Thursday, October 31, 2002

Auntie Pinko explains why congressional Democrats appear to be so timid.

Auntie Pinko seems to reiterate this a lot, but we do need constant reminders: Democrats are not Republicans! We do not march in lockstep. We accord our leadership support based on how well they represent our principles and goals, not on how well they enforce top-down discipline. Without the kind of robotic unity that the GOP enforces, Democrats are highly vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics at election time, and the leadership knows this. They won't put progress toward a truly substantial Democratic majority at risk when the stakes are so high.

More Democrats with the rockbound integrity of Paul Wellstone would certainly help us, but money and powerful special interests have been working hard for many years to neutralize the appeal of such "outsider" politics. That leads me into the second reason for Democratic timidity in congress: the blaring voice of corporate and special interest money.

Interests with enough money to buy access to our politicians get face-to-face time with them, chances to explain, to offer bribes and threats, to make persuasive cases, to hold the elected official's constituency hostage to job loss or other blackmail. In order to drown out this kind of mega-loudness, citizens must counter-balance it with the sheer volume and frequency of their communications.

When a truly grassroots tide begins to lap over their shoes, elected officials will get moving, because they know that a sufficient number of votes will outweigh money in the final analysis. But convincing them that there are sufficient voters who support a particular position is not easy, because the big-money interests are adept at generating pseudo-"grassroots" efforts of their own, muddying the waters, and confusing the issues. However, in the end a real citizen initiative, if sufficiently powerful and widespread, will win through.

No comments: