Political Animal


September 14, 2011 4:45 PM It’s really up to you

By Steve Benen

Matt Yglesias received a terrific email from a “well-educated, politically literate, 30-something person with a job and a kid,” who spends about 45 minutes a day thinking about politics. About 40 of those 45 minutes are spent reading Matt, me, and Ezra, and another five are spent talking to her husband, who’s been reading Kevin and Jon Chait.

She’s apparently feeling a little discouraged, though, because, as this reader put it, she didn’t “actually DO anything.”

She turned to Matt looking for suggestions. I found his response compelling.

If you’re a progressive and you feel that the political system isn’t doing what you want, it’s misguided to look at this as a personal failure of elected officials. It’s, if anything, a personal failure of you and people like you. Justice and equality doesn’t just happen because it’s nice, people need to make it happen. If it’s not happening, then its advocates are failing. And I do think there’s a lot of wisdom to the old Le Tigre song “Get Off The Internet.”

Reading and talking to like-minded people about how powerful people are failing can seem like action, but it really isn’t.

I agree with nearly all of this, though I’d probably take an ever-so-slightly different approach. Getting informed and engaging in political discourse is, to my mind, a form of action — action that the vast majority of Americans never bother to take. Investing the time and energy in reading worthwhile blogs and/or watching programs like “The Rachel Maddow Show” or “Countdown,” hopefully, on good days, gives news consumers a base of information they can use. It’s a foundation. It’s a prerequisite. It’s an important first step.

But it’s not the last step. I don’t want folks to get off the Internet and/or turn off their televisions — at least not at first — but I certainly wouldn’t mind if folks got informed and then get off the Internet and turn off their televisions.

And then what? Matt points to several worthwhile endeavors that engaged citizens can choose to pursue: volunteering for a campaign, contacting members of Congress, engaging those close to you in political conversations, etc. I don’t care if it sounds corny; efforts like these really matter. Those tired cliches about politics not being a spectator sport? They happen to be true. Ask staffers on Capitol Hill and they’ll tell you the truth — if the office is inundated with calls and letters, the member takes note.

Matt didn’t mention one of the big ones — actually showing up to vote — but that’s probably because it’s obvious, even if most Americans don’t feel compelled to do it.

He concluded, “Conservatives write and call Congress at a much higher rate than progressives, and more-or-less ordinary people hear conservative political messages from preachers and business executives all the time.”

Right, and that should, in theory, light a fire under the butts of those on the left. Tea Partiers didn’t have the foggiest idea what they were talking about — they still don’t — but they got off the couch, got engaged, and had a major impact. Conservatives don’t have to be connected to reality to do what’s necessary to help shape the larger political landscape.

And if they have the field to themselves, they’ll keep winning.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Donald Ball on September 14, 2011 4:55 PM:

    I can never shake the feeling that writing a letter to one's representatives is naught but a waste of time and energy. I don't get the sense that Congress leans conservative because more conservatives write them angry letters, I get the sense that they're conservative because our political system is biased towards the rich and the rural.

  • K in VA on September 14, 2011 4:58 PM:

    If you don't vote, you can't bitch later. It's really that simple.

  • steve duncan on September 14, 2011 4:59 PM:

    Dozens of prominent, well educated economists have testified, written, given public speeches and otherwise lent credence to the position you don't cut government spending in the position the U.S. is currently in. They say it only makes things worse, raising unemployment and causing multiple other negative effects. Despite this Republicans and a sizable number of Democrats (Blue Dogs?) pretend as if these economists know nothing and are to be ignored. Few if any of these Congresspersons are as educated or credentialed in the field of economics as the academics and experts they defy.
    Given this, how in the hell is an average person supposed to influence a member of Congress? These reps are telling trained economists to piss off. The average citizen stands a better chance of having an influence over thesse idiots?

  • Howey on September 14, 2011 5:03 PM:

    Progressives need to do more! I spend my day on my forum, blog, FB, and Twitter spreading the progressive word and pointing out the bigotry and absurdity of the right wing, particularly the Tea Party and their de facto leaders, Perry, Palin, and Bachmann.

    My words just don't go to them, I'll post on conservative newssites and blogs. I'll write, call or visit my Congressman expressing my frustrations.

    Our current dilemma is our own fault. Speak out!

