The Democratic Party Is Not Your Abusive Partner, Progressives, It’s Your Problem Child


A piece Ted Rall wrote at Alternet entitled, “At Some Point Progressives Need to Break Up with the Democratic Party,” created a small stir on the Left. It was not the first piece of its kind. It probably won’t be the last. This particular essay was recently getting passed around social media again after months. It is a reminder of the tensions that exist between those who want to abandon the party as a lost cause and those who continue to support even as some might agree it has become too corporate-controlled or that it fails to stand up for liberal policies enough.

I have bad news for Mr. Rall and the rest of the disillusioned Progressives. You don’t just get to walk away from the Democratic Party like it’s your abusive partner, because that is the wrong metaphor to use. You can’t just walk away, because this isn’t a romantic relationship; this is a parental relationship. The party is your neglected, problem child. You’ve been sitting it in front of the TV and blowing it off by throwing money at it every election cycle and then expecting your obligations to raise your party right have ended there. Meanwhile, mom (Liberals/Centrists) and dad (Progressives) have been fighting for years and can’t turn their attention away from each other long enough to realize they have a neglected child. Or maybe there’s some other dysfunction.

Maybe you went door-to-door for Obama or made some phone calls. It took your time. You can’t be accused of giving the party a pat on the head once every four years. Other people are sitting on their butts, refusing to engage in the process at all, right? Yep. You are right. But, it was still too little. The Right is outparenting you. Worse, the country is littered with abusive and neglectful parents. If they turn around and complain they now have a problem child, do we offer them sympathy? Throughout college in the early 1990s, I worked my way through waitressing in Iowa. Every Wednesday night, the Winneshiek County Republicans met in their reserved spot in the basement of our restaurant to organize, plan, and plot. Eventually, I grew concerned that I didn’t know where the Winneshiek County Democrats met each week, because maybe I’d like to join them, but I didn’t know where and when. I quickly learned they had no such meeting.  I double-checked at this writing to see if the Republicans were still meeting more than 20 years later. They are. Same place. Same time, every week.

The Tea Party was able to swarm the Republican Party and take over because they showed up once for a protest, and then they kept showing up for meetings. With a heritage of community organizing on our side, we should be putting the conservatives to shame, but ever since they became “suburban warriors” in the 1960s, they have taken the lessons of organizing to heart often with greater acumen than progressives or liberals. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the organizing methods of the Right, their tactics are now the ones worth studying. Progressives showed up for the Occupy protests, and there has been very little political organizing to come of it.

Shouting to anyone who will listen and finding far too few people listening is Thom Hartmann, progressive author and radio/TV host. He has been trying to describe the way in from the wilderness for the Left for years. His steps always begin with retaking the Democratic Party. This could easily be thought of as getting back control over a wayward child. FreedomWorks, the astroturfing Tea Party, Koch brothers’ organization, even provides the same process Thom advocates for taking over a political party on their website. The process involves taking over your party precinct.

Do you have to be a Progressive to think the Democratic Party is broken? No way. Liberals and Centrists are not blind to the corporatization of their party, nor do they fail to see where it has gone off the rails. Hartmann comments on research data by Gilen and Page,

“Ordinary citizens…have little or no independent influence on policy at all.” They go on to say that the wealthy elite have, “a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy…more so than any other set of actors,” while powerful interest groups do pretty well too, with, “a large, positive, highly significant impact on public policy.”

In a nutshell, everyday citizens are not affecting policy as they should be. However, when a child misbehaves, you have to look to the parents for the source of the problem. In the case of the Democratic Party, the Left has shirked a great deal of the actual heavy lifting of party participation, leadership, and development. This neglect of the party might come from the schism between the Progressives and Liberals on the Left. Or in some political models, that split is between the individualists and the communitarians. It is difficult to say what makes a political wing lose control of its party, but in a democracy, the people ought to be able to flush out the bad politicians and replace them with a Congress of the Elizabeth Warrens and Bernie Sanders of the world.

We need to figure out why the Left isn’t making use of the tools available to it to retake the Democratic Party. Is it because we already broke into factions, long before the Republicans had their present day meltdown? We have to ask whether liberally-inclined people feel they can air out the grievances between the factions on the Left without disintegrating into the vitriol and dysfunction we see our compatriots on the Right consumed with as they self-destruct into infighting.

