aleatory contract

my own personal Waterloo

Sunday, June 15, 2008

inspired by liz

i was born and raised in the democratic party. my great-grandmother worked for the party before she even had the vote, and continued working for it through the roosevelt years*. i remember my grandmother weeping for joy when clinton was elected back in 1992, because she'd lived through the hell of reagan and didn't know if she'd live to see the causes of the democrats ever recover. on my birthday that year following, which always falls on inauguration day, she gave me a teddy bear she'd named billy, and told me that 'something very important is happening, something you shouldn't ever forget'.

i didn't fully understand what that 'something' was, yet, but i remembered the election of 1988. i remember my elementary school holding a mock-election, after showing us the debates and having us study the platforms -- all of us, from the kindergarteners up. i remember that we elected dukakis in a landslide, and i remember how disturbed we were to learn that in the real election, the one that counted, reagan won.

that mock election, of course, had no bearing on the outcome of the actual election, but i remember how miserable i felt afterward, when i learned that. i hadn't quite grasped, i don't think, that our election was just a mock-election, and the feeling of disenfranchisement was strong. i remember students asking, the day after the real election, 'but didn't they count our votes?'

i was paying attention, even back in 1988. i remember coming home from daycare every night and watching McNeil/Leher News Hour as my mother made dinner. to this day, i get hungry every time i hear that intro music. i watched with her as iran-contra played out, as the anita hill scandal played out, as we went to war with iraq. i wasn't quite understanding yet what i was watching, but i remembered being upset about them, particularly about clarence thomas, and i knew that my grandmother was speaking about those things when she told me to remember.

i've been paying attention to primaries all my life. i've watched every convention for the past twenty years, and i've gone from colouring pictures of flags and donkeys during the speeches to yelling at the TV in frustration. i've read, and i've listened, and i've watched. i know what the democratic party has tried to do, and what it has failed to do, and what it doesn't care to do. i've watched it fail to live up to its promises.

i have a little donkey pin, given to me by my mother years ago. it lived in my little box of treasures all the years i was growing up. it's quite old. it may have been my grandmother's, or even my great-grandmother's. i have no desire to wear it anymore. the party has an ugly history, but i feel like the party itself has forgotten that history, and has made too many mistakes to be trusted.

i understand what it is to be a democrat. i've been one all my life. i, too, am tired of those who've only just started paying attention trying to explain to me what it means to be A Good Democrat, and i know very well that it doesn't mean 'doing whatever we tell you to do'. i've wanted to stay and fight, to try to help the party change from the inside, but my voice has less value, i think, than these newborn democrats who've wandered in and started telling me to remember my place, to make the coffee and earn the money and get out the vote while they do all the Big Important Idea Stuff. i'm tired of my own party telling me to shut up. i'm tired of being bullied by the very people who, in the same breath, insist that they're the only ones who care enough to protect me.

that's why i'm not voting for obama. that's why i'm changing my party registration, after being a D all my voting days. that's why my vote is going to mckinney, provided she gets the green nomination next month. i know that a third party can't really thrive in our political system, but i can't support the democrats any more, and they're not getting a dime from me until they bother to acknowledge my existence. if the democratic party has decided that courting moderates and conservatives while threatening everyone else is the way they want to go, fine. they can do it without me. since the democrats have stood by while roe's been rendered largely moot, and since they stood by as republicans appointed the raging crazies who sit on the Supreme Court today, i'm not likely to break down under repeated beatings with the 'OMG BUT BUT SCOTUS!' stick. please do not even try. please extend that courtesy to those who might still, or will still, vote obama.

i've also come to realise, through this process, what an outrageous jerk i was to those who didn't vote for gore in 2000. to those i might have blamed in any way for gore's loss, i offer my apology. it wasn't your duty to blindly vote for gore, and if he didn't earn your vote, he didn't deserve it. i sure as hell do blame the media, for making it unduly difficult for people to trust gore; if their presentation of his character and history influenced the votes of those who didn't support him, i'd be disappointed, but not surprised. i blame the media, in large part, for where we are today, too. the media isn't the one driving me out of the party, though. the party itself's done that.

(*and she lived in pittsburgh, and she was part of that famed machine. i know the history well. frankly, i wish we had a bit more of that populism-driven machine today.)


Anonymous Tim said...

I'm a little confused by the bit about wanting it to acknowledge your existence. I mean, they counted your vote, same as mine. Your existance as what? I can understand, sort of, not trusting the candidate, or having policy disagreements, but the existential angle I'm not seeing.

Glad to hear you saying that using SCOTUS and abortion as a wedge issue to prevent political dialog on any other issue is morally bankrupt.

Re: McKinney, how do you see her 9/11 truthiness? Is it a feature, a bug or a bum rap?

Nader as good government firebrand is something of a hero of mine, and I'm at least as bitter about the 9/11 truthers hijacking the green party as you seem to be about being excited about Obama bringing all these smelly strangers into the democratic party.

Which bit of machine politics do you wish we had? Presumably not the extortion, patronage, abuse of authority or embezzlement. There was a nice article about William Jefferson in the Washington Monthly, showing that populism driven machine politics isn't entirely dead in the democratic party. I don't see much to miss in it, though.

