For those of you who listen to Thom Hartman on Air America, he constantly reminds us of this when our "leaders" fail us, as they did with the FISA "modernization" act. Our leaders never have been leaders, we the people form the parade, and, eventually, they get in front of it. Over at DailyKos, Cugel discusses this idea from a slightly different angle, and I agree.
Since I haven't got a crystal ball the best way to look forward, is to look back -- to the era of Richard Nixon. Yes, that's Nixon -- in many ways the worst President of the 20th century, and yet there's a lesson here worth knowing!
The key question is what can we expect to accomplish with such useless patsies as we've currently got in Congress and why should we work to elect more of them if they're only going to stab the American people in the back? But, history shows us that there is a WAY FORWARD! Republican conservatives once faced the same dilemna (and to an extent still do), and yet they overcame it.
The wing-nuts have been in the ascendant since Reagan's election in 1980, but that triumph was SIXTEEN YEARS in the making! It didn't happen overnight and any victory over the present ultra-reactionary politics of Reagan, Bush and Shrub will not happen overnight either!
Let's be clear about this: Richard Nixon was NOT a liberal! He simply governed within the liberal consensus of his times which meant that the "obvious" and politically popular solutions to problems tended to be things that today would draw outrage about "Socialism" from the right, and ideas that are simply not on the agenda at all, such as anti-poverty programs.
Remember too that Nixon and Ford ran as ostensible "conservatives" during their campaigns, only to move to the center once elected.
They in short reflected the still governing, but frayed "liberal consensus".
Wing-nuts during this era endlessly organized, wrote articles, founded "think-tanks" and attempted to popularize their ideas. They organized at the grass-roots level only to see their candidate, Reagan, defeated at the 1976 Republican convention!
I can vividly remember the fear I got watching them chanting with fury after Ford's nomination "Four more months! Four more months!" They reminded me then of Brown-shirts and I couldn't help fearing what would happen if these fanatics managed to put Reagan in power in 1980. Well, we all know what happened!
Reagan won office and propelled by an activist base managed to totally subvert American democracy. We've barely begun to recover from the damage he did!
The problem is that after every set-back the Democratic base's tendency is to withdraw and sulk. Many are tuning out because of disappointment with the Democratic Congress's refusal to fight Bush!
I feel the same way, but really, it's going to take a LOT longer than one or even two elections to beat the Democratic party into shape!
And in the comments Cugel says:
It's not the MAN or WOMAN! It's the governing political culture we have to change, and that's NOT going to happen just by electing a few Democrats (or Radical progressives for that matter).I suspect I will draw a lot of fire from this. But really people, we cannot give up and go home. It's just not an option.
Try and imagine what would happen if someone like a Ralph Nader actually became President! There simply isn't a governing base for most of his ideas. If he tried for instance to largely dismantle the military industrial complex and radically change the tax code and transfer resources to the poor, how far would he get before he was impeached?!
The media would be screaming for his blood 24/7 and people all over America would be standing up and calling him a traitor, etc. There would be a mass-movement to get rid of him because the governing consensus doesn't exist to do any of these things.
It takes a lot of organizing and putting forth ideas into the public consciousness before people are ready to support new ideas. It's happening a bit quicker because of Iraq right now, but there's a LOONG way to go!
Saying "I'm going to take my ball and go home" doesn't accomplish anything.
Betrayal is an essential part of politics: learn to live with it and get off your high horse! We can expect LOTS more betrayals before this is done!