In football, when it's clear you don't have much chance to move the ball to the goal, you kick it away - you punt - and hope to get the ball back in a better scoring position.
What would a political punt be like in the present circumstances? Is it relevant, and would it be the most effective strategy?
The political scape is arguably looking like a punting situation, if something can be gained by giving something up. The prospects in the November elections appear bleak, especially for the House. Democratic Party half-measures, compromises, and derelictions have left progressive agendas at a dead-stop against the defenders of corporate power.
It seemed like we had an opportunity after the '08 elections to move the proverbial ball, to move the country in a progressive direction, to reverse the venal policies of Bush/Cheney, to hold the constitutional criminals and the war criminals accountable, to demonstrate the contrast between pro-corporate policies and pro-people policies.
But that opportunity has been squandered. High crimes are no longer illegal. Executive power over citizens is no longer limited, and executive power against corruption is no longer conceded. The Republicans have escaped accountability, gotten up off the ground and returned with a vengeful momentum.
For most likely voters, memory is so short, perspective so narrow, that a return to Republican rule appears like maybe a promising alternative to the passivity and ineffectiveness (and non-whiteness) of the Democratic Party.
For many progressives, continuing to support the Party has come to feel like riding a donkey mascot, waving a donkey flag. The question increasingly asked is what to do about the election: Defend the country against the far right by defending the Democratic Party, no matter how compromised and corporatist they have become? Support third-party candidates instead? Or just stay home?
Wherever possible, I believe there's no question: progressive candidates should be supported. The mindless call to throw all the incumbents out is classic baby-and-bathwater, and it assumes there would be a shortage of new hacks to replace the old hacks. But supporting Conserva-Dems because they're slightly better than their Republican opponents is a no-exit strategy for maintaining the status quo. If we reward the corrupt and mediocre for their corruption and mediocrity how can we expect things to ever change?
There's a sense of alarm among leading Democrats that majorities in the House and Senate are in danger, and therefore, a blanket support for The Party is essential. And it's persuasive that a Democratic majority in the Senate is vital, especially given the six-year term for Senators. But what about the House?
It's possible there could be a few more small and compromised victories wrung from a Democratically-controlled House in the next two years. But what if a slim and heavily blue-dog Democratic majority, no less timid, inept, and corrupt than at present, only serves to increase the right-wing tempest to the boiling-point, and results in a massive victory of the wackos in 2012 - taking the Senate and Presidency along with the House?
On the other foot, what's the worst-case of a Republican-run House in the next Congress if the Senate retains a Democratic majority? Can't we at least count on Obama to veto any right-wing legislation? I think it's a reasonable assumption that he's capable of being sufficiently passive-aggressive if shove comes to slap. He could even continue to pay his respects to his "friends" on the Right while simply pocketing their legislation without an overt (and ungentlemanly) veto.
Holding our own, or even gaining a few seats in the House in this election will change very little, but it will stoke the fire under the Righties, and give them more energy to turn out in 2012, especially when it comes to turning out the black man in the White House.
Compare the relative energy-levels in 2012 if 1) the House has gone hard-right and crazy, and progressives have gotten a fresh taste of the importance of activism, with 2) this election leaves things pretty much as they are, and the Right has two more years to gnash their gums over having "lost their country", while forgetting even more of what the country was actually like under Republican control.
All such things considered, I believe it's time to punt. We can either look forward to facing the Tea Partiers again in 2012 - still untried, still chafing, more hysterical than ever - or we can let them on now, let them show themselves for the foolish and hateful clowns they are. Why not give the crazy Right the majority in the House, let them investigate a birth certificate, a secret religious affiliation, a stain on a dress if one can be found. Let them impeach. Let them expose themselves in all their gory. Let them call for an end to Social Security, more tax cuts for the wealthy, corporate monopoly and deregulation. Let the grounds leak from the tea-bags while there's still a majority in the Senate, while a President can be counted on for the power of veto.
Why try to prevent the Right from showing their stuff in the next two years when there's little they can actually do with it? Let's have two years of bottled-up right-wing craziness, then let's take another shot at real accountability!
Yes, absolutely, support the truly progressive Dems this November. Where there's no progressive Democrat running, support a Third Party candidate. Third Party polling numbers could be especially noteworthy. But the Blue Dogs? The ConservaDems? Let 'em stew. Let 'em hang. Let "em see what they've got left when they take progressives for granted. Meanwhile work toward a groundswell for true progressive change in 2012 - especially, a repeal of corporate personhood, campaign finance reform, and guaranteed honest elections.
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