  • EdTheRed on September 14, 2011 5:10 PM:

    I live in DC. Born here. No one to call, no one to write...so yeah, it's your fucking fault, America. Where were you when the DC statehood amendment died a quiet death because no one wanted to dilute the political clout of their own state's congressional delegation just so a bunch of liberals and African Americans (and liberal African Americans) could actually enjoy a little bit of democracy in the nation's capital?

    So yeah, like Dick Cheney said, "Go fuck yourself."

    And no, I'm not bitter, not in the least...

    ...okay, maybe just a little...

    but seriously, if one more person tells me to "write my senators," I'mma fucking lose it.

  • Dennis on September 14, 2011 5:12 PM:

    I grew up conservative, but have become Progressive in recent years after I started paying attention. It's physically impossible for me to get off the internet, but I realized most of my facebook friends (and friends, in general) are Republican, so I've basically transformed my facebook page into a political blog. I realize they won't click on any links to my "liberal propoganda," but they at least see some provocative quotes that their Fox News bubble would otherwise shield them from. Warning though, if you do this, your friends will hate you.

  • Live Free or Die on September 14, 2011 5:15 PM:

    The problem is that I dont like feel like doing anything for the Democrats except cast my vote. Every time I start to feel somewhat positive towards the Dems, they do something dumb to step on the message and discourage me.

    For instant, I read this at dailykos: Obama said to be ready to propose Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security benefit cuts. And at other blogs I read about how the blue dogs are not so hot to Obama's job creation program and how they would rather cut spending. Why would they talk about cutting SS when do not want there to be any cuts, but desperately want jobs? Why cant they stay on message for longer than a few days?

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 14, 2011 5:17 PM:

    Matt didn't mention one of the big ones -- actually showing up to vote -- but that's probably because it's obvious, even if most Americans don't feel compelled to do it.

    Actually i'm pretty sure that an hour spent volunteering in GOTV efforts is more valuable than 20 minutes driving to the polls, 20 minutes casting one vote, and 20 minutes driving back.

  • AK Liberal on September 14, 2011 5:18 PM:

    @ Donald Ball: At some point all politicians have to meet their constituents' concerns or they don't get re-elected. Politely and respectfully let them know what matters to you. If you and enough of your neighbors do this often enough and long enough, it will make a difference. Wingnuts are successful because they show up, again and again and again.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 14, 2011 5:19 PM:

    If you don't vote, you can't bitch later. It's really that simple.

    That's patently absurd. Whether you choose to discount the moral standing of the person bitching is up to you.

  • T2 on September 14, 2011 5:19 PM:

    "political messages from preachers" I don't think those on the Left understand the extent to which GOP/Conservative/Rightie messaging is dispensed by churches, It is a fundamental local building block for the GOP in the South and probably elsewhere.
    My mom's preacher was also the chairman of the local Republican Party aparatus, and between email lists to the congregation and not at all subtle sermons guiding the congregation to vote against the dreaded Liberals, he got the vote.

  • square1 on September 14, 2011 5:21 PM:

    Interestingly, Matt and Steve left out the single most powerful thing that you can do create change: donate large sums of money to political campaigns. No, this is not a joke. Long ago, corporations and wealthy Americans discovered that politicians are great investments: They can donate a few tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and get millions or billions of dollars worth of tax credits, regulatory fixes, or government contracts.

    But how many middle class Americans have figured this out? To most Americans, donating $500, $1000, or $2000 to a political campaign seems like a hell of a lot of money. In reality, if all Americans who were making $50k /year donated $5k/year to politicians who pledged to protect the middle class, in short order those same Americans would likely be making $80k/year with fewer health problems, more leisure time, and vastly reduced health insurance premiums. Money well spent.

    Unfortunately, too many liberals treat money in politics as a dirty enterprise to be strongly avoided, as if by refusing to engage in the pay-to-play system will make it disappear. On the contrary, until the system changes, we have no choice but to win under the existing rules. And the existing rules say that, when it comes to government, you get what you pay for.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 14, 2011 5:25 PM:

    @square1: I like how you think. More to the point -- what if i canvassed the neighborhood, found 50 like-minded people, and we all got together to bribe donate to our rep, and let him or her know about it en masse? Strength in numbers, right?