What we see from the Emo-Prog and Obamabot factioning doesn’t bode well. As we’ve been taking out the popcorn to watch the drama on the Right, we have to remember there remains a nasty undercurrent on the Left. What happened is that policy discussions went out the window entirely as the whole issue became about whether you supported Obama. As a Democrat, it has not been okay to question the President’s policies because that moved you into the Progressive faction. In that faction, there was nothing the Democrats could do right.

If Hillary Clinton is elected President, write it down, this entire dynamic will happen again. If you are not supporting all of Hillary’s policies in this not-so-distant future, then you would be letting down women, and course, you’d be an Emo-Prog again. The fact of the matter is, with the abuse President Obama has taken, it has become virtually mandatory to support him wholeheartedly just to counteract the racism. It would happen with sexism, too.


Sent to a Progressive questioning drone policy on Twitter

The only way out of this inevitable continuation of infighting on the Left is to take aim at the problem, the Democratic Party. This means organizing at the precinct level and taking over the party the way the Tea Party took over the Republican Party. The reason a Progressive sweep of the Democratic Party would be good for everyone is that Liberals and Centrists want the Party to be less dominated by the interests of the wealthy, too. They want to see the party move away from privatization, too. They want to see the party show a backbone to Wall Street, too.

Many believed in candidate Barack Obama as a Progressive, and he garnered excitement and votes. Much of the negative emotion that has been generated on the Left since 2008 has stemmed from believing they did not get the Progressive that Barack Obama seemed to be. (Note: if you read his books, it was clear he was more centrist anyway). However, what these people fail to realize is that President Obama needed to have a progressive Congress to go along with his progressive ideas. This is where the organizing on the Left fell short. It has fallen short for a very long time as the Party leaned further and further right. So, basically, Progressives, the Democratic Party is not your abusive partner, it is your neglected, problem child, and it is time to step up and start meeting every Wednesday in the basement of your local restaurant for two hours to plot and scheme.

46 Replies to “The Democratic Party Is Not Your Abusive Partner, Progressives, It’s Your Problem Child”

  1. Better metaphor: Mom is the Progressive left and she shares custody with rich adulterer Dad. You can see how hard it is for her good values to triumph over his bottomless wallet.

  2. When so-called progressives gave the 2000 and 2004 elections to George W. Bush, I decided that they want to have nothing to do with the Democratic Party. I am very tired of the whining and blindness of “progressives” who think they are so much better than those who actually work at getting things done, who register voters, volunteer for Democratic candidates and help get voters to the polls on election day. Things progress slowly, the arc of democracy is a slow one and calls for constancy and steadiness, qualities not found in most US progressives.

  3. You lost me when you said the Republicans are out-parenting the Demorats. Would that parenting be through the result of incestual marriage between the Dixicrats and Tea Baggers? This article was a waste of time and it felt like the author was chastizing the reader. If we want the party to be more progressive, we have to throw out votes behind more progressive cantidates. Period.

  4. Do not I repeat do not listen to Ted Rall, the Firebaggers and the rest of the so call white liberal establishment. From the beginning they have been trying to drive a wedge among the Democratic party.

    Case in point, Mistress Jane Hamsher who allied herself with Grover Norquist to undermine the President and the ACA.

    They are the whores of the left with their fake outrage who is only in it o get paid. Sounds just like the teabaggers. Listen to them at your own risk

  5. I have to take issue with your assertion that progressives gave the 2000, and 2004 elections to George W Bush. In 2000 the right wing controlled SCOTUS gave the election to George W Bush in a case they really had no business in taking. In 2004 republican Sect. of State Ken Blackwell gave Bush that election by means of rigged voting machines and voter suppression.

    Republicans are incapable of winning honest elections.

  6. I agree with you 100%. The firebaggers are crawling out from under their rocks because it’s election season. Time to depress the Democratic vote.

  7. Never heard of this guy….and who would fall into the divide the party message? Where I’m from, we’re very loyal to a common cause/common values for the greater good for all!

