I always thought the change meme was a dangerous one. It suffers from a lack of operational definition. If you say change to ten people you will get ten different expectations of change. If you say "we're going to have a change from the past but not a radical one" you still get different views of what that is. This led to wide and high expectations from many people (again myself included) and was always going to make the failures and compromises seem more galling than normal.
The mood among many on the left (not all, surely but many) is pretty down beat. There is talk here and there about sending a message to punishing the Democrats for their failures. The thing about this meme is that it assumes that all Democrats are the same. This could not be further from the truth. We have a wide range of views in our caucus and folks like Senator Bernie Sanders should not be punished for the actions of marginal Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson or Sen. Joe "I hate the Liberals" Lieberman. Both of them are in our caucus and through their actions the whole of the party gets painted with a negative brush.
There is another problem with this meme of apathy or out right vindictive desire to punish Democrats. The weight of not voting for Dems will fall on the House of Representatives and not where the blame belongs, in the Senate. There are a total of 34 Senate races this cycle compared the to the 435 House seats that will be contested. If there is a real protest vote or a lack of turn out by Democrats the numbers say that there will be far more damage in the House than the Senate.
This matters because the House Democrats have been working for change. The watering down of everything from the stimulus to HCR to financial reform has come in the Senate not the House. If the Republicans can take control of the House then the starting point for the Senates watering down will be that much further to the right.
We don't have to guess what that would mean. We know from the statements of the Republicans who would be committee chairs that they will not want to help the middle class. They will not want to spend money on infrastructure or unemployment benefits. They will try to defund the HCR plan and are already expressing a willingness to shut down the Federal government if the President stands up to them on these issues.
Perhaps more importantly they will spend much of their time in witch hunting with a return to the thousands of subpoenas just like when President Clinton was in office. They will not spend their time on the peoples work but rather make the next two years an attempt to smear President Obama with the slightest of scandals. All this to set up the 2012 election cycle where they hope to take back the White House with the likes of Sara Palin or Tim Pawlenty
Anger is a tough thing to control. It is hot and sweet and once you get to used to it, there is a need to keep feeding it. It also tends to cloud our thinking. When one is angry it is easy to lash out and harm our own self interest. This is not the time to give in to anger and disappointment. Change takes time. Fundamental and long lasting change takes even more time and effort. The Republicans took over the House in 1994 but they did not manage the get their fondest wishes for another six years. They had the advantage of a good and growing economy for most of that time. Democrats have only had real control for four years and in that time the policies of the Republican wrecking crew have crashed our economy and left us to deal with the mess.
For those who think that things can't change without a major shift I will say that I agree. The thing is that there is no chance that casting a protest vote and having the Democrats lose power will make that more likely. We only replaced a net of 21 Representatives in 2008 and many of them were from conservative districts where the president's coattails and fired up electorate made that possible. Real change will require cycling long term conservative Democrats in the House and especially in the Senate. This means we have to show that the base is behind the Democratic candidates, even when things are tough. Any other action will just confirm what habitually nervous Dems think, namely that they have to court Republican or conservative Independent voters.
It is a crappy thing to have to support folks who we feel have let us down. It feels dirty and like compromise. But this is the wrong way to look at it. Think of it as investment in the future. By helping the Democrats keep their majorities we do two things. First off we prevent the horrible and clearly destructive policies of the radical Republicans from being the starting place for compromise (and we really should not underestimate just how damaging they can and will be) . Second we give the Democratic Party a chance to hang on and continue to flex what feeble muscle they are able to. It is the cumulative affect of the small changes that will be enacted which will get us to the goals of more liberal policy.
If we let our anger and disappointment keep us from the ballot box or from voting for Democrats then we will surely give up any chance of starting the momentum that will lead the kind of change all of us envisioned in 2008. We are not like the Republicans who are a top down and highly disciplined party. That has never been the Democratic Party way and it never will be. After all Will Rogers said
"I don't belong to an organized political party, I am a Democrat".
If we want to get change and good liberal policy out of our party we will have to do it the slow way.
So now you all have a choice. You can set your sights on change knowing that the best vehicle for it is going to be slow and frustrating or you can vote your anger and despair and let the Republicans continue to ravage this nation and trample the constitution. In this election there is no third choice. With a fired up base anything but a vote for Democrats is a de facto vote for a return of the Republicans.
The floor is yours.