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On Punishing the Dems

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Many progressives want to "punish the Dems" by refusing to vote, or by voting for a third party candidate this November.

I can respect such progressives, because I too am upset with Obama. I've explained why here and here and here.

But I wonder: have these hardcore progressives really thought through the costs of their choice? Moreover, are they willing to respect other progressives who choose not to follow their (risky) strategy?

Many Democrats complain that progressives spend more time denouncing Obama than they do denouncing Republicans. (I always try to avoid doing this. I always say, "Obama acts like a conservative. He helps

In a similar way, it seems that many hardcore
progressives spend more time denouncing more moderate progressives like me who still want to work within the Democratic Party.

It reminds me of religious fanatics who reserve their strongest condemnations for fellow believers who aren't completely committed to their pure doctrine.

Hey, I'm your ally! We just differ on strategy. I come in peace. Stop the circular firing squad!

My problem with the strategy of punishing the Dems is that it's a scatter-shot approach. It will punish good Dems as well as bad Dems. It will help the GOP gain power. It's a blunt instrument that will destroy more than was intended.
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Yes, drastic measures are needed, because both parties are seriously ill with corporatism and corruption. But punishing all the Dems is powerful medicine that, via side effects, may end up doing more harm than good.

Remember 2000 and what happened when progressives voted for Nader over Gore?

OK, OK, I know. The Democrats keep relying on scare tactics like this to stop progressives from voting their consciences. They keep bringing up the specter of Bush or the Tea Party to convince progressives to vote for them.

Yes, it feels bad to be used and to be cheated the way progressives were cheated by Obama.

And yes, way too many progressives were fools to fall for Obama's slick and vague promises.
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But despite all that, it's still true that allowing the GOP to gain power in order to punish the Dems is a very risky and costly strategy indeed.

As I've said before, anyone who says the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans is either a Republican plant trying to incite division on the Left, a hardcore leftist trying to seduce progressives into giving up on the Democratic Party, or a deluded blockhead. This is perhaps overly strong but it's basically correct. I'm not saying that Obama and the Democrats haven't made many terrible mistakes; I'm just saying that the Republicans would be even worse!

Unlike most Dems, most Republicans will have no qualms about dismantling the New Deal and completely turning government over to the corporations or to religious fanatics. And they'd be much, much worse than the Dems on women's rights and environmentalism and regulations in general. Think how the GOP unanimously opposed virtually every Democratic bill in the Senate, especially the good ones.

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my writing, my (more...)

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One of my motivations for writing this article is ... by Don Smith on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 2:21:13 AM
and have gotten shot in the butt for it. Who of us... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:00:10 AM
You outlined the problem very well.And there is no... by Bia Winter on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:50:07 AM
would be another good solution.... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:01:58 AM
Since it's easier to win re-election by damning yo... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 1:01:45 PM
Obama came in with a huge Democratic majority &... by Miriam Callaghan on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 3:10:28 PM
I agree with your criticisms of Obama. I feel pe... by Don Smith on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 4:03:53 PM
It's NOT about punishment, Mr Smith. It's about on... by Robert P. Philipps on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 5:47:27 PM
It's true there are differences, especially in dom... by Bill Samuel on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 8:42:01 PM
Great posts all,..I'm one of the reluctant to vote... by witch1 on Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:01:20 PM
...and we are of the same generation and political... by Bia Winter on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 9:42:56 AM
Don, your arguments are as compelling as always. ... by Perry Logan on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 5:40:31 AM
Thanks for your reasonable comments. You, at least... by Don Smith on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 10:31:38 AM
Hello and Good Morning, Perry...Have not read your... by witch1 on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 8:24:17 AM
Don, even though I do not agree with your strategy... by Blaine Kinsey on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 11:28:13 AM
Did you read the stories about possible fraud in t... by Don Smith on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 12:23:23 PM
And they clearly are not interested in what their ... by Charlene Richards on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 1:47:30 PM
Some Dems are good, and with a very straight face ... by Don Smith on Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 at 6:11:54 PM