Saturday, February 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Progressive Voters

As a registered Democrat, I feel that I can speak as a member of the family. But as a relatively recent convert from Republican and then Independent voter status, I can speak with an outside perspective.

One of the most obvious problems you have is that Democrats have no party loyalty, and trying to get all of you to point in the same general direction at once is like herding all of those silly cats everybody is always failing to keep in one group.

Yes, I know, there are so many groups that call themselves Democrats that they all have different agendas, but that is why I am using the term “progressive voters” in this letter. All of you should be agreeing on one thing: beating the Republican Party and preventing them from getting into office is the number one priority, that should override every single other issue you may have.

But you don’t. You still are capable, in a fit of pique, of staying home and away from the polls to punish the President for not being as left wing as you are.


Almost every single crazy right wing bill sidelining women’s rights, targeting labor unions, making religion an official part of various governments’ activities, the impending shutdown of the Federal government and what will certainly turn out to be a two year gridlock of government at the Federal level is due to to an increased testosterone level in Republicans’ political activities that is virtually certain to be traced back to their being convinced that they won the 2010 elections because more people are thinking like them.

And they are able to think like this BECAUSE TOO DAMN MANY OF YOU STAYED HOME!

If you had gone to the polls and voted as you did two years ago, chances are that the Republicans’ wins in 2010 would have been much more diluted, if not much fewer and further between. It would have been much harder for them to claim some victory out of the whole thing if you’d just gone to the polls and voted for Democratic candidates.

But, that is water under the bridge, and can’t be changed.

What can be done is to get yourselves together to fight everything the Republicans are doing, everywhere! There is everything to win and a hell of a lot to lose.

I have some suggestions.

First, every progressive voter should, after finishing this essay, pick up the phone and call the White House. Urge President Obama to get on Air Force One and fly straight to Madison, Wisconsin, put on a pair of walking shoes and join the protestors in fighting this nasty, unconscionable attempt to destroy union power in the United States. Remember, it is your livelihood the Republican are trying to attack. And by destroying the unions, they will also destroy your Party’s ability to affect national elections in a major way. Which is their purpose!

Second, if you are a private sector employee who has no pension, a lousy health insurance policy and what you consider a poor salary compared with other people in other companies doing the same job, call a union. Seriously, CALL A UNION! If your complaint about public sector employees is that they have better pensions, health insurance and a better chance of keeping their jobs, CALL A UNION! Don’t help the Republicans destroy the livelihoods of others out of jealous spite, do something about your own poor situation!

Third, join other progressive voters in organizing for the next elections. Organize for elections at all levels, local, State and Federal. All over the country, elections are held every year at all of the various levels, and it is important - very important - that progressives get elected at all levels.

Fourth, at every opportunity, when faced with the insanity of the right wing, respond! Write letters to the editor, write your Congressional Rep and Senators, even if they are, no, especially if they are, Republicans. Let them know that they are opposed, that you think they are wrong. Be respectful but write them! Post on web sites where comments are allowed, talk to your friends, do anything you can to get out the progressive vote! Don’t let the right wing crazies get away with their insanity!

Fifth, VOTE!! It doesn’t matter whether the progressive candidate is perfectly in line with your political views or if he’s recently made you angry by ignoring your personal issue, if he is a Democrat, and the only other choice is Republican, vote for the Democrat! Don’t stay home, VOTE!

The alternative is to allow the conservative, religious fundamentalists to win.

And if they win, democracy loses, as we’ve seen clearly in Wisconsin.


Bill Creasy said...

I often think that what the media calls a "ground swell" or "tsunami" of changing opinion in the electorate doesn't have anything to do with anyone who actually changes their minds. It only involves a small minority of people who stay home on election day, giving the election to the other side.

Anonymous said...

"One of the most obvious problems you have is that Democrats have no party loyalty" [...]

Most Democratic Party members care far less about the party than doing the right thing, which I don't see as a problem at all. If we wanted party loyalty, we'd be Republicans.

Other than that, I agree with you. :)

Vincent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vincent said...

As Will Rogers famously quipped: "I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

I think a bigger question is why are Republicans so unified? They weren't always that way. There used to be sub-groups in the Republican party. One of them even nominated Horace Greeley for president the same year the Democrat party nominated Horace Greeley for president, making him the only politician in history to run for President as a Republican and Democrat in the same election (which he lost anyway).

I agree with Anonymous though, that most progressive voters are interested in doing the right thing, and don't always agree with what the right thing is. You apparently think it's choosing the lesser of two evils, but when you choose the lesser of two evils you are still choosing an evil.

