3/10/2005

David Sirota: Note to Dems

From his blog:
There's been a lot of vitriol lately coming from the political Establishment aimed at progressives and the grassroots elements of the Democratic Party. Despite Democrats' now assuming a seemingly permanent-minority position, it seems progressives are shunned or vilified anytime they speak up about how sellouts who claim to be Democrats are a big part of the party's problem.
Believe me - you should see the email I've gotten for having the nerve to point out that the Democratic Leadership Council and the New Republic are making their name these days reinforcing conservative's dishonest stereotypes, and shamelessly attacking the Democratic Party. You should see the nastiness (both private and public) directed at me when I've proposed alternative, constructive ideas that have been tested in the heartland. Most of the email from outside Washington has been laudatory, but there has been some of it from within the Washington media/political Establishment that has been harsh (don't worry, I take it as a compliment).
You see, the conventional wisdom among the class of political elites that helped drive Democrats into the ground is that progressives should just shut up and continue playing dead as right-wing forces speak in our name. Worse, they say progressive grassroots elements of the left should be purged from the Democratic Party because the cocktail party elites in Washington know what's best. That, they say, is the way for Democrats to win back the majority.
Let me be crystal clear in where I come down on this one: a person who describes themselves as a Democrat or a “liberal/progressive”, yet who advocates purging the grassroots while pushing a right-wing agenda on fundamental issues is just as dangerous - if not more dangerous - to both the progressive movement and the Democratic Party's long term viability than any Republican. Why? Because they use the guise of speaking for the Democratic Party to attack it, giving those attacks a false sense of credibility, when in fact they speak for no one except the tiny cadre of insulated snobs who barely ever travel more than 5 miles outside of Washington, D.C.
Because of this insular Establishment, the Democratic Party is now at rock bottom. Yet the same Establishment that got us here now rails against progressives, parrots right-wing language, and reads the grassroots the riot act. Are we really supposed to just shut up and take it? No. Its time to finally have the debate between the Establishment and the progressives they demonize, and its time for us progressives to not FEAR having that debate, no matter what the tired old pundits and political consulting class says about it being "counter-productive." The fact is, the conservative Establishment is the one most viciously engaging in these attacks. And they believe they - AND ONLY THEY - have the exclusive right to attack their opponents, and to ruthlessly call for purges of the party. Standing up against this kind of behavior and this weakening of the Democratic Party's principles is anything but “counter-productive” – it is vital to the future of the progressive movement and the Democratic Party’s long-term viability itself.
Again, this is not about just railing on the Establishment just because it is fun. It’s far more important than that – it’s about reconnecting the Democratic Party with its working class roots, and thus bringing it back into the majority. That means having the guts to look at the current situation honestly, instead of constantly pretending there's no problem. It’s about calling out the sellouts for what they are because they hurt the cause, instead of pretending everyone is "on the same team." It's about admitting there's a problem when when people who claim to speak for liberals/progresives are being promoted by the far-right.
Remember, just because you call yourself a "Democrat" or on the "left" or a "liberal/progressive" doesn't mean you really represent the party of the working class, and doesn't mean you are on the same team as everyone else. The recent Democratic votes on bankruptcy and class action reform, for instance, should make that point loud and clear. If those examples don't make the point, then just think back to how Zell Miller referred to himself as a Democrat, even as he took the stage at the Republican National Convention.
So to all my friends in the Establishment who think they can push the grassroots and the progressives around, I say, fine, have at it. But quit behaving like a pathetic bully who pushes people around, and then cries when we fight back. Stop your crying and instead start shaking in fear, because you know very well how your leadership has driven the Democratic Party into the ground over the last decade, and you hear the footsteps of change coming.

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