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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.

Democrats caught in an eddy of American politics

Democrats caught in an eddy of American politics

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.

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10 thoughts on “Democrats’ lament spins uselessly like an eddy in the river of politics

  1. One must also take into account that the elections results do not reflect the electorate. How often have Democratic candidates won the popular vote and the exit polls, but not the prize? What with redistricting, jerrymandering, voter-machine anomalies, fewer machines and longer lines in minority districts, culling of registration lists, and, especially in the southern states, restrictions on voting, at least some of that energy might be used to make sure the wishes of the majority are reflected in election results.

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    • Good point. The GOP has a large bag of “dirty tricks” in their arsenal which they’ve used aggressively since taking over in 2010: myriad forms of voter suppression, election shenanigans (if not outright fraud), unabashed gerrymandering, and the infamous Bush v. Gore U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that for all practical purposes constituted a coup d’état.

      However, hardball political tactics on the part of Republicans does not alleviate the Democratic Party of the responsibility to represent the interests of their base. In this, they have largely failed as evidenced by the growing ideological schism between party leadership and grassroots progressives which is contributing significantly to declining voter turnout trends.

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  2. why are the democrats not going out to vote?
    A few days ago i read something that I felt was profound; the author was asking if one feels their vote doesn’t count, they should ask themselves why so much money is spent to get it. Though I am cynical about our elections or most for that matter, I think people must get out to vote

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    • What you read a few days ago is what I would describe as a truism – something so obvious that it shouldn’t even need to be said. That it does often need to be said these days leads directly to your question.

      The political and sociological factors which are causing this worrisome downward trend in voter turnout are complex, myriad, and have been detailed extensively on this blog over the past few years. The shortest answer I can give is this:

      The Democratic Party leadership (i.e. the Obama/Clinton wing of the party) has largely abandoned the progressive ideology of its base supporters in favor of a technocratic, globalist, and corporatist agenda. Feeling betrayed, disaffected, and disillusioned, this populist base is increasingly seeing no reason to vote.

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