    It's sort of a free rider problem though. If everyone else is donating and i get my $80k/year and cheap insurance, there's no incentive for me to donate. Reversed, what happens if i'm the first and no one joins me?

  • Vince on September 14, 2011 5:29 PM:

    The sanctimony from the likes of MY, EK, and SB is, frankly, nauseating. They never cease blaming rank and file liberals for the problems of the Democratic party. They also, mind you, never look in the mirror and think that maybe the policies and the politicians they endlessly defend here and at other sites are part of the problem.

    I marched, with 100,000's of others in opposition to the Iraq war only to see much of the liberal establishment (I'm looking at you Matt) and Democratic party apparatus support it.

    I attended rallies in solidarity with the Wisconsin union members, along with roughly 100,000 others across the country only to be completely ignored by the mainstream press and the national Democratic party.

    I have voted in every election since I've been eligible. I've donated. Yes, I've made phone calls, written Congress, and gone to the office of my representative. And for all of that work, views like mine, when not outright ridiculed, are ignored by the President and the rest of the Democratic party and are largely pooh poohed by the trifecta of SB, EK, and MY. And to add insult to injury, after all of that, I continue to suffer through the likes of Steve Benen blame people like me for the problems facing this country.

    I continue to read SB's blog, because much of what he writes is good, but this kind of sanctimonious bullshit needs to end. SB, please start blaming the leadership of the Democratic party, starting with Obama, for the problems facing the left, and stop blaming the rank and file who are called upon to donate and a lot of the mundane legwork to get politicians elected who wind up spitting in our faces once in office.

  • Gummitch on September 14, 2011 5:30 PM:

    Calling my legislators doesn't help much because I'm blessed to live in Portland, Oregon and all but one of them is a liberal Democrat (for reals). Over the last year, however, I started making donations to candidates in other states, particularly those in tight races or fighting real Tea Party loons. And no, I can't afford to donate $5000 a year, especially in the hope that I'll be making more money as a result. I'm 62, and don't figure to get a lot better pay in the future. Plus, that's not what motivates me to care, to vote, and to do my bit.

  • Anonymous on September 14, 2011 5:32 PM:

    @K in VA & Equal Opp Cynic

    "If you don't vote, you can't bitch later. It's really that simple.

    That's patently absurd. Whether you choose to discount the moral standing of the person bitching is up to you.
    I with K in VA. When I used to hear people complain about W, the first thing I would ask is "did you vote?". If they said no, I said "I dont want to hear it." If they said yes and that they voted for W, I would feel sorry for them.

  • pol on September 14, 2011 5:37 PM:

    I belong to a Democratic women's group in my town in Virginia. Since Virginia is having elections this fall, we're making a list of 10 reasons Democrats MUST vote in November --to give to Democrats who are thinking of staying home on election day. Currently, in the Virginia General Assembly, Republicans hold the House, Democrats control the Senate by a thread.

    We've just started the project, but a couple of the things we've come up with are:

    If Democrats stay home and lose the Virginia Senate this year, we'll have our own set of vote suppression laws in time for the 2012 elections.

    If Democrats stay home this November, Republicans will change the electoral system from winner-take-all in Virginia to allocating electoral votes by congressional district.

    Help me think of others, PLEASE!

  • hornblower on September 14, 2011 5:40 PM:

    So called Progressives should not be blaming themselves. They have the mistaken notion that if only people were better informed they would agree with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of our fellow citizens vote by upbringing and emotion rather than cold logic. Witness how many Progressives feel that Pres. Obama has let them down personally.
    Time to grow up and realize this 200+ year old country muddles through and occasionally surprises us. The election of a black man for instance. So keep up the good fight and remember the Cold War ended, they got John Mitchell and Steinbrenner got suspended and Gene Michael rebuilt the Yankees. All things are possible.

  • Live Free or Die on September 14, 2011 5:44 PM:

    Another problem is the Republicans always have something to fight for and to be enthusiastic about. They are always pushing their agenda forward regardless of popularity or Party that occupies the WH. In this case, almost everything the tea party wants, the tea party gets, regardless of how foolish its proposals are. Additionally their ideas are very unpopular, but they fight for them anyway.

