Tortured Argument from a Straight Talker: On Democrats, Progressives and Centrists

I’m in the middle (or hopefully, at the end) of a much more involved debate than I was expecting on Twitter with a fellow named Milt Shook, who operates a blog called, colorfully enough, Please…Cut the Crap. It’s on a topic that is bound to get a reaction from me: the question of whether progressives harm Democrats’ chances with centrists and other purported persuadables by criticizing the party’s standard bearers. He puts his case in a nutshell in the last graph of an article he calls “Stop Complaining About Dems. In 2014, Voters Will Still Only Have 2 Choices: Them or Disaster“:

Voters have two choices every November, and these days, the choice is between competence and disaster. When you trash “the Democrats” mercilessly, the Republicans gain. And if you don’t think we lose when Republicans gain, then you haven’t been paying attention. And we cannot allow 2014 to become just like 2010. We really can’t afford it.

Shook’s central point, it seems to me, is that the system may be severely flawed, but it’s the only one we have, therefore, progressives need to make peace with that and work with the one of only two (face it) parties most closely resembling (vaguely) a progressive one. Here’s how he puts it himself a the beginning of this post:

I know many of the people who read this blog would love to see a “third party” pop up. Unfortunately, our system is built in such a way that all a third party does is weaken one of the other two. This is why the progressive movement keeps failing; we keep hoping for things that can’t happen, and we look down on those things that can happen.

It’s important for everyone to realize that elections are the most important element in a democratic republic. They are the linchpin for everything. Marching and occupying is not, in itself, an expression of democracy. If such activism is not followed by effective campaign strategy that puts the best available people in office every single time, then it’s pretty much worthless.

That phrase is key. The BEST AVAILABLE candidate. In a democracy as diverse as ours, the best available candidate will almost never be far left, unless he or she represents a full-on left district. Sorry.

We might call Shook a “good-enough” progressive (since he identifies himself as a progressive and not a moderate–we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt). He sees the same rickety representative democracy we all see, the same crappy candidates, the same ineffectual institutions; but unlike his fellow lefties, he knows there’s no use breathing even a word of complaint against any of it (except the part to the left of him, perhaps). You might as well complain against the weather or our impending deaths. It’s written before we’re here. It’ll be here after we go. Roll with it, Henry.

It seems reasonable to ask Shook why he bothers to complain about progressives complaining about Democrats. Hasn’t that been going on (in some form or other) since the dawn of American political time as well? I think our friend Shook is concerned that we’re due for a repeat of 2010, which, I’ve just had confirmed by him on Twitter, he believes was “100%” the  fault of progressives rather than of any given Democrat:

I was a progressive working for a Dem in GOP district. I blame progs 100% for 2010.— Milt Shook (@MiltShook) April 16, 2013

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This Is What #Democracy Looks Like: John Lewis and #OccupyAtlanta

"They really didn't deny me," Lewis said.

One thing The New Republic, in its dismissal of the #OccupyWallStreet movement, misled its readers about regarding the John Lewis incident at Occupy Atlanta, and one thing anyone who doesn’t watch the video, painful as it may be, will miss: The General Assembly did not “groupthink” Lewis away, which would imply that the decision was, like the Washington crowd’s bullheaded decision to go to war in Iraq, assumed by everyone present to be a reasonable fait accompli. On the contrary, there was a strong pro-Lewis contingent among the Assembly–so strong that after the facilitator ruled that no consensus had been reached, a chant of “Let him speak!” rose up.

You can see for yourself if you watch the video below, which I recommend, especially to anyone prejudiced into a negative opinion about the Atlanta occupation’s impoliteness. You may draw the same conclusion, but it’s important to be accurate about what really happened there: An agenda had been previously agreed to, Lewis was requesting to interrupt it, and, according to the agreed upon Assembly rules, changing the agenda required “consensus,” which the Assembly was unable to reach.Therefore, the previously agreed to agenda remained in effect and Lewis was unable to interrupt. Lewis himself humbly accepted the Assembly’s decision. Continue reading