So here we are, a mere two months before the election and a bunch of the Democratic base is mad at Democrats – not surprising since a bunch of the Democrats have publicly fought the base. Typically, the party in power loses seats during the mid-term election but since 1994’s blowout, Democrats have been more worried than usual. Their actions also show that they may even believe that this actually is the year 1994.
What the Democrats can do and what they need to do is stop being so cautious. Stop attacking the base. Stop attacking the leftmost members of the base to win votes they are not going to win, were never going to win, and could never possibly win no matter how hard they try or how many hippies they kick. No matter how many gay people they ignore. Democrats need to pay attention to their base; we’re their most excited and enthusiastic voters. You can get just about anyone to pull a lever for you but getting people to start canvassing and making calls and donating tons of their money to you for the next ten weeks is a bit harder, especially if you call them names or you’ve ignored them for most of the past two years.
Younger voters came out in enormous numbers in 2008 and signs are showing that they just aren’t that enthusiastic this year. People, and especially younger voters, want to see things get done. They don’t care how or when or why as long as it’s done by election time. Having long talks with the 18-29 year old crowd about Senate machinations and Congressional vote scheduling issues won’t accomplish much at all. Get work done. And make it good work. The health care bill was, as Howard Dean said in a video that he made for Netroots Nation ’10 "…a bill." It said "health care reform" and it was passed, therefore health care reform is passed. Except that only sounds good to politicians in Washington. People know if a bill is good or if it doesn’t help them. They can tell you when their premiums are still sky high.
My point in all this is not to disparage the Democrats, who I want to win. It’s not that I think they’re awful – in fact I think they’re the only ones doing any work at all. But that’s not a good excuse to get less accomplished and it sure as hell doesn’t sound good to voters. The point is that Democrats need to win policy fights and then, as a side effect, win political fights. It is that simple. A "bill" – just any bill – is a good short-term political victory, but policy wins cement your legacy forever. . . .
Here we are nearly two years into the Obama administration, nearly four years into a Democratic majority in Congress, and we have a whopping SINGLE gay rights bill passed and signed into law. And really, thank you for passing and signing the hate crimes law guys. I really do appreciate it. But, you know, that was discussed all throughout the ’90s and was pushed even more forcefully in 1998 when Matthew Shepard was killed. The hate crimes bill needs to be seen in that context. This may be a new fight for Democrats but it’s a long and hard-fought war for gay activists. And yet, so much more needs to be done. We have many more fights to win and it’d be nice if Democrats showed up to help.
Just yesterday, Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said that he’s worried about the bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. There’s a short window of time from September to October in which Reid should schedule a vote on the defense authorization bill containing the DADT amendment. After the election, Sarvis suggests, will not be a good time to do this. Reid hasn’t made any promises and today the SLDN issued a statement saying they’ll go wherever they have to go, they’ll lobby in Nevada or Arizona, whatever they need to do to keep holding Reid accountable for his promise to get the defense authorization bill passed.
We keep hearing from Democrats in Congress and the administration that it is a matter of "when" the policy will be repealed and not "if" the policy will be repealed, but everyone from Gates down has used the word "if." This has happened as recently as a few weeks ago. So why does it continue to happen? Why hasn’t Reid committed to a vote before the Senate breaks for the election? It’s better to pass the bill before the study is due to be completed on December first so there are no impediments involved in implementing the new regulations and the recommendations that may come from the study results.
This is a particularly easy deal here. Just schedule a vote. If it’s John McCain holding the Democrats up, run ads telling Arizona that he hates our troops and doesn’t want them to get their equipment or paychecks or food. Just stop being so damn nice to those who wish you harm.
Scottie Thomaston (indiemcemopants) is a 26-year-old Alabama blogger who has written about politics on various blogs since age seventeen. A disabled, ‘out’ gay man, his principal themes have been LGBT rights, torture, NSA spying and the challenges of disability. His pieces have appeared on Daily Kos (where he also moderates a community series on disability), Firedoglake; and on his own blog, "Ignorance is…" The quality of his writing earned him a 2010 Netroots Nation scholarship from Democracy For America and a citation in the New York Times Opinionator column. He is actively building his career as a professional new media journalist.
You can find him on Twitter: @indiemcemopants
[photo: hebe design via Flickr]