One of the frustrations of watching Democrats in action is the frustration of watching Democrats thinking they are in action. But it doesn’t hurt to step back and take the long view. Democrats are, after all, just people, subject to illusion and delusion. I too am a people with my own set of I&D’s that are hard to even identify much less root out. So I will do what I do best – identify the failings of others.
My focus is Montana Democrats, but it is no different in Colorado. This is about Senator Jon Tester, but Colorado Democrats recently elected or re-elected Senator Michael Bennet, Congressman Jared Polis, and Governor John Hickenlooper, all of them corporate whores, just like Tester. But Colorado blogs are not active in the manner of Montana’s, or I have not come across them yet, so I focus my attention on my life-long home state, Montana.
I doubt that Tester is going to survive the next election, as his opponent, Congressman Dennis Rehberg, will be as well-funded even in spite of Tester’s continuing whoring. Rehberg is also, in my view, more representative of Montana’s self-image – cowboy go-it-alone independent thinkers, all an illusion, of course. Also, Tester’s need to appeal to his base will be a detriment as he at the same time seeks to appeal to the right wing.
Keep in mind that each man either supports or is forced to support the same agenda, so that we are really only talking about perceptions.
Tester insulted a significant percentage of his base when he called people who opposed his “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act” as “extremist.” But that is not unusual – Democrats in office are usually free to spit on all or part of their base, since they do not fear a backlash. But that particular comment might hurt him in the end, as the ones he insulted are smart and dedicated, and so will not pull his lever if they see that doing so makes no discernible difference.
The Democratic base is less attune to environmental issues, and frankly less attune in general. They are rallying around Tester now, and claiming that those who are not going to pull his lever are purists, selfish, and unable to see the big picture, or even to compromise.
Are they right? No. Not even close. The ones I know who are opposing Tester are not only able to see big, but are also willing to compromise when compromise is needed to achieve a larger goal. (“Compromise,” as the term is used by Democrats, entails giving up objectives before entering negotiations.) “Selfish”? That’s a personal trait that has no place in politics. “Purists”? Maybe. I prefer to use the term “dedicated.” They are not mealy about what they want and fight hard. That by itself separates them from regular Democrats, who do not understand dedication to an idea over a man.
Being a Democrat and supporting Tester is really the path of least resistance. It does not require attention to detail or dedication to ideas. But it is more than laziness – it is something far more common among us, lazy and energetic alike: Democrats suffer from the illusion of control.
Supporting their man through thick and thin, writing to thank him when he does something right, defending him when he is wrong – it is all part of the need to be in control of events. Indeed, those who will not pull his lever even if it means electing someone supposedly worse are told that they are fools for effectively putting Dennis Rehberg in office. That’s self-delusion – elections where differences between candidates are insignificant don’t much matter anyway. The principled ideas are still there, and those who fought for them against Tester will continue to fight for them against Rehberg. Success is never guaranteed, in fact, in our corporate oligarchy, success is usually a long shot. Those damned “extremists” do not suffer from the illusion of control, however, and so work hard for their idea no matter the candidate.
Voting itself is an illusion of control, and I have too often run to the polls to choose the lesser of evils. But I suffered from another illusion – that I could actually identify the lesser evil. Lately I’ve come to believe that the best office holder is the one that rallies the base. In Montana, from January of 2013 forward, that man will be Dennis Rehberg. He will do what Tester could not. He will rally the Democratic base, and Democrats and environmentalists and all the other Montana activists will again be united in their pursuits.