So why do Republicans vote so monolithically?

(disclosure, I've never been a member of any political party)

arensb said...

I only began to pay attention to politics around 1980, and I've never been much of a history buff, but I believe the Republican party in the 19th century was a very different entity from the one we know today.

As I understand it, one of the things that happened during the Reagan years was that the Republican party attracted conservative religious voters, who had previously been divided between the major parties.

And in my experience, conservative religion and authoritarianism go well together. A lot of people are comfortable being part of an organization that provides structure, direction, and hierarchy, and churches are glad to oblige. (I suspect that this also explains why so many soldiers are conservative.)

The progressive movement, on the other hand, tends to have a lot more "non-joiners" or independent (or contrarian) thinkers, in my experience. So they're much harder to herd.

So in very broad terms, conservatives are more likely to go out and vote (and vote a certain way) because someone in authority told them to, whereas when liberals vote a certain way en masse, it's because they've all independently arrived at the same conclusion.

rwahrens said...

"You apparently think it's choosing the lesser of two evils, but when you choose the lesser of two evils you are still choosing an evil."

I said nothing about lesser evils. I simply noted that in punishing the president for not being progressive enough is being short sighted and is ultimately punishing this country by allowing the conservatives to win.

If you care about doing the right thing, think LONG TERM. Stop thinking single issue like so many folks do, and balance the issues together.

I feel sorry for you if you think a progressive President is an evil even if compared to the Republican Party. Personally, I don't think there is any possible comparison between the two.

In politics, sometimes that IS the only choice, but not today.

Kevin I. Slaughter said...

I find it regrettable that this blog has turned into a "get out the vote for the Dems" propaganda vehicle.

Don Wharton said...

Kevin, If there are reasonable conservative positions out there I would love to have them shared here. Our mission is to provide a forum for all varieties of secularism and there are certainly some that see a more conservative position as rational and reasonable. We cannot find what is real without having a debate with all sides providing the evidence for their positions.

rwahrens said...


If you've got an opposing view, PLEASE write something up and submit it to Don. I'd love to have a debate!

Kevin I. Slaughter said...

I was tempted to write a response to Susan Jacoby's egregious hit-piece on the secular right bloggers at:

There are so many errors, and it reinforces the idea to me that politics trump skepticism.

I get it... most people in the athiest/skeptic camp are liberals.

I've literally been told point blank that you cannot be a skeptic and anything but a Democrat. This was at a Baltimore Skeptics Meetup group.

What's the point in talking to someone who makes such an obviously false statement in the name of skepticism?

In the comments of the Jacoby article, I see:

"The term conservative atheist is an oxymoron. Libertarians and objectivists still believe in things that can't be proven and in fact are demonstrably false. They might as well believe in ghosts and fairies for all the logic and critical thinking they bring to a subject."

Sure, these are individual comments, but as anecdotes, they do reflect a level of deep seated bigotry toward those who aren't modern liberal.

I'm tired of the pretense from so many very smart atheists and skeptics that their political opinions are based on reason and science. I'm sure some can be argued based on scientific understanding, but Jacoby's claim that Adam Smith's metaphorical "invisible hand" is somehow akin to
the belief in a supernatural being is insincere at best.

On the CFI messageboards, this thread was interesting:

In short....

CFI Results (Mean CFI Score:
Economics Left/Right: -5.4
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.4

Economic Left/Right: 3.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 0.92

I'm not a Republican. I don't really care for the party. I like the Dems less though. I'm at odds with certain principals of the Libertarians, but I've used it as an "easy answer" when I've needed it.

I'm constantly at odds with Atheists and Skeptics whenever topics veer away from religion, popular science, etc.


Kevin I. Slaughter said...

OF COURSE there are "conservative" positions that can be derived from a scientific worldview and acceptance of a godless existence, just as there are "liberal" or "progressive" positions that people come to after consideration of the facts presented to them.

Skeptics often fail to their own biases because they believe they are right. If I'm to accept the idea that the "feeling of belief" is separate from the actual validity of those beliefs, then I have to assume that all skeptics will at some point stumble over this neurological quirk.

Jacoby says: "they haven't been reading the comments on this blog, where angry, godless right-wing men regularly take me to task for being a sentimental woman who won't accept the junk science, directly descended from 19th-century social Darwinism and Ayn Rand's "objectivism", which maintains that the wretched of the earth deserve their wretchedness and the rich are rich because they are truly 'the fittest.'
...I see little difference between right-wing atheists today and the right-wing social Darwinists of the 19th century (most of whom were also atheists), who distorted Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by means of natural selection in a state of nature and applied natural selection to man in a state of civilization."

