Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Democrat being a Democrat

Times have changed. Once upon a time, US politicians appealed to their party’s base for nomination, then “moved to the centre” for the general elections. Now, Republicans stay on the far right. Increasingly, some Democrats are running as Democrats. Finally.

The video above is from Carl Sciortino, an openly gay Massachusetts State Representative and a Democrat. He's now running in the special election for Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District (to replace now US Senator Ed Markey). The Primary Election is October 15, 2013. What makes his campaign especially notable is that he's also running as a—GASP!—proud liberal. THIS is what I want to see Democrats do more of, as I’ve said many times before.

The thing about US politics is that the centre has shifted very far to the right from where it was, say, 20 years ago. Beginning in earnest with Newt Gingrich’s “Contract On America” (though the trend started even earlier), Democrats allowed Republicans to not only set the political agenda, but also to frame the political debate. As a result, “centrist” became conservative. That’s finally beginning to change for Democrats, who are finally seizing the initiative.

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed thinks that Sciortino's campaign represents a “new playbook” for out LGBT politicians, who, Geidner says, usually took the path of Christine Quinn who failed in her campaign to become New York City's first out LGBT mayor. It was “…an old template for minority candidates: Take the base for granted, and tack to the center.” He also notes that, “Sciortino is running roughly the opposite of Quinn’s campaign.”

I think that Sciortino is using a new playbook for Democrats generally: He’s running for office, not away from what the party stands for or its principles. He actually stands for something. That’s a refreshing change.

If elected, Sciortino would be among the youngest members of the US House and, with a decade of legislative experience already, he could be a strong advocate for Democratic Party values generally, and LGBT issues specifically, for many years to come. Sounds to me like a pretty good deal.

Pundits tell us all the time that Democrats have to tack to the centre to win general elections, even though, clearly, Republicans don’t move to the centre. But voters who want a conservative tend to want a real one, not a “Republican Lite”, “Me, Too!” sort of Democrat.

I would love to see liberal Democrats take the battle to these supposed conservative areas, because I believe that if Democrats present a clear and principled alternative to voters, if they can explain real Democratic values and not Republicans’ cartoonish propaganda version, we could see some supposed red areas turn blue. Actually, Republicans know that, too—it’s why they spend so much time demonising liberals and Democrats.

What I’m saying is that in far too many places, Democrats have run away from being Democrats, and they lose. We’re starting to see a glimmer of hope that at least some Democrats have seen this as a self-defeating strategy and are willing to take the battle to the Republicans. I hope we see more who do.

I wish Carl Sciortino well. I like what he says on the issues facing the USA. I want to see more Democrats be like him: A Democrat being a Democrat.

Visit Carl Sciortino’s campaign site for yourself. He has a contribution option on the site. I think the ad is fantastic. I'm sure he could use some donations to help air it.

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