If there's anything progressives have learned over the last generation or so, it's that the Democratic Party can't be trusted to lead on the issues its members campaign on any more than the Republican Party can. The vast divide between the public political agendas of Barack Obama the candidate and Barack Obama the president simply underscores the problem. Like Obama, many Democrats are very good at talking the talk of progressivism, but consistently fail miserably when it comes time to actually walk the walk.
While generally speaking our political views could not be further apart, there's nonetheless an important lesson to be learned from the rise and fall of the Tea Party movement. They've successfully pulled the GOP even further to the right than they were already and they're managing to drag many still-spineless do-nothing Democrats along for the ride.
Whether it's bigoted state senators calling protecting transgender citizens from discrimination "anti-family" and kowtowing to the completely unsubstantiated right-wing fiction that protecting a socially and politically disadvantaged minority such as transpeople will somehow open the door to sexual predators being given free reign to commit assaults in women's bathrooms (as if such an offense were not already illegal nationwide) or so-called "progressive" Democrats in Congress remaining silent as unabashed hatemongers within their own party such as Ike Skelton make up issues out of whole cloth to justify not supporting the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Democratic Party has consistently demonstrated to anyone paying attention that when it come to issues they claim to support, such as equal rights and treatment for all, that support can and will only come when and if the Democratic Party leadership sees a significant benefit for themselves in doing so.
The truth is that the Democratic Party isn't really very democratic at all and it hasn't been for quite some time now. Anyone who paid attention during the 111th Congress knows that when push comes to shove the Democratic party leadership is perfectly fine with throwing the poorest and most disadvantaged minorities under the bus in the name of political convenience and expediency and then trying to apologize for it by attending solely to the concerns of the wealthiest and most politically connected on the left.
Obama, while a terrific spokesperson for progressive values, actually governs as a centrist, constantly seeking agreement and conciliation from those who have clearly been proven to have little or no interest in working with him instead of actually standing up and fighting for the ideals and values he asked the American people to elect him president in order to protect and defend.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is even worse, caving in to Republican demands so often and on so many issues important to true progressives that you have to wonder if he can even be legitimately called a Democrat anymore, much less a progressive or the leader of anything other than a stampede away from the Party's publicly-promoted values and cowering in whatever political hidey-hole happens to be most convenient for himself and his party at that particular moment.
Worst of all, though, is Democratic House Minority "Leader" Nancy Pelosi. It continues to be nothing short of amazing to me that a woman who represents a district in San Francisco, the city with the largest population of LGBT people in the entire country, can be as cavalier as she is about continually and casually throwing the rights of LGBT American workers under the bus, particularly when America's economy and job prospects are as bad as they are right now. Pelosi, most of all, needs to be forcibly removed from office and replaced with someone who understands that basic civil rights are the birthright of all Americans, not just those who offer the most financial and political benefit to the Democratic Party.
What these so-called Democratic Party "leaders" offer, particularly to those of us in the lower and middle classes, is not leadership but rather cowardice and capitulation to the unreasonable and un-American demands of the far right, and it's long past time we the people began putting a stop to it.
Right now, we're in a time when such a possibility is not as much of a pipe dream as perhaps it used to be. Thousands have been pouring onto city streets to protest the stripping of worker's rights by Republicans, and Democrats in those states are trying to make what political hay they can out of it to help themselves in the upcoming election.
Yet, none of the states where most of these pro-union protests have been taking place protect the rights of their transgender citizens to hold a job without fear of being fired or denied employment entirely just on the basis of their being trans. Once again we see Democrats doing what Democrats always do: pandering to the wealthiest and most politically connected on the left while ignoring the needs of the poorest and most harshly oppressed in our society. You could call it relatively liberal I suppose, but one thing it most certainly is not is progressive.
It's time for true progressives to draw a line in the sand, just as the Tea Party has done for Republicans. We need to run our own candidates under a truly progressive banner, not one beholden to the pathetic "leadership" of the Democratic party. We need to run real progressives for offices held by members of both major parties and become a part of the national debate, even if we know perfectly well from Day One that it's unlikely, if impossible, for our candidates to actually win those elections. True progressives need to start pulling the Democratic Party back toward the left by rallying fellow progressives to our cause and threatening Democratic majorities and careers at all levels of government, in much the same way as the Tea Party has done on the right.
Since after the 111th Congress we now know with certainty that we can't depend on Democrats to lead on the issues which are important to progressives in the face of even the slightest resistance from the right-wing even when they enjoy strong majorities in Congress, no matter what they say at election time, we have to take that responsibility out of their hands and place it in the hands of those who can be trusted to actually speak for American progressives lead and legislate in concert with the values they run for office on, not just when it's personally politically convenient and advantageous for them to do so. We need to run truly progressive candidates at all levels of government, and we need to do it in every election. There's plenty of untapped money and volunteerism waiting for the right candidates to take advantage of and we shouldn't hesitate to make it available to those who truly deserve it.
The biggest mistake true progressives have been making for far too long is trying to seek success within the Democratic Party structure. As long as the Democratic Party continues to be led by cowards, compromisers, and hypocrites, truly progressive values will continue to take a back seat to political convenience and craven self-interest at the expense of of those least able to effectively advocate for themselves in the political arena, just as they have for over a generation now.
The Democratic Party and the Tea Party both have taught us that the only way to reliably get our issues on the table is to force the issue and put them there ourselves, not to continue relying on others to do it for us.
Once again I have to ask: Have we finally had enough yet?