Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Rant of a Frustrated Democrat

I have consistently said that Christians’ first loyalty should not be to any nation, political party, or cause, but to God and the Rule of God.  I am a registered member of the Democratic Party by default: my political philosophy is closer to the Greens, but we need real electoral reform before 3rd parties can be effective in the U.S. system.  But I am a frustrated Democrat.  In the past week, I have gone from moments of pride in my Party to moments of profound embarrassment and shame–often on the same day.

Reasons for Democrats to hold our heads high:

  • WE have consistently attended all minority fora and have tried to give more than lip service to racial/ethnic diversity in the party and to working for racial/ethnic equality in the country.  You haven’t seen Univision forced to cancel any Democratic debates before a Latino audience. (Univision had to cancel such a forum for the GOP because only John McCain showed up.) You haven’t seen 4 empty podiums at any Democratic forum at a historic black university as happened this week for the GOP since the 4 GOP frontrunners (Giuilani, Romney, McCain, and Thompson) all had “scheduling conflicts.” Fmr. Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) had it right when he said, that he was embarrassed for the nation, his party, and for the 4 no-shows.  Question: If Republican voters nominate one of those no-shows, does this mean they believe they can ignore non-white voters?
  • At the New Hampshire Democratic debate earlier this week, I was thrilled that when Tim Russert gave the standard “ticking time bomb” scenario (so beloved by Jack Bauer fans), NONE of the Eight Democratic Presidential candidates would use that scenario to justify torture.  What a contrast: When that same question was handed to the Republican candidates earlier in the year, only John McCain–once tortured as a POW–refused to justify torture.  What a great contrast!
  • Only 4 House Democrats voted against the expansion of S-CHIP. Every Senate Democrat voted to expand S-CHIP.   This was a bi-partisan bill (indeed, the program was started by Republicans during the Clinton era!), but enough Republicans in the House voted with Bush’s compassionless conservatism to keep it from being vulnerable to Bush’s veto.

Reasons to be embarrassed to be a Democrat:

  • The Democratic leadership in Congress has not used its full muscle to end the war in Iraq.  It could refuse to pass any appropriations bill that doesn’t include a rapid timetable for withdrawal. Without appropriations, one has to bring the troops home anyway.  The Senate could make the GOP really filibuster and thus have to defend their votes against ending the war –as they are caught on camera.  They could impeach Bush and Cheney.  They could subpoena records on all war contracts and investigate and prosecute the war profiteers, beginning with Blackwater and Haliburton.  They could stop this war if they were serious.
  • That the leadership of the Senate and House even allowed the stupid “let’s condemn a newspaper ad” resolutions even get to the floor shows an inability to play hardball on things that matter.
  • Passage of the Kyl-Liebermann amendment, even after it was stripped of its most egregious language, still marches us closer to war with Iran.  Congressional Democrats are not showing much more resistance to this push toward war with Iran than they did to the similar 2002 propaganda blitz that got us into the Iraq quagmire.
  • At the same Democratic presidential debate that showed all 8 candidates stand up to torture, the 3 “top tier” candidates, those with the best chances of winning the nomination and the White House, would not commit to having all U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2013! What the !@#$% Yes, that’s right: When asked directly, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and even John Edwards failed to promise to have all U.S. troops out in FIVE MORE YEARS! Unless we citizens work to turn this around, Bush’s dream of a perpetual occupation of Iraq no matter who is in the White House will be a reality!  I am writing each of these “frontrunners” and telling them that this is not acceptable.

So, you see why I am frustrated.  The only Democratic candidates who are really for peace, Kucinich and Richardson, seem to have no chance of getting elected.  The “electable” 3 promise change in one sentence and give us more of the same old !@#%% in the next.

Concluding Unscientific Postscript: Military types like to talk about “battles for the hearts and minds” of a civilian populace.  In the same way, I have talked about the struggles within the Church(es) for the heart and soul of faith–between fundamentalism and prophetic faith.  In the U.S., there is also a struggle for the soul of our nation (nation does not equal either government or state)–about what kind of people we will be.  The same is true within both of the major political parties.  We who are Democrats are struggling over our very identity:  Are we cynics–corporate “pragmatists” who are sold out to big business globalism, lobbyists, and militarists– who struggle only for a “kinder, gentler” corporatism? I submit that is the vision of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the people who brought us the first Clinton admin.–the James Carvilles, George Stephonopolises, Rahm Emmanuels, Thomas Friedmans, Joe Bidens, and, of course, both Clintons. These are the triangulators.  The alternative vision, long in eclipse in the Democratic Party, but struggling to be resurgent is the vision of social equality and community, of power harnessed only for the common good.  This is the vision that incorporates the best of the New Deal, the evolving Bobby Kennedy at the time of his assassination , Jimmy Carter’s serious commitment to human rights and Al Gore’s to stopping catastrophic climate change.  This is the vision of a Democratic Party that wants to wipe out poverty. 

I want to belong to this second vision, but it is frustrating because the struggle goes on within Party leaders as well as between them–One sees both in both Obama and Edwards, for instance, and one never knows which will gain the upper hand. Is the secret of Hillary Clinton’s double digit lead in the polls that we already know what we get with her (the DLC, corporate clone Democrat), so we can’t be disappointed? (Depressing thought.) The second vision will succeed only if it lives most among the people–and we push whatever leaders we get to be more progressive, less corporate controlled, than they would be without that pressure.

We are the people for whom we’ve been waiting. It’s up to us.

September 28, 2007 - Posted by | U.S. politics


  1. I was kind of embarassed by the lame answers to “What is your favorite verse of Scripture” question.

    I don’t think any of them actually quoted Scripture or cited verse. Oh wait, maybe Obama did. I forget now.

    True, this has little to do with running the country, but I was expected a bit more from those claiming to have a deep connection to their faith.

    Comment by jmeunier | September 28, 2007

  2. Michael,

    If I may, let me add one more reason to be frustrated.

    If the democratic leadership is going to allow debate on meaningless resolutions about newspaper ads, then why not debate a resolution condemning the horrendous treatment of the student at U of Florida? If they want to puff out their chests and adopt a cause that makes them look tough on terror, how about this quasi-fascist incident at a public forum?

    When I saw this event on-line, I thought to myself, “What country am I living in?” To me, the silence on this matter is deafening. It makes me think that a Democrat in the White House won’t be much different from a Republican. I’m still going to vote. But, I do so grudgingly.

    Thanks for your rant. I appreciate it.

    Grace and peace,


    Comment by Emily Hunter McGowin | September 28, 2007

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