  8. What a weirdo! I read a article on HP about personality disorders…..they were highlighting a Ben Affleck movie ( Gone Girl). These trolls remind me of people like this, trying to inflict chaos and harm on others!

  9. Never mind metaphors or allegories. Bottom line is something the Right knows but the Left rejects: you want government to represent YOU? Work for it. Those weekly meetings, writing, visiting, phoning elected officials,picketing unruly and unresponsive media, and freaking VOTING for control of the houses of Congress, the state legislature, and your local dog catcher. You sit and whine, you’re toast. And while you’re at it – READ deeply and well about issues because the more you demand things that are stupid and based in fantasy rather than accuracy, the more you lose.

    Government DOES work for people IF the people show up and make sure it does.

  10. FYI: “Obamabots” aren’t the problem. The Emo’s are the problem.

    Unlike emo’s, Obamabots don’t try to divide the democratic party. Emo’s are in the minority. Obamabots are pragmatic, like most democrats.

    Unlike emo’s, Obamabots don’t publicly bash PBO, and give the GOPigs, and the media even more ammunition to bash him with! In fact, the emo’s seem to enjoy it.

    Unlike emo’s, Obamabots would never support Rand Paul!

    Unlike emo’s, we Obamabots always knock on doors, make phone calls, and most importantly, we VOTE! Even for democrats we don’t like!

    Unlike emo’s, Obamabots are the BASE voters. Base voters always vote, and they only vote for ONE party. It has nothing to do with “marching in lockstep.” It has to do with keeping your party in the majority. Something republicans are very good at.

    And, most democrats aren’t blindly supporting PBO just to counter the racism. Most of us really do think he’s done a pretty good job, considering the crap he’s …

  11. Hillary Clinton will never be treated as badly, as President Obama. Hillary Clinton is a white woman, and President Obama is a black man. Society is protective of white women. How often do unarmed white women get shot by the police? Hardly ever. How often do unarmed black males get shot? Almost everyday, it seems!

    If a man is too rough with Hillary Clinton, people will sympathize with the poor white woman. Just ask Rick Lazio! Rick Lazio got a lot of backlash for getting in Hillary Clinton’s face/space during a debate. There were cries of sexism from the media, and this helped Hillary Clinton solidify her support in the polls, and ultimately win the senate race.

    Jan Brewer got too close to President Obama, and wagged her bony finger in his face, and the media acted like he deserved it! Hillary Clinton can call out sexism without people being outraged. Barack Obama can’t call out racism, because people will freak out, and accuse him of playing the “race card.”

  12. Hillary Clinton will be treated with kid gloves, compared to Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton will be criticized, but she won’t be the subject of a “high tech lynching” like Barack Obama. And, people will be more forgiving when she makes mistakes, and she will get credit for the good things that she does. President Obama has done a lot of good things, but gets no credit.

    A lot “progressives” are angry at President Obama for not doing things he never promised he would do! He’s not a “Magic Negro!”

    The fact that you try to downplay racism, in order to elevate sexism makes YOU a racist! I’m going to out on a limb here, and presume that the author of this piece (Deborah Foster) is a white woman?

    Well,just in case she is: Deborah Foster, I’m a black woman, and I know what BOTH sexism, and racism feels like. I’m a female, AND I’m black. I don’t like white people telling me that WHITE women have it just as bad as blacks, BECAUSE THEY DON’T! They’re still whit…

  13. Another FYI: President Obama IS a progressive. He’s a centrist, but he’s a centrist who has made PROGRESS. He’s made progress, on gay rights, and healthcare reform, etc. And, before the whiners start complaining that Obamacare is a giveaway to insurance companies, it is still progress, because it’s better than what we had before.

    Obamacare is almost universal healthcare. When you’re sick, and need health insurance, you don’t give a crap about corporate handouts! So, these healthy FAUXgressives (who probably already have health insurance)who side with conservatives, and want to repeal Obamacare, and take health insurance away people, need to get over themselves!

    Obamacare is an example of what being a PROGRESSive means! Even incremental progress counts. These so called “progressives” get pissed off, and sit out elections, and let regressive right wingers win elections, are not progressive, at all! Not voting, is a REGRESSIVE!

