But the spine isn 't the only structural element of the Democratic party that 's out of whack. Howard Dean is working on fixing problems at the root: the neglected party infrastructure. It 's thinking about problems beyond this news cycle. It 's focusing on the problems that got us to this horrible juncture where we have too many Democratic leaders who can 't or won 't stand up and fight for the Constitution... and on our behalf.
I agree: there 's a constitutional crisis. Right Now.
I agree: We need to hold our elected officials ' feet to the fire. We should be doing this always, but especially now.
I disagree that lashing out at the DNC is the way to do this. Giving voice to our outrage can be cathartic, but I 'd rather that we be smart about how we identify problems and act to address them. Too often those of us on the left embrace the symbolic gesture, like Empty Envelopes, without thinking strategically about how this can bite us. We want to do something. Let 's be Hippocratical, not hypocritical: "First, do no harm ".
So go for it: give a piece of your mind to the Senators for not falling in line behind Feingold. They took an oath of office to defend the Constitution. It 's past due for them to 'put up '... they 've 'shut up ' for too long.
And you have my blessing to punish the DCCC and DSCC for burning the grassroots and spending money on primary races against good progressive Democrats supported by local organizers. Send them all the empty envelopes you 've got.
But the DNC? I think holding the DNC culpable is misguided at best, and is ultimately sabotage for a progressive agenda.
The reason I 'm involved in grassroots political organizing is that I don 't want to see things done the same way they 've been done in the past. I don 't want to be like Charlie Brown*, setting myself up again and again to have the football snatched away. But the left also has got another tendency, that goes back as far as the days of Will Roger 's "I 'm not a member of any organized political party: I 'm a Democrat ". Namely, the circular firing squad. It 's the Seinfeldesque behavior of dumping our date because of "man hands " or because she 's a "low talker ", despite abundant positive attributes. Not that there 's anything wrong with that. No, wait... I take that back: I think it 's very wrong. It 's self-involved, short-sighted... and leaves us alone in the dark.
What Dean 's DNC is doing is essential. Dean has proven to be the best friend that the grassroots activist has had in a generation (sorry, Ralph). He 's consistently called for citizen participation, ownership and control of the only institution that 's within spitting distance of being capable of opposing the Republican party. That it isn 't doing so makes me fighting mad, so I 'm fighting in the trenches to take this party over. The sooner, the better.
I guess I 'm saying that "We 're the ones we 've been waiting for ". If you don 't like this batch of Democrats, rather than waiting around to see what comes up next season, put on your overalls and your steel-toed boots and help us build us up some new ones. You said "I know, win the election first. " Actually, winning elections is right smack in the middle of the process, not first. Winning elections is the fruition of hard work, and part of that is finding the right candidates, getting them on the ballot, funding them, and voting for them.
I know folks who think that 's not practical... but I say that it 's exactly how the right-wing took over the Republican party over the past few decades. People get impatient that it may take a while for us to get back in power... I don 't think it 'll take that long. After all, we managed to get a guy that the party bosses didn 't like in to head up the DNC. And besides, I think it 's takes longer to convince people to vote against their own economic and social interests: so I think we can turn this thing around.
But I think we 'd get further along faster if people worked alongside and contributed to Dean 's DNC... instead of trying to undermine it with empty envelopes.
"And I must just say, that it 's not enough just to put the Democrats back in power. I don 't want the same old Democratic party that sat around on its butt and thought that if it was like the Republicans it might win an election once in a while. We 've got to have real change in this country. "
Howard Dean on the Ed Shultz show 9/10/05
I think that 's a sentiment that we can all get behind. So let 's stop with the "Ready... Fire... Aim " activism. It 's our own foot we 're shooting.
*BTW, while the Charlie Brown you 're talking about isn 't a great role model for the Democratic party, I can think of one who is. Lt. Col. Charles Brown is running for Congress in California 's 4th District. If he wins his primary, he 'll be in a position to take out John Doolittle, a particularly noxious Republican who 's up to his armpits in Abramoff. Brown is the first candidate to be officially endorsed by Sonoma County DFA, and you can learn more about him (and contribute to his campaign) here: http://www.brown4congress.org
Sonoma County Democracy for America