    Democrats on the other hand, have very popular ideas, but for some inexplicably reason, run away from them, and don't fight for them. Hell, they even ran away from the word "liberal", instead of re-branding the word. The media are scared of the Republicans; this is why the he said/she said. They think that the US might get like Russia, where if you are ostracized, you will not make any money. This power play in PA is just another symptom.

  • square1 on September 14, 2011 5:44 PM:

    Equal Opportunity Cynic:

    I suggest that you (and your neighbors) donate through Act Blue, or similar gatekeeper, such that politicians will know that if they don't act in a progressive fashion, the gravy train will get cut off.

    Anyone liberal who donates directly to the DNC, DSCC, or DCCC would be better off setting their money on fire. I mean that literally. At least if you set your money on fire, you aren't paying to elect corporatist Third Way Democrats who will actively oppose policies that you support.

    @Gummitch: And no, I can't afford to donate $5000 a year

    Really? Can you afford to have your Medicare and Social Security benefits cut? Can you afford to pay twice as much for food? Can you afford to have your house broken into by someone who was laid off 24 months ago and now needs to steal your shit to put food on the table (or buy drugs to take his mind off his problems)? Can you afford to have your water and air polluted? Your fish filled with toxins? Can you afford to deal with increasingly wild fluctuations in weather and climate?

    If you think you can't afford to pay $5k/year to protect your way of life, you probably can't afford not to.

  • Stephen Stralka on September 14, 2011 5:51 PM:

    Weird. We've got a post here urging all of us to DO something, whatever we can, to advance progressive causes, and a number of commenters respond that they'd rather bitch about Obama. What good does that do, exactly? Do you want to see the country start moving in the right direction, or do you just want to escape the blame?

    Seriously. Either you keep fighting or you don't. That's one thing we can definitely learn from the fucking Republicans, because they never give up. They're convinced in the depths of their souls that this country is theirs, and they're damn well going to take it back. And we're the people they want to take it back from.

    So, whatever. Obama let you down. The Democrats let you down. And tomorrow morning the Republicans are going to get up and go right back to work trying to turn the USA into a third-world shithole where corporations own everything and Bible-thumpers write the science curriculum. But hey, you marched, you called your Congressman, so fuck it. This is all Obama's fault.

  • exlibra on September 14, 2011 5:54 PM:

    Actually i'm pretty sure that an hour spent volunteering in GOTV efforts is more valuable than 20 minutes driving to the polls, 20 minutes casting one vote, and 20 minutes driving back. -- Equal Opportunity Cynic, @5:19PM

    Why not go Winnie-the-Pooh route and do both?

    I live in a small, south-western Virginia town. The town, itself, has a slight Dem edge; that is, Dem candidates almost always win here, even if by the thinnest of margins. But our edge always get lost in the county, which constitutes about two thirds of the total of registered voters. We have to try twice as hard -- not to win, for which our chances are zero -- just to "dilute" the county votes sufficiently to help the larger, more liberal urban centers push the state's or the district's vote in the right (ie left) direction.

    You do all you can. And then do some more.

  • yellowdog on September 14, 2011 5:55 PM:

    I dearly hope that progressives are aware of how much the right uses its network of religious organizations for political mobilization. It is the GOP base. If you want to understand where most GOP votes originate, go to a suburban mega-church sometime, anywhere in the country. Listen to the sermon. Listen to the conversation in the parking lot. Look at all the messaging the church does. I get the sense in these comments sometimes that progressives would just rather not look at what goes on in these venues. It is to be scorned and ignored. That's a big mistake. By not looking, you fail to understand a big element of what's driving politics in the U.S. right now. If you want to understand the rightward tilt the U.S. is on, this is where you have to begin your inquiry. If you want to know why Obama and many other Democrats do not resonate with some voters who really should be in their camp, the answer is there. God and politics are inseparable on the right. Very many people--and not just on the right--process political information through a religious lens. Many progressives like to keep a safe distance from all things religious--but doing so makes progressives likely to underestimate the real influence of religion on public life.

  • FlipYrWhig on September 14, 2011 5:57 PM:

    Inspired by this message, I wrote to Sen. Webb to ask him to reconsider his criticism of the Jobs Act. Felt good!

