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17 August 2011, 4:00 pm 2 Comments

Politics: Why the Dems Should Be Afraid in 2012

Submission by Cristobal, first-time contributor

Reality-based assumptions are hard to come by on Capitol Hill, a place where perceived momentum becomes real momentum with the stroke of a pen or a full throated approval from a national figure.

It’s hard to discern actual political dangers from perceived ones, the tools available are fundraising goals, exit polls, cable news coverage, and history.

By all accounts, the Democrats are poised for gains come November 2012. The House of Representatives is going to be shaken up, and Dems only need to carry 24 seats to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker once again, thus halting the ridiculous discussions going on between Bachmann, Boehner, and Cantor. There are some toss-up Senate races, but enthusiasm for the Presidential election will likely put Democrats in a safe spot. What’s left to contend with is President Obama’s re-election.

I’ve had dozens of silly conversations surrounding the President’s handling of the debt ceiling debacle and hundreds of talks since his inauguration of how big of a “let-down” Obama has been. None of these discussions produced any doubt in my mind with regard to his winning a second term. Romney’s raised too much money among his co-hort to not nab the nomination, but he doesn’t inspire his party in a big way, at least not a big enough way to unseat Obama.

Our culturally and institutionally patriarchal society makes it easy to blame the ‘guy at the top’ (“Dad”) for any and all troubles we face. Obama’s not been perfect, but he has made gains legislatively in almost every area of policy he promised to change.

Okay, it’s not the crazy/beautiful change the chanters and political neophytes hoped for in 2008; rather it’s the lasting change that he’ll be credited for when our great-grandkids learn about how lasting health care reform in 2010.

In any political venture, there’s a lot of work to do. Lobbying, yes. Fundraising, of course. Grassroots organizing, a must. Thousands of politicos will work long hours and sacrifice personal relationships fighting to keep Obama in office and build majorities in Washington, D.C. and among states. The work is hard, and mostly unrecognized -BUT it’s been done before, and Democrats are up to the challenge. The anxieties associated with campaigns are founded, but not challenge fraught enough to warrant a real fear.

So, why should the Democrats be afraid of the 2012 cycle?

For some reason pundits and policymakers haven’t grasped the reality that debt ceiling debates and promises of job creation won’t spur young people (generations Y, Z, etc.) to political action.

My generation was born in the era of Bush, Clinton and Bush – more importantly in the time of the rapid growth of televised news, a method of ‘learning about the world’ that is so clearly and laughably dogmatic to anyone under the age of 40. Our political environment is not real to us, we have not experienced in a direct way how changes in Washington affect our lives.

One element to this is a rote learning process that has affected every generation: Why should 21 year olds give up late night binge drinking to organize to ‘Save Medicare’?

Another element is that the things that do matter to our personal lives as young people are “fringe interests”. The fact that our friends cannot marry one another, and that people we know and love end up serving jail time because of our nation’s criminalization of marijuana are not concerns of timid liberal politicians.

To be fair – they are concerns among some Democrats, but they rarely get more than an indirect mention in stump speeches.

The Democrats can win in 2012 and begin to make more serious the reforms that began in the last few years. Taxing the wealthy, expanding stimulus for infrastructure, broadening the social security network and beginning to address ‘greening’ our economy will all mark substantial progress – but not the type of progress that ensures party loyalty in the long term.

There is no greater civil rights battle in 2012 than equality for LGBTQ Americans, and there’s no more glaring inefficiency in our culture than our policing of marijuana.

Advocating ‘safer’ issues, the ones our parents and cable news hosts harp on, does not inspire my generation to practice politics in this cycle. If Democrats shy away from our ‘fringe’ interests, they do have something to fear: their dismissal of the opportunity to engage us with OUR causes will not instill in us the efficacy they need to harden our allegiance to the party.

To create a lasting majority among my generation – one that would provide an experiential means of knowing our efficacy, the Democrats need to celebrate progressive causes and fight for them at the National level.

If Democrats fail to deliver on the issues that matter to young people, all the celebrating November 6th, 2012 will be short lived.

For Democrats to be fearless in the campaign for 2012, they need to bend progressive.

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  • Anthony M. said:

    I’m not so sure. With ultra-cons coming out of the woodwork for 2012, all Democrats really need to do is prove that they less crazy than Republican candidates.
    The safe choices in 2012 are those that are boring and moderate, and I think most Democratic Party candidates know that.

    Just look at the presidential race: moderately progressive folks aren’t going to vote for Perry or Bachmann, even if Obama leans toward the center from now until next November. They may decide not to show up at the polls, or throw their vote at Socialist Party of America or Unitarian Party candidates, but more realistically, polarizing voices from conservatives will be enough to scare out some votes for Dems.

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