Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sigh (Glenn Greenwald Edition)

Glenn's a smart guy; he does some of the best (and probably most influential) writing about civil liberties available today. So I'm a little disheartened by his post today in Salon regarding the "loyal partisan voter", because I think he's mis-diagnosing the problem. What he seems to be saying is that there's a substantial Democratic contingent that's blindly loyal to the party:

In light of that fact, ask yourself this: if you were a Democratic Party official, wouldn't you also ignore -- and, when desirable, step on -- the people who you know will support you no matter what you do to them? That's what a rational, calculating, self-interested, unprincipled Democratic politician should do: accommodate those factions which need accommodating (because their support is in question), while ignoring or scorning the ones whose support is not in question, either because they will never vote for them (the hard-core right) or will dutifully canvass, raise money, and vote for them no matter what (the Democratic base). Anyone who pledges unconditional, absolute fealty to a politician -- especially 18 months before an election -- is guaranteeing their own irrelevance. [Emphasis mine]

Maybe there's a contingent that has sworn fealty to Obama, but I really doubt that explains the behavior of the majority of people who vote Democratic. My gut is that they're just choosing the lesser of two evils. Consider the options currently available to progressive-leaning voters:

  • Vote for the Democrat
  • Vote for the Republican
  • Vote for some third party
  • Don't vote at all.

You can, like me, choose to abstain from the entire process on the grounds that it's a bloody farce, but I would guess that most progressive-ish types feel some duty to vote. An idealistic progressive might vote for a third party but, as can be seen from the pitiful percentage regularly garnered in elections by third parties, these individuals make up a small percentage of the overall electorate. Essentially the choice facing your average progressive is Republican vs. Democrat, in which case they will rationally vote Democrat because the party does occasionally throw them a bone (DADT repeal, for example).

In short it is not, contrary to what Glenn seems to be saying, necessary to invoke blind loyalty to describe the voting habits of the Democratic base. As for a potential solution to this impasse... Glenn Glenn Glenn, I kept waiting for you to say "two party system", but you never got there. Which is sad, because you could broach the subject of our fucked up political duopoly and people would actually listen to you. The solution is for people to have a viable alternative to both the Republicans and the Democrats.

I mean, really... what other choice is there? If progressives are going to vote the Democrats are the only game in town; voting for the Republicans is essentially cutting of your nose to spite your face. Democratic politicians know that, which means they calibrate their behavior to be slightly-less-bad than that of the Republicans. Until such time as a viable third party appears, be it by magic or reform of the electoral system, we've no choice but to hold our noses. No loyalty needed.

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