  • Alli on September 14, 2011 5:59 PM:

    The problem with progressives is that they are waiting for Obama or the party to do something for them first before they lift a finger. Very selfish. Its not about them its about all those millions of people you claim you're concerned about.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 14, 2011 6:04 PM:


    No, it's absurd for a host of reasons.

    0.1. It's figurative. OK, we agree that "can't bitch later" isn't literal. Don't have moral standing to bitch later, I suppose.

    1. Edge cases. What if I'm 18 and one month? What if I just became a citizen? What if I was traveling and requested an absentee ballot, but my state never sent it? Do i then get an exception to "can't bitch later"?

    2. Pragmatism
    2.1. A vote in California is not worth a vote in Ohio. If i choose not to cast a meaningless vote in a presidential election in CA, why does that have anything to do with my opinion of what happened in OH? Effectively they're two separate elections.

    2.2. See above -- my time is frankly better spent trying to encourage others to vote! Perverse but true.

    3. Not everyone has the same work schedule, lines at the polls, transportation issues, etc. So voting may be a 3 minute exercise for you to feel good about yourself, but a far more arduous task for someone else.

    4. Who appointed you to choose the appropriate threshold of civic engagement?

    What if i vote for President every four years but not dog catcher? What if i vote for dog catcher but don't go to City Council meetings? What if i do all of that but don't volunteer for campaigns? Didn't i have the opportunity to change things by volunteering for a campaign?

    And if it seems wrong for me to demand that everyone volunteer for a campaign before i grant them a voice in the public discourse, then who the hell am i to say that voting but not volunteering is an appropriate threshold to have an opinion?

    In sum: you're advocating voting not for any practical purpose, but just so you can feel good about yourself taking part in the debate. That's fine -- i vote for the same reason -- but at least be honest about it and stop claiming moral high ground. There are all kinds of civic engagement. Just because you choose one that costs you little effort every four years as the gold standard, that doesn't mean everyone is obliged to fall in line.

  • Unstable Isotope on September 14, 2011 6:06 PM:

    I can't believe how many excuses I hear when I ask progressives to make a phone call to Congress. It takes less time to make a phone call than it does to write a blog comment. I've actually had progressives tell me they voted for Obama that should be enough. I tell them - if the only people talking to Congress are teabaggers and lobbyists, what do you think will happen?

  • square1 on September 14, 2011 6:06 PM:

    George Carlin always had it right:

    Forget the politicians, they're irrelevant.

    Politicians are put there to give you that idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations, and they've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State Houses, and the City Halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear.

    They've got you by the balls.

    They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.


    And now they're coming for your social security money.

    They want your fucking retirement money; they want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later because they own this fucking place. It's a big club and you ain't in it!


    Good honest hard working people continue -- these are people of modest mean -- continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don't give a fuck about them. They don't give a fuck about you. They don't give a fuck about you! They don't care about you at all. At all. At all.

    Liberals have two paths to getting what they want politically. First, they can continue to search for and support political unicorns: The 1% of politicians who both give a shit about the middle class and are willing to fight in defense of their principles.

    Second, and far more practically, liberals can join the party and buy off the 99% of politicians who are amoral sociopaths. The 99% who are perfectly willing to give us single-payer health care, a healthy economy, environmental and labor standards, and solutions to to our energy and climate-change crises as long as we cut a fat check.

    Or, as Matt Yglesias suggests, you can pretend that you are making a difference by donating your time for, or write letters to, politicians who, in Carlin's words "do not give a fuck about you."

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 14, 2011 6:08 PM:


    I agree, but it's changing intergenerationally.

  • Steve High on September 14, 2011 6:10 PM:

    At the present moment, registering voters and raising small-dollar contributions matter the most. If you've given up because you tried before and it didn't work, I understand. Find a new hobby for a while. But if this stuff really matters to you, we need more renters who are registered voters.

    That's almost the ball game right there. Simple, but not easy.

  • DAY on September 14, 2011 6:28 PM:

    Wow, lots of passion here!

    Jesse Unruh said 'money is the mother's milk of politics.'
    But Tip Oneil said 'all politics is local'.

    Forget Obama/your senators/congresscritter! Someone above was right; they don't hear you. They just hear what my old man said the pastor wanted to hear in the collection plate. A silent offering. (CASH!)

