Preparing the Field for 2012
At the risk of sounding like Cassandra (a prophetess who spoke the truth but was never believed) or Eeyore (a donkey who was always depressed), Democrats are not going to win the presidential election in 2008. I will celebrate if I'm wrong, but perhaps I'm making this post right now because I want to have at least bragging rights if I'm right.
There are multiple reasons why I believe I'm right about this. For one thing, we need to have a candidate that appeals to rural, southern, and red state voters. Failing to embrace this fact again and again, Democrats always seem to choose someone with solidly blue state appeal. Sadly, I also very much doubt that we have overcome sexism and racism to the point where they won't be factors in the general this time around, though on this, especially, I would like to be proven wrong.
One of the very saddest reasons that I believe the Democrats won't win, however, is that we have become so timid that we tend not to nominate candidates who stand for anything. We had a candidate this time around, John Edwards, whose ideas were so bold and progressives that he had a strong hand in setting the agenda for the other candidates. Unfortunately, he is out of the race, and now we're left with two candidates so timid and triangulating that they seem to have few ideas of their own and have adopted the mildest of his.
You might not believe Cassandra, and you might not believe polls either, but there are already polls out showing both Clinton and Obama losing to McCain, and that is before the Swift boating and cheating starts.
I'm so convinced that we won't win in 2008, that I'm already starting to think about how we win in 2012, and win with a real progressive.
It was clear from the media coverage of Edwards, or more specifically, lack thereof, that there are certain things that you cannot talk about in a presidential campaign without being marginalized by the media, and that those taboo subjects constitute some of the most fundamental reasons our democracy doesn't work. It was also clear that the media itself is a big part of this problem, and is undermining our democracy by actively trying to tell people who they can and cannot vote for.
Some of the things that Edwards talked about that got him shunned by the mainstream media, but loved by many progressives, were corporate influence on our government, lobbyists corrupting the system, campaign finance reform, election reform, and the problems with media consolidation. Edwards told us that the system is rigged, and the fact that his progressive message was so thoroughly shut out of it proves his point.
So how do we make it possible that a real progressive like Edwards could win in the future? Here are some of the things I think we need to do:
Elect progressives to positions of importance below the presidency within the Democratic Party, so that the party insiders are progressives. This means Congress and other positions (like those positions that currently are the superdelegates). Kick the DLC (the corporate wing of the party) out of the Democratic party to the extent that it's possible. Having more Democratic Party insiders who are actually on our side will create the infrastructure for a progressive win.
Demand fair, unbiased, and intelligent media coverage, and equal coverage of candidates. This takes exposing the problems with our media and maybe boycotts of bad media. It means opposing media consolidation and rolling back the media consolidation that has already happened, so that more voices are heard. It also may take developing media outlets of our own. Blogs are a small but important step.
Enact strong campaign finance and election reform. Get rid of the lobbyists, enact effective public campaign financing, and make sure election results can be verified.
All this may seem like a Catch-22. We couldn't elect a presidential candidate who talked about these things, therefore we will have trouble making these reforms. We will have trouble making these reforms, therefore it will be difficult to elect leaders who can help us. Nevertheless, this is what needs to be done.
All of the above will be exceedingly difficult, and it won't all happen before 2012. With luck and persistence, some of it will happen before 2012, increasing the likelihood of electing a real progressive president. The more progress we make on these issues, even if it's a bit at a time, the more likely it becomes that someone like John Edwards, a candidate who stands for something, could succeed.