Giving up on Democrats doesn’t mean giving up on politics

I fully endorse this from Jamelle Bouie. It’s so good I’m quoting it in full:

Apropos of my current, overwhelming contempt for the Democratic Party, I think it’s worth making a distinction between giving up on the party and giving up on politics. I think liberals are well within their rights to give up on Democrats, especially if they give in to their worst impulses and abandon health care reform. After all, there’s absolutely no use in devoting your time, energy, and money to a party that can’t be bothered to fight even when the deck is stacked in its favor.

That said, giving up on the Democratic Party doesn’t exempt you from politics and civil society. In the absence of any real vehicle for institutional change, it is absolutely critical that liberals focus their efforts on building and bolstering civil society. My friend Dara made a really good point about this a few days ago:

[V]olunteer at a Planned Parenthood, a community health clinic. Donate to organizations that promote financial literacy among working-class families. Try to find a place of worship that provides sanctuary to immigrant families, or at least supports it. Reduce your carbon footprint. Civil society can’t clean up all the shit that government ought to do, but it can push back a little against crushing inaction.

Our system is broken, and as far as I’m concerned, passing health care reform won’t change that fact. Indeed, if anything, it’s the battle over health care reform that put the dysfunctions of our institutions and the small-minded selfishness of our “representatives” in stark relief.

At this point, the only real option we have is to change the system. Part of that will require change from the inside — working through existing institutions and doing everything we can to reform them for the better. But the other, arguably more important part is to do what Dara recommends and push back against inaction, community by community. Granted, reliving suffering on a local level isn’t the same as addressing the broader systemic concerns, but that doesn’t make it any less important. And judging from where we are as a society right now, it might be the most important thing we can do.

Seriously, at times like this, it’s far too easy to just wash your hands of the entire mess, and say that you’re sick with it, and thus done with it – especially if you were one of the many people who was attracted to Barack Obama and supported him precisely because you believed that this time, he would do different and thus things would be different.

I don’t blame anyone one iota for feeling betrayed. Hell, I feel that way too – if you follow me on Twitter, my Twitter feed for the last week has been one long, angry torrent.

But the point of this isn’t to see who feels more betrayed, because that’s a sucker’s game. The whole point is to fix this broken land we love – a union that can never be perfect, but has always been more perfected, in fits, starts, and occasionally bloody turmoil.

Our challenge remains now what it always has been: to make this a better country for our kids. The fact that Barack Obama and the Democrats seem intent on failing as vessels for that change we need doesn’t lessen the challenge, or make it any less urgent.

It just means we need different vessels for that change. And the truth is, we’re those vessels, and always have been.


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