    So keep you wallet in your pocket. Go to school board meetings. Township meetings. Whatever is happening a couple of miles from your door. Stand up, ask questions, get to be known- PITA or otherwise.
    The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step.

  • square1 on September 14, 2011 6:28 PM:

    @Alli:The problem with progressives is that they are waiting for Obama or the party to do something for them first before they lift a finger.

    What a crock of shit. Last time I checked, we still lived under a representative form of government. If there is a way for grassroots liberals to end our foreign wars, stimulate the economy, solve the climate change problem, reform Wall Street, and produce a single-payer health care system (or a public option) without Congress or the White House, I would love to hear what that way is. Please, by all means, enlighten us on how we can achieve our political goals without the President and Democrats in Congress "doing something".

    There are a hell of a lot of Democrats who worked their fucking asses off, donated their fucking asses off, and evangelized their fucking asses off to give Nancy Pelosi the House, Harry Reid a veto-proof majority in the Senate, and Barack Obama the White House.

    In our political system, electing representatives to pass legislation and enact regulations on your behalf IS "doing something".

    And if Democrats are unsatisfied with the results of their representatives, voters have every right to complain without Democratic sycophants condescendingly accusing them of not "lifting a finger".

  • square1 on September 14, 2011 6:38 PM:

    Re: Not voting

    One issue that isn't discussed enough is the tactical decision to not vote in selected races.

    Staying home can be misconstrued. But politicians notice when they get fewer votes than other members of their party. If their are 5 Democrats on your ballot and you vote for 4 but not 5, that fifth Democrat is going to take notice that he or she is doing something to annoy likely voters.

  • max on September 14, 2011 6:44 PM:

    This is from someone with 30+ years experience (now retired) as a federal employee in various policy positions. Writing or calling your Congressional Represenative or Senator is a complete waste of time. They will only refer calls, e-mails or letters to the Executive Branch agency or department responsible for your concerns. They will take no personal responsibility for anything. They will even refer constituent denands to solve problems that they created. As a citizen there are three things you can do to effect change: take the time to educate yourself on the issues (i.e., turn off the TV and read), donate money to candidates you support, and become more active in the political process.

  • wyliecoat on September 14, 2011 8:05 PM:

  • Anonymous on September 14, 2011 8:48 PM:

    wyliecoat on September 14, 2011 8:05 PM:

    http://thisiswhathappenswhendemocratsstayhome.com/ Spread the word.

    Republican governors of Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin reject high-speed rain, thus turning away billions of dollars in investment and several thousand jobs

    I did not know that!

  • Doug on September 14, 2011 8:49 PM:

    square1, what part of the phrase "majority rule" don't you get? Just because YOU support a position doesn't mean that it should become law or even that it's right!
    If "progressive" policies aren't getting enacted into law it means one of two things: either the opposition has a majority, or an effective way to prevent the majority from acting; ie, the Senate*, OR there isn't enough SUPPORT in the party you're backing for the policy YOU want. It doesn't matter how "right" YOUR position may be, it won't become law without enough votes. You may re-imagine events as YOU wish they happened but, as with your mistaken claim to a "veto-proof" Senate, that still won't change the facts.
    I'm guessing it's your near-complete failure to understand politics that led you to post: "...to give Nancy Pelosi the House, Harry Reid a veto-proof majority in the Senate, and Barack Obama the White House."
    In each instance in the above paragraph, you have portrayed the former Speaker, present Senate Majority Leader and present President as passive bystanders, while the voters do ALL the work. If that's really how you look at "politics", then you don't want a "representative" democracy, you want one, apparently, where it's YOUR vote/opinion/wishes that are obligatory on those elected officials. That YOU are dissatisfied doesn't automatically mean everyone is or even should be. Although that would explain your posts...
    Oh, and the only condescension I've seen tonight, is YOUR use of "Democratic syncophants" to describe someone who had the temerity to disagree with your rant. Project much?

  • axt113 on September 14, 2011 9:19 PM:

    Nothing will happen until progressives take a page out of the Arab spring playbook, we have to mobilize, in massive numbers, we have to go out in numbers that they can't ignore, and we have to do it day after day until our voices are heard.

    Problem is, Americans have become complacent and cowed, too distracted.

    Change is not affect by simple voting or by sitting on the Internet and posting, or writing a letter or two, its done by popular uprising.

