Thursday, September 14, 2006

The "Real Democrat" Deceit (& the silliest online comment I've ever read)

by Kyle Michaelis
I generally wouldn't lift something so trivial as an anonymous comment from the Lincoln Journal-Star's website, but - since my own name was invoked in said comment - I feel compelled and shall take license to respond.

Replying to the Journal-Star's Wednesday report on State Auditor Kate Witek's bid for reelection as the Democratic nominee, Go Larrick! posted:
[Larrick is] the real democrat. This just proves how out of touch, childish, and downright stupid the Nebraska Democratic Party is. Rubin, Powers, Michaelis...Kerry, Seng, and Moul. They have turned their backs on us real Democrats! Its time to take it back.

Now, for starters, I do not seek and do not deserve any sort of mention alongside such tireless and devoted leaders as those with whom I'm named above. These other folks, along with a trio of current and former NDP staffers who were also named ("...") work each and every day in building a stronger Democratic Party or, in the instances of Lincoln Mayor Coleen Seng and First District Congressional Candidate Maxine Moul, fighting for better government more representative of the people's interests.

I, on the other hand, am a guy who types because he has too much time on his hands. How that qualifies me for such illustrious company - even in the somewhat disordered ramblings of an anonymous blogger - is completely beyond my comprehension. It would be flattering if it were not a reminder of how little I honestly contribute to creating a "New Nebraska."

The only possible explanation for my name coming up in this context is as a misplaced response to a comment I myself posted on the Nebraska Democratic Party's blog earlier this week. When one writer declared Green Party nominee Steve Larrick "the real Democrat" in the race for State Auditor, I replied:
I’ll be damned if Steve Larrick is the “real Democrat” in this race. He’s a good man, but he’s given up on this party – given up on its legacy, on its ideals, and on the hard-working common people who have always made it great.

Green Party nominee Larrick had every opportunity to run in the Democratic primary – as he could have in the 2004 Congressional race. He’s instead chosen a road of marginalization, false equivocation, distraction, and empty protest that weakens the progressive community and promises our continued disunity and defeat.

I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone they can’t vote for Larrick – that’s their right in a democracy – but I would ask that they not concede he’s the “real Democrat” in this race when he’s turned his back on us at our most desperate hour, when this party has been most in need of leaders with courage and vision.

Now, for all my misgivings about the Green Party in general (and Larrick's 2004 campaign), I should have made clear that I really can't fault Larrick for running in this race in any way, shape, or form. Were it not for Witek's last minute reelection bid and her surprise party-change, I would have been thankful that at least someone gave a damn enough about our state government to offer an alternative to "Lying Legislator" Mike Foley's ascension as State Auditor.

My problem is not with Larrick or his campaign. Rather, it's simply with the false and misleading rhetoric concerning his being the "real Democrat" in this race. If a voter honestly believes Larrick will do a better job than Witek as State Auditor, he or she should go ahead and vote for the man, but pretending some sort of ideological and partisan superiority in the process is utterly ridiculous.

I've gone on record numerous times with how destructive I find these sorts of claims. At the end of the day, political affiliation is a matter of conscience, choice, and personal identity. Looking to history, the current political situation, and the principles in which one believes, an individual can be expected to know for herself where she stacks-up. But, for that same individual to imagine that what she believes and what she finds most appealing about that party should be held as the standard against which all others shall be judged is plainly idiotic.

Different people are Democrats for different reasons. Ultimately, what a party stands for is determined by its voters by the candidates they nominate and the officeholders they elect, but such definition is betrayed by over-generalizations and single-issue litmus tests that sacrifice a candidate's autonomy to an absurd and patently false monolithic ideal.

I have no right to say who is or is not a Democrat. All I can do is fight for the issues in which I believe and the candidates in whom I best find myself reflected, leaving to the almighty wisdom of the people what form their Democratic Party and their democracy will take.

With such a vision of the Democratic Party as a microcosm of American democracy in general, there really is only one absolute qualification that could be considered reasonable - that of objectively wearing the label and being registered as a Democrat (paralleling citizenship and the bare act of registration). Now, I don't personally subscribe to even that qualification in my voting because I don't believe raw partisanship serves the long-term interests of democracy. But, if I were running around looking to label a candidate as "the real Democrat," there's absolutely no justification - particularly here in Nebraska, where the powers-that-be aren't all that powerful - for any candidate to wear that title without being registered as such.

Still, I'm not going to argue that anyone should vote for Witek for purely partisan reasons. I don't have to. Despite my parting ways with Witek on many of her mid-90s votes as a state senator, she's served honorably as Auditor for the last eight years and has shown true concern for righting this state's finances (no pun intended). That she has proven her mettle and her willingness to stand up to the GOP Machine on multiple occasions certainly speaks in her favor and to her qualifications for the job as well. The way I see it, Auditor is a position where an independent streak like Witek's is a definite asset, whether or not she meets ones standards as a full-fledged Democrat.

If a voter remains unconvinced on these grounds and still thinks Larrick would do a better job, then - by all means - vote accordingly. Sure, it's a de facto vote for Lying Legislator Foley, but all I really ask is that it not be cast under the "real Democrat" delusion.

Larrick and the Greens were never forced from the ranks of the Democratic Party. They gave up on it - plain and simple. It could be said that they have given up on American democracy itself, choosing political martyrdom for which an entire nation must now suffer. By their circular logic, their continued inability to connect with voters is the only proof they need of systematic failure totally obscuring their/our own. But, that is a debate for another day.


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