  14. The Emo’s are not a major threat. There aren’t enough of them to split the democratic party. The majority of democrats are pragmatic. The Tea Party is a problem for the republicans, because 90 percent of the republican party are extremists.

    I’m not saying emo’s are extremists, but many of them don’t have realistic expectations. And, too many are dumb enough to support Rand Paul! Some emo’s aren’t progressives at all. Many of them are Libertarians, but they’re in denial.

    The emo’s complain about corporatism in the democratic party, but they won’t lift a finger to get rid of the bad democrats! The emo’s never follow through on their many threat to primary corporate democrats, so why should anybody take them seriously?

    Occupy Wall Street doesn’t believe in participating in elections, “because they’re all the same!” OWS said they would primary Barack Obama in 2012, but a primary challenger never materialized, of course. Time for the emo’s to put up, …

  15. And fired from his (Rall’s) last writing gig at Pando Daily, upon which the emo/libertarian clan, including Greenwald, launched a hate campaign against the editor:

    I can’t imagine why Pando would want to lose Rall (snark alert):

    And then Greenwald throws in a jibe in defense of the Brothers Koch in reference to another Pando columnist having exposed Koch involvement in the ACLU’s siding with Citizens United (a MUST READ):

    Greenwald and Rall: Libertarian nutjobs:

  16. Just watching Kornacki on MSNBC, he has a Romney adviser on and it is sickening about how she says Romney is a great statesman and would have been a better president.
    My personal opinion Romney is not even a mediocre american, he sent our jobs overseas, made huge profits out of it which he keeps overseas to avoid US taxes, was a draft dodger during Viet Nam and even said his sons had better things to do than serve in the military, how is he fit to be called american?

  17. P.S. Libertarian Glenn Greenwald, Rall’s BFF, has already begun attacking Elizabeth Warren – these people are NOT progressives:

    “Glenn Greenwald Smears Elizabeth Warren Using a Right Wing Attack Video”

    “Re-rise of the Naderites: Glenn Greenwald’s third party dreamin’ **UPDATE: on Libertarianism”

  18. Hint, ya’ll: THIS is a Progressive (Tim Wise on TeaNut Ron Paul):

    This is NOT a progressive (Libertarian Glenn Greenwald on TeaNut Ron Paul):

    This is also NOT a progressive: (Ted Rall parroting Libertarian Glenn Greenwald on TeaNut Ron Paul):

    See the difference?

  19. Really, stop with the delayed black-out screens that block content w/o a click on the “x”or I block your site on my news aggregator. Low-life internet behavior.

  20. When the Democratic party infrastructure is picking up the pieces after what is looking like is going to be a disaster of a midterm, maybe then they will see the light. Many progressives are going to sit this one out, why vote for the Democratic party when its just conservative light?

  21. Its you I despise more than the baggers. Just because you didn’t get your unicorns shitting golden bricks you will concede power to the very people that deep down you love. KISS MY ASS

  22. Sorry, don’t buy your weak framing. You present zero evidence that progressives are planning not to vote.

  23. First, you made a fundamental error in reading my post. You assumed I was comparing how Obama and Clinton would be TREATED. Ridiculous, and never stated in what I wrote. I said that the sexism that the Right wing *will* generate toward her, because as the election fades, it will come out in gushes, *will* cause the Left to circle the wagons around her and shut down debate on our side. This will happen. This does not compare how white women are treated versus black men. I’m not sure how you got that.

  24. Again, I am sorry that you misunderstood the article. I believe that Obama has been treated as badly as a person could possibly be treated unless he was, maybe, a black woman President. However, that is not the point of bringing up what will happen when Clinton is elected, nor what is happening now. For example, despite the fact that I support the President, he is doing something, totally under his control, that I find awful, terrible to minorities, and harmful to poor people: he is pushing privatization of public schools. He did this when he appointed a pro-privatization Secretary of Education. This was his choice, and he could have changed Arne Duncan years ago. He has not. However, I can’t bring up this atrocious policy, because if I do, I am attacked as being anti-Obama, despite the fact that I support him most of the time.

    This is the exact same thing that will happen with Clinton. You will have to support all of her policies or you will be considered anti-Clinton.

