Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Political failings

It’s easy to say now, but I expected failure of the effort to repeal the US’ infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy which bars openly-gay military personnel. It wasn’t out of pessimism, but simple reality.

Before I get too far into that, I do need to say first that there’s absolutely no excuse for all the Republicans in the US Senate (along with two supposed Democrats) preventing the majority in the Senate from doing its job. It’s immoral to put pure politics ahead of everything and everyone else. Republicans have defined themselves as the “Party of No”, always looking for ways to gain political advantage. John McCain in particular deserves to be singled-out for being especially reprehensible and disgusting; America dodged a bullet when that man lost the presidential election.

Some Republicans are, of course, religious extremists who will go to any length to oppress gay and lesbian Americans, and nothing—including military needs— will deter them from their theocratic agenda. But most Republicans in Congress are devoid of any true ideology or any agenda other than scoring points against Democrats for purely partisan political reasons.

Democrats are very different, and this gets to the core of why I wasn’t surprised.

During the Bush/Cheney regime, Democrats in the Senate would mount a filibuster in an attempt to slow down the Republican agenda but, in the end, they always stopped. Republicans, unwilling to consider compromise, threatened “the nuclear option” to make it impossible for the minority Democrats to slow down the Republican juggernaut.

Democrats took over Congress and promptly carried on business as before: They did nothing to reform the Senate rules so that majority will rule, and they persisted in acting as if Republicans had any intention of ever negotiating in good faith or that they’d ever compromise.

Democrats refused to see the reality of the fact that the Republicans in Congress had an absolute and uniform rock-solid intransigence. No amount of “negotiating” would ever change that, and no “compromise” was ever possible. The Democrats never did anything to push the Republicans out of the way, and all the Democratic failings of this US Senate can be traced to that fact.

While the Republicans are wrong, and sometimes evil, they know exactly what they’re doing. Democrats are something worse: They’re insane, as in the most famous definition of insanity—doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Because of all that, the repeal of DADT was doomed from the start: Republicans would never, ever vote for it no matter how it was worded, no matter how much Democrats gave up in a pointless attempt to come to a compromise.

Some of my fellow self-appointed gay pundits in the blogosphere have been quick to dump all over Democrats. Some are calling for a total boycott of Democrats because, ultimately, the failure of DADT repeal—and the lack of any action on other pro-GLBT laws—is their fault. But I think those people are being stupid and childish.

Sure I blame Democrats, since there was never any hope of Republican support, but what, precisely, is the alternative? Not voting? That’ll guarantee a Republican/Teapublican takeover of Congress. Vote for a third party? Same result. The only way to stop the Republican/Teapublican/Christofascist agenda is to vote Democratic.

Tell me any scenario—any scenario—in which not voting for Democrats will be good for GLBT people. Mad at Democrats? I get that. But “punishing” them means punishing us, all and we’ve suffered enough already, thank you. After all, no one can be sure that the political centre can regain power once it’s lost.

What I argue for instead is that liberals/progressives reassert themselves, run candidates and win elections to take over in the same way the radical right Republicans did. This means we stop apologising and we stop treating the other side’s lies as valid viewpoints.

But here’s a larger point: There’s the old saying that “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” It means we expect total perfection from our candidates and the first time they disappoint us, we bail. Republicans on the other hand rarely abandon a Republican (apart from a handful of Teapublican victories in primaries). Many of our politicians aren’t good enough, but only a handful can rightly be called “Republican Lite”. Most we can work with, a few we can follow—if we want to do the hard work and build for the future.

I’m arguing that the choice before us is simple: We can embrace our future, build our future, and move on, or we can continue to fight defensive moves against our opponents, certain to lose every time, beating up our allies along the way.

I choose to move forward. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how we can do that.


toujoursdan said...

I think the blame best be put on a political system whereby a minority party can block legislation from being debated and voted on. How is that democractic?

The U.S. legislative system is set up to make it easy to throw a monkey wrench into the process and the Republicans, who have decided that power is more important than governance, have exploited it. But I put the blame on the process as much as the players.

The system itself needs to be changed, but many Americans find it easier to blame people than admit this fact.

epilonious said...

"We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were."

- Gore Vidal.

The prevention of "Mob Rule" has been one of the biggest facets of the American Political system. It's not going away any time soon, nor or should it: having to convince at least some of the other side to support your cause is important.

As for the whole DADT mess, I see a glimmer of hope in the Log Cabin Republicans of all things. They're being sneaky bastards filing in federal courts but they're doing it for the right reasons :)

Arthur Schenck said...

toujoursdan: Yep, I agree. I don't think reform is likely, though, and it'll be impossible if the Republicans re-take Congress.

epilonious: I agree that persuading voters from the other side is important to at least attempt, but I don't believe that in the current toxic atmosphere it's possible to convince Republicans to support Democratic positions—or even Republicans ones promoted by Democrats, as we've seen over the past two years.

Stopping Republicans from blocking the majority isn't the same as mob rule, of course.

I had no problem with the Log Cabin lawsuit from the very beginning, though some professional activists sure did. I applaud them for their efforts (and the courts the third branch of government, so turning to them is always a reasonable thing to do). But they LCR still do some very odd things.