Edgar Allan Poe:
Gaily bedight, a gallant knight, in sunshine and in shadow,had journeyed long, singing a song, in search of Eldorado.But he grew old, this knight so bold, and o’er his heart a shadow,fell as he found, no spot of ground, that looked like Eldorado.And, as his strength, failed him at length, he met a pilgrim shadow;”shadow,” said he, “where can it be, this land of Eldorado?”“Over the mountains of the moon, down the valley of the shadow,ride, boldly ride,” the shade replied, “if you seek for Eldorado!”
I can identify with the knight in that poem, because I feel like I grew old during the 2008 Deathmarch Campaign, and now we are looking at years more effort. I know what you’re thinking, the Petulant Clown is being a little f*cking ray of sunshine again, but stay with me a minute, okay?
I didn’t go to college right after high school because I already knew everything. But by my early-thirties I had forgotten so much I went back to school. I was closing in on my Bachelor’s degree a few years later and was trying to decide what I would do next. I had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer but I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend several more years hitting the books.
Then I saw a column by the late Ann Landers in which a woman asked for advice because she wanted to go back to school to become a lawyer but was unsure if she should because it would take seven years to complete and by then she would be 40 years old. Ann Landers replied “How old will you be in seven years if you don’t go to law school?”
There will be another election in two years and we’ll be voting for President again in four years. That’s gonna happen whether we like it or not, and in the meantime the issues we care about aren’t going away. We can hide our heads in the sand or we can keep trying to make a difference. I don’t like hiding my head in the sand because it leaves my ass exposed, so I’m going with Plan B.
But what, you ask, is Plan B? That’s a very good question, and I wish I knew the answer. Well, I do know the answer but it’s not very helpful. The answer is “It depends.” It depends on us and it depends on you. When I say “us” I mean the PUMA coaltion acting collectively, and when I say “you” I mean each member of PUMA acting individually.
If the PUMA coalition is going to continue to exist in a meaningful way, we have to decide who and what we are and where we are going. Once we figure that out, we can start planning how to get there. But those questions depend on what each of us individually is willing and able to do. PUMA has never been a “top-down” organization with someone at the top telling us what to think and do, it’s a true grassroots movement.
Most of us are or were Democrats, and Democrats have never been strong on organization or unity. That’s both a strength and a weakness. PUMA and the Democratic party are both coalitions of people with diverse interests. The key to a successful coalition is the various groups working together to achieve each other’s goals. The GOP in recent decades has been far more homogenous and represents the single largest voting bloc (white males) so it can only be opposed by the combined efforts of smaller blocs.
The protests over the passage of Prop H8 highlight the failure of the old Democratic coalition. The LGBT community is outraged that the African American community appears to have violated the impled covenant that bound the coalition together by voting against gay marriage in California. I think the anger at the Mormon church for their part in the Prop H8 campaign is misplaced because they were never part of the coaltion. I think they were wrong to oppose gay marriage, but all they did was exercise their Constitutional rights and they have the right to be wrong. But the LBGT community supported the Civil Rights movement and many of them voted to elect Barack Obama and they were entitled to expect the support of African Americans because they are (or were) part of the same coalition.
PUMA is made up primarily of former members of the old Democratic coalition (most notably women and LGBTs) who were cast aside by the party. Because of years of unswerving loyalty to the Democratic party they were taken for granted and ignored instead of being rewarded and pandered to by the people they helped elect. That is why I believe PUMA should, at least in the near future, try to form a unified bloc that is capable of determining the outcome of elections.
Building a majority coalition would take many years to accomplish even if it were successful, and most 3rd parties never get beyond low-single digit support and end up being perennial protest voters. However, in a close election an uncommitted voting bloc that represented even 2-3% of the voters would be highly prized and sought after. I don’t know about you but I would like to see both parties bidding for my vote rather than one party taking me for granted.
PUMA could act as a union of voters rather than a political party. Instead of fielding candidates we could commit to voting as a unified bloc in state and national elections. No donating to or campaigning for candidates, just for issues that we support. Let’s refuse to commit until the last minute and see who makes the best offer for our votes. What have we got to lose?
Depending on the state they live in PUMAs could register and vote in either party’s primaries not to cause mischief but with the goal of reaching the general election with the best possible options. When you cast your ballot in 2012, would you rather have Sarah Palin vs. Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama as your choices? I would much rather have to choose between “good” and “better” rather than “bad” and “worse.” Additionally, we could vote strategically in downticket races with the post-partisan goal of getting better leaders overall. Party Unity My Ass.
Now that’s my idea. Feel free to disagree, just be polite. If you have a better idea, I’m all ears, and even if the consensus is I’m wrong and that we should do something else I’m not going to pout and run away because there is one thing I am absolutely, positively sure about. There have been some people lately, here and elsewhere, proclaiming that we NEED to do this, or we NEED to focus on that, and getting angry or hurt when others disagree. Most of those people NEED to shut the f*ck up! The only thing we NEED to do is stick together, because People United Means Action.
If there is an issue you care about, focus your attention on it. If there is a job you you think needs doing, then do it. There are many things we could and/or should do. Pick one (or two, three, whatever) and get busy. Hillary says, “Bloom where you are planted.” Every PUMA can lead – all you need is a vision and the desire to make it real.
If you lead, others will follow.