  25. Always remember: If you agree with me on 9 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.

  26. Check out the last post of the New Hampshire Labor Party’s Facebook page:

    I posted what I wrote here as a comment to that post to try and bring these people back to the party.

    These are the “Emos” you said we don’t have to worry about. Union voters. And I see the same anti-Democratic Party sentiments absolutely everywhere. They aren’t people who fit the profile of libertarians. They are upset voters who believe inequality has gotten out of hand and the party has been corrupted. 44% of Democrats think their party is doing a poor job. Those are people who are unlikely to vote. That is not a small number of people we don’t have to worry about.

  27. Hokay…what is an Emo-Prog. The prog I understand, but Emo? I’m lost.

    My ideal Democratic ticket would be Sanders/Warren. It won’t happen, of course, but DAMN, methinks that they might be able to stop this country’s slide into fascism.

    The religious wrong combined with SCOTUS giving corporations unlimited power over our lives COULD push this country from a growing oligarchy to a fascist state.

    Don’t believe me? Read the histories of Germany and Italy. We’re sliding down the same path they did.

  28. I can’t argue with you. Here in Texas if EVERY Democrat got off their butts and voted, we’d WIN. Alas, they probably won’t and the SOB that is running against Wendy Davis might win.

    I want to bang my head against a wall until when I stop it will feel good. I want to SCREAM!

  29. I disagree. If so many progressives are not going to vote, and if the Dems are going to have such a poor voter turnout as you say, WHY is the GOP hell bent on voter suppression???? besides, the fact that they have nothing else to offer. BS..taking the defeatist attitude and not voting, is like voting for the other party.

  30. I believe you are confusing voter fraud/suppression, hanging chads, and the SCOTUS with progressives as far as the 2000 and 2004 elections were concerned.

  31. Emo-Prog makes no sense to me, either. The much better term is TeaProg. I don’t know who thought it up, but I love it! The TeaProgs are what I would otherwise call The New Silent Majority. TeaProg is much shorter and to the point. We need to work within the Democratic Party to change it. That does not mean supporting Queen Hillary, but it does mean voting in all elections.

    Author of PARADIGM SHIFT: The Progressive Left Strikes Back!

  32. I have to disagree. As citizens our votes belong to us and it is our decision who we give our votes to. People blame people for voting for so-called third party candidates and accuse them of throwing away their votes. Democratic candidates are not owed our votes simply by virtue of being not republicans. They should have to earn votes by making the argument, by exciting people, by showing people by deed and word that they are indeed different from the republicans,and not just a little bit better on some social issues. I don’t have time to volunteer for a political campaign because I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I am however well informed, I talk to family and friends about politics and more importantly social justice. My relationship to the democratic party is not like a abusive lover or as a parent to a child. It should be as an employer to an employee. I for one am sick and tired of voting for the lesser evil.

  33. It’s simple, really. I vote for candidates that reflect my values and don’t vote for candidates that don’t. So I voted for Obama in 2008 because I thought he reflected my values and didn’t vote for Obama in 2012 because I realized he didn’t reflect my values. My congressman will get my vote next month because he does reflect my values.

    Why should I do anything different? It’s my vote. What are votes, for, anyway?

    I find it noteworthy that this article says nothing about the impact of money on politics. Most teabaggers are well-funded because most of them advance the values of their corporate funders. The mass media is not a neutral observer because they, as corporations, have their own interests.

    I’m not saying don’t get involved in Democratic party politics–please do so if you want to. I’m glad that people want to try to make change at that level. But I have good reason to believe that I’d be playing a game with a stacked deck.

  34. This news article was published today:
    Black voters in St. Louis County direct their anger at the Democratic Party

    This will not be the last article of this nature. You say, “Don’t worry about the Emo Progs.” They are nobody and meaningless. You do not know the depth of discontent in the Democratic Party, and as inequality and hardship continue to fall on the poorest people in our country, they will turn on the people letting them down.

  35. What nonsense, the problem with the Democratic Party is not that it has been neglected, but that it has sold out to neoliberal capitalism, just as the parties on the right have. The only way progressives and liberals will ever get their voice back is to break from the two party system and abandon the left vs right mantra that keeps this country starkly divided and keeps the American People from coming together to form a meaningful opposition. As it is, we have no voice.

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