Monday, September 19, 2005

A Political Admonishment

This was a totally unproductive weekend, in more ways than one. I didn’t accomplish one thing on my mental "To-Do" list. And I got treated to a grass-roots demonstration of what is wrong with the Democratic Party.

Husband and I attended our town’s little annual festival for a couple of hours Saturday morning. The requisite food, craft, and local business/organization booths were lined up on either side of the street on a two-block stretch of "down town." Near the end of our stroll through the festival, we came across the "Columbia County Democratic Party" booth. It was manned by one sixty-ish, white-haired gentleman who looked like (and later confessed that he was indeed) an accountant. Now, I have nothing at all against accountants…my father was one. Appearance, and the nature of one’s day-job, do not necessarily disqualify one from having the passion and the knowledge to stand behind a table and be the community outreach for the second most powerful political party in the country. But, honestly, they couldn’t have found a less personable, less knowledgeable, less charismatic guy for the job if the Republicans had paid them. And maybe they did.

The whole reason we chanced an encounter with Mr. Democratic Milquetoast to begin with is a supreme annoyance: Husband had signed up at the Democrats’ booth at the County Fair, hoping to be contacted as a volunteer. And had not heard peep one from anyone in the two months since. So we stopped by the booth on Saturday so husband could re-apply to volunteer. Sort of, "Helloooo, is anybody home???" Obviously, the Democrats are making an all-out effort to win hearts and votes out here in Columbia County, Oregon.

To be fair, our congressman is a Democrat, as is our Governor and one of our senators. And Oregon’s Republican senator is actually a respectable guy. So maybe the Democratic Party at large considers us already safely in the fold, and is not expending a whole lot of energy in our direction. This is a huge mistake, and I will tell you why.

The story of my own little family (husband and I) is a great example. In 1984, we were still dutiful little Pentecostal Christians when we picked up roots, left our cozy little fellowship in suburban Chicago, and moved to Oregon. Even though we were immersed in the conservative Christian culture, I could never reconcile my liberal politics with what they preached from the pulpit…so I just stayed away from that aspect of the whole experience. I remained a "closet liberal." And I HATED Ronald Reagan. But I digress…

Come time to register to vote…wife, who had been a registered Independent in Illinois, opted to register as a Democrat. Following the reasoning that the only way to oust the current regime was to vote all Democrat, all the time. And I was truly convinced that the Democratic Party much more closely reflected my personal ideology. Husband, on the other hand, who also had been a registered Independent back in the fatherland, registered as a Republican. Maybe he truly thought that the Republicans were "God’s party." I don’t know. So, for the next twelve years, our votes cancelled each other out.

I guess Bill Clinton is responsible for turning my husband around. Not just Clinton’s capabilities as president, but his victimization by a rabid Republican Party determined to overturn the will of the voters by hook or by crook. The last four years of Clinton’s presidency got husband looking somewhere besides the divisive Republicans for leadership. The first four years of the Bush II regime sent him high-tailing it to the Democrats. Score one back-door victory for the donkeys.

I, on the other hand, as someone who turned to the Democrats twenty years ago looking for a party that represented and advocated my personal ideals, have been nothing but supremely frustrated over the past five years. The 2000 election was highway robbery, and the 2004 election was a grossly unfunny joke. The Bush Administration, with its core constituency consisting of war hawks, blind nationalists, right-wing Christians, and quivering cowards willing to trade civil rights for "security", have taken this country, I am convinced, to the edge of the abyss. Anyone, besides Bush’s big-business beneficiaries, who can say that they or our nation are better off now than they were five years ago, is living in some kind of brain-washed Neverland. And what is the Democratic Party doing about this? Have they formulated a cohesive plan? Have they searched the party for charismatic leaders that can carry their message to disillusioned Americans? Do they HAVE a message for disillusioned Americans? Have they done anything besides stand at polar opposites, feet planted firmly like, well—donkeys, against anything and everything even remotely associated with the Republican Party, just because?

Which brings me to why the complacent Democrats had best not ignore areas like little Columbia County, Oregon, where they feel secure. They need to reach out to folks like ME. The erstwhile party faithful who have been totally turned off by "politics as usual" in this country, and who are most likely to bolt if a new party or independent comes along that speaks to what we believe. Those of us who have come to realize that backing the opposite horse to the one we hate has not brought us political victory, and is not even giving us the satisfaction of feeling we have made the right moral choice. If we have to be on the losing side, we at least want to lose with someone we really believe in, with a platform and a plan that speaks to our ideals. The place, undoubtedly, where the Ralph Nader backers have been for the last two elections. I used to have nothing but disdain for Nader fans. Now, I am beginning to see their point.

Let this be a warning and a wake-up call to the Democratic Party. You cannot afford to assume. You cannot afford to let us "idealists" trickle away. Speak to our ideals, ensure our loyalty. Inspire us to vote for you, because it’s increasingly likely that a vote against the current regime will not necessarily fall in the Democrats’ column. You need to stop the bleeding.


  1. Ouch. Very good entry. I come from a family of Republicans turned Dem and I registered Democrat for the lofty reason that I couldn't stand the thought of being in the same party as Richard Nixon.

    There was a good column in the Oregonian a couple of weeks ago that gave a good argument. The thesis was that neither party really wants to spend time on the nuts and bolts of governing the country. How can we save the world if we can't save ourselves?


  2. You are a prolific writer with obvious skills in your command of our not so command-able language.  I admire your efforts.  I myself only have just began a journal of my own.  Not as easy as one might think.  I can tell it will take some practice (and willingness to accept critique) before I gain the prowess you show.

    I am not what you would consider active in politics.  I have thought of myself as a republican for a long time.  Funny thing is I have began to see more and more faults in the Republican course.  I too am agnostic, which doesn't mix well with the majority of republicans.  I believe in the rights of the individual over the rights of the masses.

    I agree with you that politics has gotten ridiculous.  The recent catastrophe of Katrina, and all the finger pointing going on, has shown both sides to be so much more interested in their image than the victims.  

    Well, thats enough comment.  Keep your passion fired up.  I will continue to visit and see what you have to say.  

  3. I remember the 1960 election.  I was just 10 years old, but Kennedy, whatever one might think of him after everything was over and done with, was electrifying.  I can remember trying to go to a friend's house to see him on tv, because we didn't have one.  Even at 10, I could tell he was witty, and I loved the sophisticated way he quipped with the reporters...and then when he was elected...Robert Frost speaking at the inauguration, Pablo Casals playing in the White House...politics seemed so interesting and vital.

    All of that is gone now.  Mostly, politics just seems shabby (I mean ethically and intellectually) and tawdry at best. I hate feeling like this.  I'd love to have a fire in the belly about something political, but one gets discouraged...and you're right, the Democratic party needs to sit up and take notice.


  4. Religion and politics, and you succeeded in making very tangible points. I salute you...

  5. You hit the nail on the head.  If you want change, you must be ACTIVE about it and not sit at home in front of a TV shouting about what you want.

  6. As a Democrat I enjoyed reading your journal.  I found your writing to be well written and share many of the same thoughts.    mark

  7. very good point, well-written