Sorry Progressives, But Politics is About Math

Chalkboard with Math ProblemFellow blogger and friend Bob Lord posted a thoughtful dissertation on the disappointment many Arizona Progressive Democrats feel towards a pair of our Democratic members of Congress, whom I am convinced are listening to political operatives rather than their own conscience and beliefs. In Defense of Stay st Home Progressives.

I admire the fact that Bob has retained his idealism. Idealists are a necessary moral compass.  I agree with much of Bob’s analysis and I have made many of the same arguments to Democratic politicians over the years. But I must dissent from Bob’s conclusion.

The title of his post is  most unfortunate: “stay at home Progressives” (Bob clarifies in the comments to his post that “The term ‘stay at home’ is technically not accurate, because it’s referring to progressives who simply abstain in one or more races based on principle, but otherwise vote.” This is strategic voting, not “stay at home.”)

I firmly believe that every U.S. Citizen has a civic duty to vote. I have voted in every election since I turned 18 (for younger readers, this was back in the age of dinosaurs when there were still Liberal Republicans who were pro-choice and marched for the Equal Rights Amendment, and conservative Southern “boll weevil” Democrats not far removed from the Tea Party today).

I have been posting about The Democratic ‘mid-term falloff’ problem because I want you to vote. Anything that remotely suggests you should not vote is not helpful nor welcome, especially with respect to the all-important statewide races for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, corporation commission, and your legislative races. I know that this was not Bob’s intention.

Some of my best friends have on occasion said that I am a “cynic;” I prefer “pragmatist.” I simply have been at this for far too long, and have seen too much. My idealism, like brass, has tarnished and lost its luster over time.

Politics is about math. When discussing Congress, the only question that matters is “Can you get to 51 in the Senate, and get to 218 in the House?”

This simple mathematical formula is what a political party needs to control the leadership of the legislative chambers. It is also the mathematical formula to pass a bill by simple majority vote.

Democrats cannot do either by not electing more Democrats to Congress. Love ’em or hate ’em, every Democrat you elect to Congress will caucus with the Democrats, which means control of the leadership of the legislative chambers. This is critical. Leadership decides which bills come to the floor, and which do not.

For example, there has been much reporting since the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill last summer that there are enough Republican votes in the House along with Democratic votes to pass the bill, but the “Worst. Speaker. Ever.” will not bring the bill up for a vote because he fears losing his speakership in a revolt by the nativist and racist Tea Party wing of his own party. If Democrats controlled the House, the immigration reform bill would have been enacted last year and already in effect. “Mission accomplished.”

A Democratic majority also means that the occasional deviation from leadership supported bills by “blue dog” Democrats is largely inconsequential; this is what is sometimes referred to as “safety votes.” (What our two Arizona “blue dog” Democrats did with their recent votes to hold Lois Lerner of the IRS in contempt, and to authorized a witch hunt select committee on #Benghazi! were not “safety votes” by definition. The votes are indefensible.)

Electing more Republicans, or enabling more Republicans to be elected by not voting for a Democrat, is simply an act of political suicide. For examples of what radical Tea-Publican majority control of government looks like, see the state legislatures of Kansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia — and our own Arizona. Do you really want to see “the meth lab of democracy” replicated in Congress? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Remember, this is not your father’s GOP. These are radical extremists who are anti-government, anti-democracy, indeed anti-America: they want a theocratic corporatocracy of wealthy elite Plutocrats, and feudal servitude for everyone else. Democracy must be defended, or it will die. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Surrender not voting is not an option — as an American, you owe a duty to fight these radical extremists.

Whatever differences Democrats may have among themselves, the place to have these ideological battles is in party primaries. Progressives may whine that party leadership did not allow for a primary, but this is just a cop out. If a Progressive Democrat really wanted to run in a Democratic primary, they would have. Who was this mythical Progressive champion in this hypothetical? No one stepped up to run. Are Progressive Democrats so easily intimidated and dissuaded from running? Then “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.” Think about it.

Suck it up and vote, and start working on finding your mythical Progressive Democrat champion for 2016.

9 responses to “Sorry Progressives, But Politics is About Math

  1. I live in CD5 and while I hope the best for James Woods, an avowed atheist unseating Matt Salmon in a heavily Mormon district just isn’t going to happen. How’s that for pragmatism? Will I stay home on election day? Absolutely not. I love exercising my right to futility vote.

  2. “Remember, this is not your father’s GOP. These are radical extremists who are anti-government, anti-democracy, indeed anti-America: they want a theocratic corporatocracy of wealthy elite Plutocrats, and feudal servitude for everyone else.”

