Every progressive who thinks a primary would be a good idea should read this, from commenter Too Many Jimpersons (formerly Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):
Dude, if you don’t like something Obama has done—or hasn’t done—then by all means call him on it. He said as much way back while he was still running. Nudge him further the way you’d like him to go.
But for fuck’s sake, do it in a way that helps rather than hinders. Don’t start screaming about primary challenges because he hasn’t done everything you wanted. Don’t go all over Fox and screech that he’s a sellout and as bad as Bush was.
Those were a few handy “don’t”s. Here are some “do”s:
Go out and work for the candidates in the primaries who fit your bill. Show up at their offices and do shitty, dull work for them. Trudge through the rain canvassing on an October Saturday when you’d much rather be at home. Send them some money. If you don’t like who’s running, run yourself.
Those are helpful tips. But before you do all that that I suggested, here’s another “don’t”:
Don’t work for some Democrat you love above all else if it means you’re likely to badly weaken the Democrat in office who votes as you’d like 9 times out of 10, or even only 7 or 8, or even only 6 or, yes, even only 5 out of 10, if—and here’s the thing—the 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 out of 10er is the best you can get. Examples: O.K., we all know Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson are irritating assholes. But before you go out and work your ass off for Louisiana or Nebraska’s version of Dennis Kucinich, bear in mind that Landreiu and Nelson are the best we can hope for in those states. Yeah, I’d love it if Louisiana sent somebody who speaks and votes like Al Franken to the Senate. But that isn’t going to happen. The choice isn’t Mary landreiu or Al Franken; it’s Mary Landreiu or some dickwad who votes like David Vitter. There are reasons Minnesota sends people like Franken to Washington and Louisiana doesn’t. Those reasons are called “voters”.
I live in Virginia. In 2006 and in 2008, I worked for Jim Webb and Mark Warner when they ran. If Virginia were a place where somebody like Franken or Sanders or Sherrod Brown could win statewide, I’d happily have worked for them. But it isn’t, and no amount of wishing by me will make it so. So I worked for the best I could reasonably hope for. And much to my delight, I got two Democratic senators in the last two elections we had here. They aren’t as liberal as I am; they aren’t as liberal as I would like them to be. But none of that matters. I live in Virginia in the early 21st Century, not some fantasy world where everybody thinks the way I do.
Now as for Obama, well, you know what? I would like it if he were more like Al Franken or Sherrod Brown. I’d love that. But right now, it’s hard to get somebody like that into the presidency. It isn’t going to happen right now, however much you might want it to. So, yes, maybe Obama does what I’d like 8 or 9 times out of 10. Guess what? I lived through 8 years of George Bush, who did what I would have liked 0 times out of 10. And Rick Perry and Romney would also do what I’d like them to 0 times out of 10.
0. 8. 10. Those are the numbers to keep in mind next year, 0, 8 and 10. There are, to be sure, fantasy candidates who would give me what I want 10 times out of 10. (Nader sure as hell isn’t, however many people wrongly think of him as some kind of liberal crusader; he’s only an egoist who wants to throw fits and show everybody how wrong they were. If he got in, he might well appoint somebody like Palin just to stick a thumb in our eyes. I don’t trust him or anybody who works with him.)
Anyway, 0, 8 and 10. Keep those in mind. Maybe President Franken would give you what you want 10 times out of 10. But that means nothing. He’ll never be president, not in this country, not as it is. This is a country that chose George Bush 7 years ago, knowing fully what it was getting. So 10 is an important number because it’s what you—we—won’t be getting. That leaves 8 and 0. What we have to choose from is getting our way 8 times out of 10 or no times out of 10. Maybe you don’t like that. Tough shit. That’s what you have, and whether you’re happy with it has nothing to do with the world as it is.
Do you want to get your way 0 times out of 10 as long as you can happily, smugly tell us all about how pure you are and how devoted to The Cause—whatever it may be—you are? Are you willing to live with that? Or would you rather have somebody who does what you like 8 times out of 10? That isn’t as good as 10 out of 10, I know that. But what if these are your only choices? Then what? Are you going to work to get Rick Perry voted in so you can feel like you’re one of the few who are really, truly committed to doing what’s right, even though you might have to take a few lumps for it? (Keep in mind that you are unlikely to get any lumps; it’ll be some other poor losers, but, hey, eggs and omelettes and all that, right?) Or will you take the 8 out of 10 and be willing to be let down once in a while for the sake of all of us? Because these are your choices. These two. Forget about 10. Forget about President Franken. Forget about President Sanders. Forget about President Kucinich, and for the love of God, forget about President Nader. Can you do that? I hope so, since you’ll never get them. Understand that: You will never get them. It won’t happen. You get to choose between President Obama and Governor Perry, or between President Obama and Governor Romney. That’s it. That’s all.
And if you work for Nader or some other asshole in the primary, all you will do is weaken President Obama and make the likelihood of President Perry or Romney that much greater. That’s what primary challenges to sitting presidents do. It happened in 1992. It happened in 1980. It happened in 1968 (Humphrey was running more or less for Johnson’s third term). It happened as far back as 1912. Each time—each time—the challenging party got the advantage and each time it won. That’s what happens when you run a serious primary against a sitting president: you help elect somebody from the other party. We can’t afford that.
Now, before anybody weeps and wails about “Don’t I have the right to vote for whomever I want? Isn’t this a democracy, don’t you believe in democracy?” let me just say: Yes, you have the right to vote for whomever you choose. Yes this is a democracy. And yes, I believe in democracy. Yes, yes and yes. Nobody is telling anybody else, “You have no right to vote for Nader,” or anything like that. What we are saying, what we are asking you people who have legitimate criticisms of Obama, is to put your own feelings and your own egos and your own need to feel holy or to feel like martyrs to the cause to the side. That’s all we’re asking. We’re asking you to take a good look at what’s going on here in this country, and to swallow your pride for a little while, and to get over the bruise Obama gave your ego when he didn’t do everything just the way you wanted him to.
We aren’t telling you; we aren’t ordering you. We aren’t shooting you or threatening you or jailing you or hosing you down with fire hoses or beating you. We are asking you. Yes, sometimes you (collectively; people like you) piss us off and we call you mean names and say intemperate things to you. But, Lord in heaven, get over it. If you can’t even take a few nasty comments without crumpling up and whining about how this is just like what Martin Luther King or somebody had to go through—and there are manic progressives who go on that way; I am not saying you are one of them—then you really aren’t the fearless liberal warriors you like to think you are.
So, again: Please do not work for or encourage primary challenges to President Obama in 2012. If you do, you greatly weaken his odds of winning next year, and if you do that, then lots of other Democrats will get highly pissed off at you, and we withhold the right to call you mean names. If we do that, then live with it. It’ll be the least you’ll have to worry about.
Yes, yes, yes.
[ image via 2modern]
[cross-posted (ish) at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]