By Robert A. Vella
Think of politics as a river. It meanders gently when the water pressure from upstream inflows is low, and rages like a torrent when the inflow pressure is high – such as from heavy rainfalls or snowmelts. Even during its most violent outbursts, a river sprouts turbulent whirlpools downstream from large obstacles like boulders, and spinning eddies near the shoreline. Fallen leaves in autumn can get caught in these eddies, circling around aimlessly and endlessly.
Following yet another electoral whipping at the hands of Republicans, Democratic Party lament seems just as aimless and endless as a fallen leaf caught in an eddy. Their inwardly focused consternation serves no useful purpose, nor does it point towards the logical exit of the eddy – getting back into the main flow of the political river.
Instead, Democrats’ lament is expressing itself in one of two forms. The first – the everything-is- rosy meme – chooses to ignore the wholesale takeover of state and local politics in America by the Republican Party while cherry-picking and emphasizing the very few successes won by Democrats in an otherwise embarrassing defeat. This optimistic viewpoint also chimes repeatedly about the impending demise of the GOP, its visibly warring factions, and the clown show that showcases its terrible presidential candidates. The second form of Democratic lament – expressed by the if-only-crowd – goes something like this: if only President Obama would campaign in our districts, if only our voters were as stalwart as Republican voters, if only our party leaders would cater to a rightward shifting electorate, if only Democratic/Independent/Republican centrists could unite to marginalize the extremists in both parties, then all would be right with the world. They have an inexhaustible supply of if-onlys… and, it all ignores the fundamental problem.
If Democrats really want to win again, they simply must break out from their self-imposed eddy and get back into the main flow of America’s new torrential political river. The comfortable days of lore are long gone. American politics is no longer a gentle meandering stream where sensible moderates in both parties debate amicably over a glass of fine wine. Life in the 21st century has become too perilous. Civilization today faces too many desperate challenges. The stakes are much too high. Everyday people are overly stressed, disillusioned with institutional stubbornness, frightened about the future, and angry about the present. They are demanding strong leadership. And, they’re not getting it… at least, not from Democrats.
Like it or not, Democrats must inevitably accept the fact that there are now two major inflow pressures filling up the river of American politics. One is determined, engaged, invigorated, and steadfastly conservative. The other is disorganized, disengaged, disheartened, and innately progressive.
One votes. The other does not.