his appointments cannot be successfully blocked. We owe it to every generation that will come after us, to set aside our personal anger and fight for them.
Republicans are very good at their game because they are relentless. They do not give up.
And neither should we.
THE SUPREME COURT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU.
We need them to protect Women's Rights, Worker's Rights, Immigration Rights & Voter's Rights!
Here's what you can do in the fight to take back control of our government:
▶ Participate in Voter Registration Drives
▶ Volunteer at the campaign office of your state's Senator if they are running for re-election
▶ Volunteer at the campaign office of your district's Representative, or the Democratic candidate running against an incumbent Republican in your district
▶ Canvass your neighborhood
▶ Call your friends and family to help
▶ Host a fundraiser at your home
▶ Do phone-banking
▶ Support Democratic candidates OUTSIDE your own districts!
▶ Please Tweet and Re-tweet this Blog Posting to your Followers and/or post it to your Facebook Wall, and ask all your friends & followers to do the same! (If you and all of your friends & followers, and all of their friends & followers, and all of their friend & followers, and so on, donated just $5 to each Democratic candidate running for a seat in Congress, we could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions!)
★For an outstanding description of what the Republican long game is, how it was formulated and how they managed to make it take root, I recommend you read Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years, by Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, Thom Hartmann
And here is some follow-up reading regarding the debt ceiling plan, from some educated and reliable sources, including plan details and what we might expect:
▶ Another Take ~ by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo
▶ Five Things for Liberals to Like in the Debt Ceiling Deal ~ By Jay Newton-Small
▶ The Democrats' Powerful Negotiating Advantage ~ by M.S. Bellows at Vichydems
▶ Why Obama Won Debt Deal ~ By Craig Crawford at Craig Crawford's Trail Mix
▶ In (Partial) Defense of Obama ~ by Ben Heineman Jr.
- "Liberals should be working every congressional and senatorial race, starting yesterday. Grass roots politics against conservatives, not Olympian op-eds against President Obama, is the best answer for liberal critics of the debt-ceiling deal."
He's right. Let's get to it, folks!