Glenn Reynolds doesn’t come out and say it, but in his “The Tea Party Dominance Was Inevitable” editorial he skirts the idea, so I will just say it: The American left needs its own Tea Party movement. Ordinary Americans with leftist values need to launch an insurgency against the Democratic establishment just as the Tea Party has launched one against the Republican establishment.
The Founders well knew that the primary political dynamic in any free society was never faction against faction but the people versus the state. We have forgotten this essential insight at the heart of American governance. Distracted by the struggle of left versus right, we have let a political class form that serves no faction but itself. It is The Combine.
The Combine is the primary enemy of all Americans, left, right or orthogonal. Ordinary Americans with leftist values have a duty to fight against The Combine for what they believe is right.
The Tea Party is not just an uprising against encroaching socialism, it is an insurgency against a Republican party that has held fiscal conservatives in contempt. It is growing quite clear that the Democrat leadership has the same contempt for the people who fought hardest to elect them and that the Democratic leadership no longer truly represents most American leftists. The contempt shown by the Democratic leadership towards some of their most ardent supporters is shocking.
John Stewart justly mocked Biden for telling ordinary leftists to “stop whining”. In the same segment, he then rightly mocked Obama for berating ordinary leftists as being “irresponsible” if they fail to show up and vote like drones. Obama arrogantly demanded they do so even though many ordinary leftists believe that the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate has ignored their most important concerns.
Obama in particular seems to have adopted the most insulting tone imaginable in basically claiming that ordinary leftists are to dim too understand that it takes time to undo all the damage the Democrats claim the Republicans did. Oh, they understand perfectly well. Ordinary leftists understand all too well that it takes time to produce economic effects.
What they don’t understand is why, when the Democrats completely control the House, Senate and Presidency, they have refused to even start to fight for issues that are matters of pure government fiat, matters that could be settled with a vote and the stroke of a pen. What they don’t understand is why the Democrats have suddenly forgotten matters of “fierce moral urgency.”
Political observers are mystified over the demise of hope, with everything from the economy to health care posited as the reason, but as I’ve argued time and again, it’s the moral authority, stupid…From gay rights to executive power to war to the environment, the left increasingly believes the Obama White House lacks the moral courage to undo Bush’s radicalism. If anything, the Aulaqi case is an indication Obama will go further than Bush to “prove” his strength. When the Obama administration appeared to collude with BP to bury the Gulf spill, squandering a historic opportunity to reverse the anti-green tide, it was a moment of truth for environmentalists. Now, it is dawning on some Americans that Bush wasn’t an aberration and that a Democratic administration will also treat fundamental rights as a mere nuisance. It truly is a new (un)reality:
I personally don’t agree with 80% of the leftist agenda, but I firmly believe that ordinary leftists are justified in being angry at their lack of representation from the politicians they voted into office. The leftwing leadership: elected officials, party functionaries, activists, academics, journalists, etc. spent 2003-2008 slamming virtually everything the Bush administration did in the War on Terror, and they vowed that once in power they would undo almost everything, but once safely and overwhelmingly in power they suddenly backtracked. Anyone would be angry.
Take Gitmo. For years they declared that Gitmo was obviously illegal, inhumane, counterproductive, and completely unnecessary. They declared that closing the facility was a no-brainer. Ordinary leftists could certainly be excused for believing that, since they had years to plan, the Democratic leadership had a carefully thought out, detailed plan for closing Gitmo locked and loaded and ready to implement the day they took office.
Well, they didn’t. In fact, once in office they turned around and lectured ordinary leftists on how “complicated” the question of Gitmo was. Suddenly “no-brainer” turned into layers of complications and nuances ordinary leftists just couldn’t possibly understand. Ordinary leftists have every right to feel lied to, betrayed, used, because, quite clearly, they were lied to, betrayed and used.
Ordinary leftwing Americans who believe that Gitmo can and should be closed have every right to expect that, when they vote for politicians who claim to believe the same way, those politicians will follow through once in office. Politicians like Obama, Pelosi and Reid who seriously break faith with their most loyal supporters need to be removed from office by those self-same supporters, not only for the sake of the supporters but for the long-term health of American democracy itself.
America can survive bouts of bad policies. We have in the past, and we have done so because the people have always been able to correct themselves. If we lose the true voice of the people, even those groups of people we personally strongly disagree with, we have lost something far more critical that anything embodied in the policy debates du jour. Nothing is more dangerous than a permanent political class that little answers to the people.
The disdain that Obama et al evince towards their most ardent and idealistic supporters should send a shiver off fear up the spine of every American, because it represents a danger to us all and is not restricted to the left side of the political spectrum. Regardless of political orientation, everyone should be concerned that a powerful group of political leaders feels free to ignore the clearly stated wishes of a large block of the people who elected them.
Ordinary leftists have a greater responsibility to the American experiment than they do to the politics of the moment. If things like socialized medicine really are the best choice for America, we will get there eventually. There is always next year to try for a favored policy, but power once lost to elites may never be recovered. The integrity of the system, protected by true representation, is the greater and more necessary good.
The real lesson of the Tea Party is “clean your own house first.” Leftists need to clean house of the unresponsive elites. As fiscal conservatives have learned, “at least better than the other guys” won’t do in the long run. In the end, it won’t matter if they defeat the “corrupt” or “corporate controlled” Republican party if the Democratic party is composed of unrepresentative elites who answer to no one but their own.
Ordinary leftists have the responsibility to be as willing to attack the pillars of power in the Democratic party as the Tea Party has been to attack the pillars of power in the Republican party.
The left doesn’t need astroturf and political professionals, it needs amateur organization by real people. This is not 1965. The modes of organization have changed. They need to stop relying on centralized, top down, professional organizations like academics, unions and activist groups and instead create decentralized organizations of equals who can drive the change they want to see within the Democratic party.
It is time for the Democratic party to return to its pre-’60s roots, to become not a movement for the common people but a movement of the common people. It will be a hard fight.
Lefties, get to work. America is counting on you.