    The Egyptians, the Tunisians, the Libyans didn't win change by just posting on facebook, they went into the streets and forced change.

    Until we do that, nothing will change.

  • zeitgeist on September 14, 2011 10:16 PM:

    square1 at 6:38 makes the point about not voting in selected races. Having spent much of my 20s doing targeting for Democratic statewide candidates in my state, I can vouch for the observation that candidates and officials really do notice who among them is the "most popular" -- and their staffs doing targeting research know the differences in vote counts very well.

    also, at 6:28, square1 said:

    Please, by all means, enlighten us on how we can achieve our political goals without the President and Democrats in Congress "doing something".

    I get your point, but I think there actually is an answer to your question -- a middle ground between your position and that of the folks about to give up altogether because they can't have any impact on the elected officials in D.C.

    The answer is that there is a lot to do locally. That saying "be the change you wish to see in the world"? Pretty well the ultimate way to do that is to run for something and be different from the people everyone here complains about. run for city council, school board, county party positions. if anyone here thinks those positions don't matter, you need to study the history of the right wing takeover of the Republican party since Goldwater, but particularly beginning in the 80s. Or just look at the impact of the Texas School Board. run for state legislature -- or help someone you know would do the right thing run for one of these positions. go to local party meetings, go to local issue group meetings - Sierra Club, MoveOn, whatever.

    It is slow, incremental work -- and the Republicans did that work, slowly replacing moderates at every level with hardcore wingnuts, then moving the best of them up to state legislatures, then U.S. House, etc. and into state party positions where they could wreak havoc on the party platforms - and get elected to the national conventions.

    The left needs to do the same, with the same patience and persistence. And it can be done locally where you can sense you are being heard and see the difference you are making. Tired of Blue Dogs? Do what the right did in reverse: get your friends to outnumber the usual supects at the local Democratic precinct meeting and vote in all progressives. Twenty years from now, the party will be as far to the left as the Republicans are to the right.

  • low-tech cyclist on September 14, 2011 10:24 PM:

    Seriously. Either you keep fighting or you don't. That's one thing we can definitely learn from the fucking Republicans, because they never give up.

    Well, yeah, but we've got to fight intelligently, too. The whole "call or write your congresscritter" bit means NOTHING if you're the only person writing in on that issue.

    If this month, I write and tell my Congressman that copyrights shouldn't go on forever, and next month, I write him about higher estate tax rates, what good will it do? None at all - nobody else will be writing about these things at the same time, and they won't be relevant to any proposed legislation.

    What we need is concerted action - which means those with a larger megaphone (and I'm looking at YOU, Matt Yglesias, along with Markos Moulitsas and plenty of others) should be urging their readers to write their Congresscritters about particular things. Then we'd have concerted action - a bunch of calls and letters hitting Congressional offices at the same time.

    You know, we tried this not too long ago, right after Scott Brown won that special election. A number of bloggers, people like Steve Benen and John Cole, were urging their readers to call and write their Congresscritters to urge them to Pass The Damn Bill. Remember that? It worked, too, didn't it? I was calling my Representative and my Senators once or twice a week, and lots of you folks reading this were, too.

    And it worked, didn't it? They passed the damn bill.

    The problem is that, in the year and a half since, there's been no similar bit of blogosphere activism.

    It's time we should do this again, with Obama's jobs bill. It may work, it may not, but the point is to move the needle, to let Congresscritters know there's pressure coming from our side.

    And after doing it with the jobs bill, we should come up with other issues to mobilize about - there should be one or two top issues a month, all the time.

    But someone's got to coordinate this. Someone with a reasonably large audience has at least got to lead a dialogue of their readers and ask, "which issues should we do the full-court press on, this month?" and once the winning issues are chosen, we join together in bugging our Congresscritters about them.

    So let's see who will step up. Matt? Steve? John? Markos? Who's got game?

  • Grammy Pat on September 14, 2011 11:07 PM:

    Surprised I didn't see this one:

    Find out if your voting district is represented on your County Democratic Committee (many places have unfilled spots). If your district has an opening find out what you need to do to join your local committee. Most places, filling an opening in between elections is a matter of just getting appointed by the committee. Then pitch in and help organize.

