I knew I was going to have to quote this again at some point in the near future. It came up during the mid-term elections. It came up during the 2008 elections. It always comes up. A rift starts within the liberal demographic, among people who believe in most of the same things, but who approach voting very differently. In the comments on this post and this post, I’m having to explain the very real consequences of protest-voting for non-viable third parties or not voting at all, if that opens the door for one of the ideologues the GOP is running for president. Amanda Marcotte is over at Pandagon having to explain to some of her readers that, yes, elections actually do have consequences, yes it does matter which party is in power, especially when it comes to Supreme Court appointments, and yes, Roe is in danger. Right now!
Has the Democratic party or President Obama done everything we’ve wanted and tied it up with a bow for us? Heavens, no. Has he been perfect in every way? No. I can give you a list of things about the Obama administration that have pissed me off. However! This is the American political system, for the foreseeable future:
We have exactly two viable parties. One is a centrist party dotted with a few true progressives here and there. The other one has been taken over by far right ideologues with no regard for the future of this country, no regard for minorities, no regard for the widening gap between the haves and the have nots, and a neo-conservative foreign policy worldview that has done great damage over the past decade, at home and abroad. We do not have a parliamentary system where lesser parties actually have a voice when they lose.
We also still face a lot of problems in this country, and none of us can afford to be single-issue voters. The actual meaning of liberalism is that we vote and support that which brings about the greatest good for the greatest number of people in this country. And we have to work with the system we have, rather than the one we might wish we had.
So, in that spirit, I will again quote from what is perhaps my favorite blog post ever, written by TBogg, in response to a dead-end Nader voter in 2008:
Let me see if I can explain it this way:
Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.
You don’t live there.
Grow the fuck up.
I will bring that quote out as many times as I feel like between now and the 2012 election, because it sums it up so simply.
We lost the House for myriad reasons in 2010, but let me tell you something: when the Obama administration announced it would no longer be defending DOMA in court, the Republican-led House jumped up and down and said “We will!” Guess what the Democrats, who I’m quite sure are awful, terrible, secretly homophobic, and whatever else is mixed into the fever dream these days, would have done in that situation? Nothing. They would have said, “Cool, let’s go do something else.” When Teabaggers swept across the country and took over state legislatures from coast to coast, what did they do? They immediately started screwing with unions, women’s reproductive rights and everything else. Elections. Have. Consequences.
So, please, vote however you need to vote as we move toward the 2012 election. But please, please, please: vote based on the system we actually have, rather than the one we might wish to have.