1. Ironically enough, I was in the room during a speech GIVEN by one of the bloggers she's attacking when they said: "If there is a prize awarded in Hell for the coining of phrases that lead men into gross error, Spencer must be the winner in the nineteenth century division for having given us the phrase "survival of the fittest." The subtle and fruitful notion of Darwinian fitness, which you actually need a lot of math to appreciate in all its elegance and explanatory power, got dragged over into economics and politics and was soon synonymous with robber barons and Nietzschean blonde beasts."

2. That she feels the need to say "angry, godless right-wing men". This is a socially loaded phrase now, carrying on in the liberal tradition of painting the right as a bunch of "angry white males" (Jacoby left out the "white" that is usually a standard component). But aren't I to understand that most active "godless" folks are white men? The constant egalitarian handwringing on panels at conventions and blogs is that atheists are too white and male. Wouldn't it be logical that most of the people who are agreeing with her position are "happy, godless left-wing males"?

3. I won't even get into my disagreements with her on IQ and human biodiversity. She and I disagree.

I actually have just recently picked her "Unreason" book up second-hand, along with "Infidel" on a trip. A friend couldn't recommend it enough. I was excited to read it, but now that I've seen her be so unreasonable... it takes the shine off a bit. Hell, I've got hundreds of books I haven't read yet.

Either way, it comes down to "Cui bono". I don't know that I would benefit from discussing something that can't really be resolved in this forum (politics), and I don't care to support "progressive" politics in general - though I have published a book from a notorious Progressive/Freethinker.

So I'm torn. I was hesitant to agree to accept the offer to blog here because I didn't want to spend a lot of time and thought into something that could be taken over during the next election season to cheer-lead for the last people I want in office. Though I was quite flattered and appreciated the offer being extended!

Don Wharton said...

Kevin, I want this forum to be for all people who have respect for critical thinking. Frankly I am quite pleased to have you here. Beyond that, if I am to allow "progressive" views here it is more than fair to allow conservative views also. The purpose is to find the reality behind all the various categories of confusion that are part of the human condition.

Bill Creasy said...

The history of the American political parties is far from linear in their development. The Republican party used to be the Party of Lincoln, totally supporting civil rights after the Civil War. Then in the 1960's, Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, passed the New Society programs. Racism reared its head in the South, and many southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party in protest. The Southern Baptist Convention, the biggest evangelical Christian organization, and the televangelists like Robertson and Falwell, followed. The Republicans were happy to get the votes, and they began to cater to the Religious Right.

So although the Republicans used to be for free market economics and fiscal conservatism, these ideas have been getting lip service. They are now pro-big business and pro-religion, because that is where they are getting the money and the votes. It's basically impossible to support the Republicans without getting the Religious Right policies (anti-abortion, Creationism in education, abstinence sex education, etc.)

Because of that, I agree that it's very hard to be a Republican as a secular humanist or atheist. Republicans simply won't listen to secular ideas. We may not agree with Democrats on all the issues, but at least they will listen to ideas. It is important to consider each issue by itself and not accept a Democratic Party line or be blindly loyal. In some ways, Democrats are more fiscally conservative than Republicans are. But at least with the Democrats we may be listened to.

Don Wharton said...

Bill, thank you for a most thoughtful comment. I recall that Lyndon Johnson upon signing his first major civil rights bill voiced the opinion that the South was lost to the Democratic Party for a generation. It was an enormous act of courage for him to do that with the full knowledge of the racist reaction that would benefit the Republican Party.

That racism has continued with the absurd Republican approach to anything reforming our immigration policy. When America has financed the education of a nominally illegal child immigrant and that child achieves either two years of higher education or two years of military service with an honorable discharge then those are people who can make a disproportionally positive contribution to our country. The Dream Act would have created a win/win strategy for a small number of the best of the no documentation immigrants. The Republicans are not willing to do what is best for our country because they imagine that these people will be supporting the Democratic Party.

Another major problem with the Republican Party is that they reject the well established science on global warming. Somehow they think that current over reliance on a diminishing fossil fuel resource is better than funding a needed move to renewable energy. It serves the interest of politicians who are corrupted by campaign contribution which are littler better than out and out bribery. That bribery will in part result in turning the future markets for energy technology over to the foreign countries that have the intelligence to invest in them. From what I can tell these markets we will be able to provide energy that is on average less expensive than fossil fuel energy is less than ten years. Properly sited wind energy is already the least cost energy source.