  • Cha on September 14, 2011 11:55 PM:

    "If you don't vote, you can't bitch later. It's really that simple."

    "That's patently absurd. Whether you choose to discount the moral standing of the person bitching is up to you."

    Oh, they can bitch their empty litle buffoon heads off..and, they do. America is overloading with the stupid.

  • chi res on September 15, 2011 12:01 AM:

    square1: Unfortunately, too many liberals treat money in politics as a dirty enterprise to be strongly avoided

    One of the few issues where I agree with you, sq1. We used to tell the volunteers, "The only thing tainted about money is there t'ain't enough of it."

  • BillyBobSchranzberg on September 15, 2011 12:10 AM:

    The country has tuned out your guy. He's lost them--

    In four speeches on his jobs plan in six days, President Obama has hounded lawmakers to “pass this bill” and urged Americans to raise their voices and join him in the call to action.

    “Call, email, tweet, fax, visit, Facebook, send a carrier pigeon to” Republicans in Congress, telling them to pass his plan right away, Obama has said with an impassioned plea. The president has spread his rallying cry on Twitter and Facebook, even launching a website designed to help supporters contact their representatives.

    So far, at least, the effort to leverage a flood of popular support for the plan against recalcitrant members of Congress seems to have fallen flat.

    Sources on Capitol Hill tell ABC News congressional switchboards and email servers have not been inundated by any notable increases in traffic, certainly nothing close to what was encountered after Obama delivered similar pleas for action during the contentious debt-ceiling debate and health care-reform battle.

  • Varecia on September 15, 2011 2:40 AM:

    axt113, you are right. Even Europeans are more inclined to take it to the streets whenever they don't like what their governments are doing, as I think the Italians were doing today.
    Americans never do that. It would, however, certainly wake Washington up. But again, Americans just never do that.

  • Goldilocks on September 15, 2011 6:38 AM:

    "The penalty good people pay for inadvertence to political affairs is to be ruled by bad people."

    Some famous person said that but I don't remember who.

    ("inadvertence", I assume, is taken to include inaction.)

  • km on September 15, 2011 8:01 AM:

    Give money! Politicians are for sale, and they come cheap.

    It is amazing the results you will get with just a small donation.

  • bandit on September 15, 2011 9:17 AM:

    Vince on September 14, 2011 5:29 PM:

    The sanctimony from the likes of MY, EK, and SB is, frankly, nauseating.


    Truer words have never been written

  • Goldilocks on September 15, 2011 10:02 AM:

    Actually, it was Plato. The quote is typically rendered:

    "The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."

    Seems we take a long time to learn - if ever.

  • Varecia on September 15, 2011 11:23 AM:

    BillyBobSchranzberg, those who did precisely as asked last month and called and called, and wrote and hollered, and pleaded and cajoled over the debt ceiling thing, like me, may wonder how much of a difference all that really makes. And now you heard Republicans digging in their heels and saying all the same old-same old crap before the Jobs Speech was even delivered. We know what will happen. The conventional ways of voicing our opinions to our elected officials are proving to be ineffective and increasingly quaint in the face of what is really a long, drawn out coup by conservatives. It's looking more and more that the only way is to resort to other means in these unusual times, and so far those from the center over to the left haven't got to that point yet. I'm not suggesting violence, but something more urgent than what has been the case so far.

  • Chicago Todd on September 15, 2011 12:42 PM:

    We spoke out in 2004, 2006 and really spoke out in 2008. And we got shafted by the Democrats and Obama for all that work we did. The power of money is what is the issue -- not me calling my Congress member and Senator which I do often . . . .apparently to no avail. Durbin's person answering the phone did not even know what Illinois' unemployment rate is. And I voted for him in 2006 because he was going to defund the Iraq war -- well guess what -- he voted to fund the war every frickin' time it came up. How was that for all my work supporting that prick?

    They will do what is right for big business and to keep themselves in power -- period. Don't blame me because I don't have a billion dollars to sway their opinion or want to waste any more time as they vote against what the majority of Americans want. I am busy trying not to lose my home by trying to make a living in an economy that they are tanking further with this debt/deficit hysteria. They could not be bothered to help average Americans but certainly found the means to make the wealthy even wealthier. Both Benen and Yglesias are WAY OFF!