(Promoted because he’s right. – promoted by Clark)
Much ado has been made of today’s announcement of a Blue Dog(aka: right-wing) caucus in MO’s House of Representatives. Many here have reacted with surprise, disgust, and other unpleasant emotions. Well… and this isn’t easy to say… in many ways this was made possible by the failings of the Missouri progressive movement.
For those interested in why, follow me over the jump.
I could go into the myriad specifics of why the MO progressive movement is partially culpable for today’s development, but I think it is best to stick to the largest point.
All Carrot, no stick.
Many of these newly minted Blue Dogs recieved large amounts of help from progressive institutions, and yet they obviously don’t feel any loyalty to these organizations(and these organizations’ volunteers, staff, donors, etc.). We can either yell, scream, and TYPE IN ALL CAPS, or we can evaluate what has happened. Why do these elected officials feel like they don’t owe the base? Many of these politicians went out of their way to get key progressive endorsements, such as Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, Planned Parenthood, unions, etc, and have now turned their backs on these same institutions. To help us understand why they would do so, we need to ask one question.
Well… what do they have to lose?
Missouri’s progressive infrastructure has grown, in leaps and bounds, in the time I have been in the state. We have become great at running candidates in swing districts, and often providing them with the money/volunteers that gets them over the top.
That being said, many urban and suburban districts are represented by Democratic politicians, whose political beliefs are to the right of their district. How often do these same institutions back progressive challengers? As we see the state Democratic party continuing to push the same tired, old, DLCish, Repulican-lite candidates, we sign up to canvass, donate money, and do everything possible to help these folks defeat their Republican opponents. Meanwhile, conservative politicians continue to hold safely Democratic seats, which should be held by more progressive representatives.
Why does this happen? Because we let it.
In many ways, Missouri progressives mainly function as “boots on the ground” for the state Democratic party, helping conservative/centrist Dems get elected in suburban and exurban swing districts. In no way am I saying that we should stop volunteering to knock doors in swing districts, but I am saying that we need to be more involved in the election that happens a few months before. You know… the primaries… does that ring a bell? In a better Missouri, today’s announcement of a Blue Dog Caucus would also have been the announcement of a progressive primary target list. I’m not saying that we go after everyone, but the fact that any of these districts are within 10 miles of downtown St. Louis or Kansas City should serve as a wake-up call to their progressive constituents.
Time to Organize
So, we can either continue being mad, or we can turn that anger into an electoral weapon, and hold these people accountable for their actions and votes. This isn’t vengance, this is accountability. This is about electing people that actually represent the interests of the majority of their constituents. In fact, on a national scale, SEIU and a number of other progressive groups have begun The Accountability Project, which will do similar work on a federal level. By having a healthier primary system, we could create a healthier Missouri Democratic party that is not only more diverse and responsive to constituents, but, as an added bonus, we will also be electing Democrats that are willing to fight Republicans. This will also have the pleasant side effect of creating more space in the political conversation for progressive voices and ideas at all levels.
Time to start building committees, organizing, running for dog catcher, and everything else we need to do, to prepare for the 2012.
ps- Before the boo-birds get to putting up comments pointing to the other things that I didn’t have time to address in this post… this posting is not comprehensive, it was not meant to so. There are plenty of other reasons that contributed to this, but I figured I’d focus on something we can fix, us.