6/16/2008 8:19 AM  
Blogger anne said...

no, the party isn't acknowledging my existence. the party and i no longer have much in common. the metaphor drawn by an MSNBC exec in the New Yorker about keith olbermann's current behaviour: the democratic party is treating me, and those who share my views, the way an abusive man treats his lover: they assume i'll come crawling back because i've got nowhere else to go. well, i do.

disagreements on policy are part of it, but only part of it. i have no ability to shape the party, to guide it. the party has never been progressive enough for my taste, but i'm now being made to feel unwelcome in the party because of that. many interest groups are being courted by obama's DNC, but i'm not one of them. i'm simply expected to fall in line. it's insulting.

you seem to be having a difficulty understanding me which is quite similar to the difficulty the DNC has in understanding me, and people like me. i will try to clarify: in wanting a candidate who is strong on women's rights and on reproductive rights, i'm not 'playing identity politics'. it's not a 'wedge issue'. it's an issue, period. a legitimate issue. an issue at least as legitimate as those you Good Government types adore. i'm quite sick of your dismissive terming of anything to do with SCOTUS/women's rights as identity politics, tim. it's an issue which directly affects my life. i'm not preventing your dialogue, any more than you're preventing dialogue by wanting campaign finance reform. both issues are legitimate issues, and i'm frankly insulted when you speak in such a patronising way. you've done it repeatedly. you're unjustified in doing so. i might as well accuse you of playing identity politics, and since most of the people i know who are into good government just happen to be middle-class, able-bodied straight white guys, i'm about as justified in doing so as you are when you do it to me.

one thing i do respect about the history of machines: while power and money could buy a lot of influence, populism also motivated a lot of party politics, and you point to that. that i miss. there was a stronger link between the representative and the constituent. if those in elected office must be beholden to someone, it may as well be the people they represent, and not a multinational. or an ideology. i'm quite fond of populism. it does good things.

frankly, having followed the 9/11 hearings, and having paid attention for the last seven years, i see nothing wrong with calling for investigations of, well, most of the last seven years. including the 9/11 hearing. another 9/11 hearing isn't too high on my list of priorities, but i would support one. i think the anti-semitism was probably a bum rap, and i don't hold her responsible for remarks her father made.

i actually wouldn't be voting green if nader were there candidate. i find him insufferable.

i find 'smelly' a curious term to employ.

6/16/2008 5:41 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

I meant the way that the democratic blogosphere is trying to herd wayward female Clinton voters into line using threats of SCOTUS is exactly the sort of cynical, insulting use of wedge issues that I think keeps our politics so unproductive. I was trying to agree with the offense you (and Liz) were taking with the tactic, and using it to illustrate the point I've failed to communicate before. Apparently I missed.

Maybe going on at length will help with the clarity thing. I agree the actual question of reproductive rights directly effects everybodys lives. But I also agree with what I thought you were saying, that for all the noise the democratic party makes about it, they don't actually do anything to solve the issue. The approach they take to it, that it isn't a problem to be solved, but rather a tool to keep voters in line, is what makes it a wedge issue. It's very importance that makes it such an effective one. The problem isn't the issue, but the behavior of the politicians who use it cynically. The damnable thing is, that it isn't an entirely empty threat. It's just one that takes generations to play out.

So what I mean is, damn straight you're being yanked around and taken for granted as a womens rights voter in this party. I meant you're the one being stifled; what we may as well call the cultural left is taken for granted; we're 'safe votes'.

I seriously don't mean to be patronizing. You are right that I have difficulty understanding you, or rather, not you, but Clinton voters in general, obviously they're seeing things differently than I am. If I didn't care to try to understand you, and to make myself understood, I wouldn't be here. I commented because I'd been up thinking about it.

While I'm writing a magazine article here, as for identity politics, I didn't use the phras here, and I would hope I never referred to to abortion as a women's issue or identity politics, I don't think it's either. 'Identity politics' in my mouth means voting by identity regardless of policy or issue, something like Emily's List, Mormons for Romney, or my tendency to support short politicians. Different thing entirely from wedge issues. What it has in common with wedge issues is that it's used cynically by politicians to create safe votes.
Thus all the noise about only southern democrats being electable to national office. It's another vote gathering tool that, in my mind, the parties use because it's more reliable than taking a chance and trying to do something.

To be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with people voting their identity. I think what is wrong is the cynical, morally bankrupt way both parties use it to maintain power.

Basically, in a sane system, I don't think you and I would be in the same party, we want very different things from our government. In a sane system, there wouldn't be primaries. I've got nothing to say to your alienation, I've felt it my entire political life, and I still believe in it. I'm seriously disoriented being on the inside.

As for smelly, you'll have to excuse my accent. it's a general word of disapprobation in my family dialect.

My favorite Nader insufferability story is when he insisted on correcting a sesame steet song to say 'whom'. His runs for president seem like profound tragedy to me, though I'll save my thoughts on that for somewhere else.

I prefer his sanctimony to her seething anger, myself, but I can see it's a matter of taste. Both temperaments have their good sides and bad sides.

I think I agree with you down the line on McKinney, She isn't a hard-core 9/11-was-an-inside-job type, but some of her supporters are. But then, I can't really hold a politician responsible for their supporters. That gets me back to the tragedy of the Green Party, which I'll never actually post to my blog, but I'll mean to.

6/16/2008 9:36 PM  
Blogger anne said...

ah, thanks for the clarification. i'll try to respond myself when i have a bit more time later.

6/17/2008 7:46 AM  

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