Soundtrack in my head: The Polyphonic Spree, “When The Fool Become a King”
My housemate and I joined the other revelers in the downtown hotel celebrating the Democratic Party sweep in the elections and the stunning defeat for Bush and the Republicans. The champagne flowed freely in the room, the bubbles feeding the effervescent giddiness all around us. With a little more “vino” in our systems than usual, my housemate and I decided to stand up on a couple of chairs and lead the crowd in a jubilant chant of “No more years! No more years!”
Why were we chanting “No more years?” Because it was 1992, not 2006, and we were making mocking reference to the often repeated chant of “Four more years!” by supporters of President George H.W. Bush, our current President’s father.
So, after my cute little bait-and-switch story above, I was originally going to write a long treatise that detailed my disillusionment with the Democratic Party between 1992 and 1994 and how they slit their own throats by alienating a large section of their own supports. It was going to be a detailed, footnoted eloquent argument for a Democratic Party that maybe possibly might start standing for something again, and finally concluding with an analysis of the current party ascending to power again, pointing out little positive signs here and there.
I spent several hours crafting and honing this epic piece of political workmanship, but every time I looked at it, it was about as interesting as office ceiling tile.
I think a lot of it is because my view about the role of politics in this troubled world has changed. I no longer see it as the only source of change. American politics is locked in this rugby scrum between red and blue states that has little effect on the ever-growing threats to our environment, standard of living, and national security.
It doesn’t mean that politics is irrelevant. You wouldn’t see me baiting Sen. Kohl on the issue of Net Neutrality if I thought politics wasn’t important. I write a lot of letters to my Congressional representatives on a whole wide variety of issues. The difference is that I no longer view politics as the be-all and end-all of things.
I think change needs to happen at a more fundamental level than just the political level. I don’t believe that the Democratic Party or Green Party are going to save the world—although a few individuals within those parties could significantly contribute if they are allowed to. I hate to say this, but politicians, as a general rule, follow, not lead. Even if they stop following the lead of special interests and actually follow the lead of the people, change still has to occur within individuals in society.
Okay, that sounds cliché, but the hardcore truth of the matter is that our current way of life is unsustainable over the long term. We are the same hoarding and conflict-ridden people we have been for thousands of years, except now we hold the tools of our own destruction in our hands—many different tools, actually. So, logically speaking, change isn’t going to occur until the people who elect our politicians change.
The changes needed—living simply and moving further away from our consumerist culture—are not easy changes to make. Nor is it easy to follow even the common and most basic tenets of most religions—such as loving your neighbor as you would yourself. Yet we see the results when we don’t—it’s the world we have today.
This is why I’ve dedicated so much of my time to spiritual matters over the last fifteen years. Tuning in with God, the universe—whatever you want to call it. That’s where it starts. Why is it that spiritual leaders have led some of the most powerful social movements? Of course, religions can also lead people into war with each other, but what part of “Thou shalt not kill” don’t they understand?
So with the Democratic victory, is there a light at the tunnel or is that just someone waving a cigarette lighter yelling, “Play ‘Freebird!’ Freeee-buurrrrd!”
I resist gushing over the current Democrat leadership because I still need to see what they will do with their power. But I’m seeing a few positive signs. The Democrats ARE somewhat better on issues like the environment and Net Neutrality. At least somewhat. And the Republicans needed to be sent a message about the travesty that this so-called War on Terrorism has become.
Unlike every Democratic presidential nominee since 1988, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean don’t seem afraid to take a stand on issues. It had been painful to watch presidential candidates Dukakis, Gore and Kerry nervously watching the polls and clumsily walk a tightrope while trying to appeal to as wide of a range of people as possible. But Dean is the first Democrat I’ve seen (and I’ve been following politics pretty much since 1980) who can match the Republicans in their ability to define the national agenda and set the parameters of public debate. I think that’s partially why the Democrats did so well this year. At the same time, Dean has also demonstrated a bit of savvy by developing party organizations in even the reddest of the red states. I think that laid the groundwork for victories in places like Montana and Virginia. which previously would have seemed impossible until a series of events turned things in the Democrats’ favor.
Because Democrats were able to succeed in so-called “red states” when events provided an opportunity, I am beginning to see a strong argument for supporting grassroots efforts to build the Green Party. My political beliefs have been usually the most consistent with the Green Party platform. I think that Green Party Senate candidate Rae Vogeler would have actually done a better job than re-elected Senator Herb Kohl. And while she got only 2% of the vote, by just being out there campaigning, she and those of the other Green Party candidates in Wisconsin certainly helped build the movement, which could potentially become influential under the right set of circumstances.
So, while I’m not standing on top of chairs and leading revelers in drunken chants in this watershed year of 2006, I am watching Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi with a little more enthusiasm that I had for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. This current crop of Democratic leaders seems to be more shrewd strategists, but it’s still up in the air how they will use their power.