    Nice wordsmithing BlueMeanie, but I see it a bit differently. I agree that there is a “corporatocracy of wealthy elite Plutocrats,” but I don’t think they really give a hoot about the theocracy part. So, they have Republicans in their hip pockets pushing for the theocracy, and Democrats in their hip pockets pushing against it. Thus, the “feudal servitude for everyone else” part is pretty much baked in the cake. We may have feudal servitude with gay rights and abortion rights or we may not, but it still will be feudal servitude.

    So, if we’re going to fight that corporatocracy, we have to take on their Democratic stooges as well as their Republican enablers. Indeed, the only way to make room for those who actually will “fight the corporatocracy” is to shove aside the Democratic stooges.

    • Donna Gratehouse

      I’m not sure I agree with the “don’t give a hoot about theocracy” part. Read Jeff Sharlet’s “The Family” yet? The leaders of the radical reactionary right, who are very wealthy and powerful men, are deeply religious and believe themselves to be doing God’s work by eradicating democracy.

      • Yes, many of our plutocrats have their own mini-agendas on social issues, but they’re not unified on that front. Do you think Steven Schwartzman or David Tepper or Michael Bloomberg want a theocracy? So we have the Christian theocrat plutocrats backing the conservative pols, and many of the Jews backing folks like Chuck Schumer and Kyrsten Sinema. But when it comes to feathering their own nests and screwing the middle class, they’re all on the same page, as are their servants in Washington.

  3. John Gallagher

    Politics IS about math. By all means, let’s do the math. If I believed that there was any chance that Democrats could attain a majority in the House in 2014, or even parity, I would hold my nose and vote for Sinema, but Republicans hold a 17 seat majority in the House and most likely will increase their majority this election. No one seriously believes that Democrats have a chance of taking the House. Is there any practical difference between a 17 seat edge and a 19 seat edge? Either way Democrats are the minority and will be ignored. It makes no difference from this standpoint whether Sinema and Barber are reelected and it’s the perfect time for a brushback pitch for Barber and Sinema and their handlers. To use another sports analogy, it’s like a team that has no chance to make the playoffs that can get a better pick in the draft by tanking a few games. Maybe we’ll get a draft pick who doesn’t engage in tricksy triangulation thereby giving “bipartisan” credibility to the destructive policies of Republicans. The votes of Barber and Sinema to create the Benghazi kangaroo court was the last straw for me. I honestly hope they lose to send a warning to other candidates and their consultants what can happen when you go out of your way to piss off your base.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-midterm-elections-democrats-can-have-some-hope-of-retaining-control-of-senate/2014/05/11/560476c6-d913-11e3-8009-71de85b9c527_story.html

  4. Thomas O'Neill

    It’s a good argument, but I don’t think it’s quite true. For instance ” If Democrats controlled the House, the immigration reform bill would have been enacted last year and already in effect.”.

    Remember that the Dems DID control the House, but that didn’t give them enough votes to pass immigration reform – too many “Blue Dogs” would have voted against it.

    If Dems enforced party loyalty the way that Repubs do, we never would have had people like Alito appointed.

    The tea party has been very successful in in moving their party rightward not by “sucking it up” but by loud protest against their party’s “moderates” and particularly by primarying candidates who strayed.

    They were constantly warned that this would cause them to lose otherwise winnable elections and they were letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, but they went ahead and lost some elections. But they changed the party and now Repubs are much less likely to break party discipline for fear of being primaried.

    If “progressives” can always be relied upon to “suck it up”, then you can guarantee the party will continue to drift rightward. The only way to move the party leftward is to actively challenge right-ward drifting candidates in the primaries, even if there is risk of losing some districts.

    I just regret the way that progressives allowed the party to simply “appoint” Barber ( and the party leadership choice of candidates ) and fear of losing the district caused us to not have a serious primary.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      My point on immigration reform is in the present moment: we are constantly assured that there are enough votes to pass the bill in the House, but John Boehner will not call up the bill. Nancy Pelosi would have shepherded the bill through Congress last year.

      • Thomas O'Neill

        I’m not so sure about that assurance – in fact I would be surprised if the likes of Barber and Simena would vote for it now.

  5. Stephen Ehre

    Well stated and written! I totally agree. Sometimes holding ones nose and voting is the right thing to do!!! I would do it for Sinema and Barber. BTW, not in this case , but sometimes Reps ask the leadership to be allowed to vote against the leadership position if their vote wouldn’t matter and it would ease things for them back home. Sinema especially is just an ass. I’ll vote for those types, like Harry Mitchell (Mr. Lord probably likes what we have now because the district for rid of a Blue Dog and got an a-hole instead), but I won’t give them any money.