Over the mountains of the moon


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.


12 Responses to Over the mountains of the moon

  1. votermom says:

    We had to memorize that poem in college. Now it’s stuck in my head.
    (glares at iq)

    The only thing we NEED to do is stick together, because People United Means Action.


  2. native1 says:

    In my opinion third party politics fail because they are to narrowly focussed on one or two issues. To be taken seriously a third party must be broadly based so enough people feel included to push it over the “tipping point” what ever that may be.

    I believe we need a third party and it will have to be organized with real common sense leaders. My problem is where do you get the leadership from the “commoner” they are all to busy working for a living. Borrowing leaders from the mainstream just won’t cut it, they will pull the new party into the mainstream rather than fight the fight. It will be a knock-down-drag-out fight to be sure. Not one I’m sure anyone can even win.

    If not now when.

  3. myiq2xu says:


    I picture a coalition without “leaders” in the traditional sense. Leaders can be corrupted.

  4. Woman Voter says:

    Good one! Take more time to sleep, as it improves your writing and even inspires.
    Thanks. 🙂

  5. JeanLouise says:

    I love the idea of a third party but I’m just not that big of a thinker.

    I want my vote to count. I like the idea of voting as a block. We had Hillary in common but that’s already fracturing. Under what common goal do we organize as a block?

  6. stxabuela says:

    Very good post. When it comes to “who and what we are,” PUMA has always been more a network (horizontally aligned partnership) than a movement (vertically aligned leadership/membership.) The strength of a horizontal network is that it can more effectively handle multiple problems–the membership forms teams, with each assigned a specific goal. The weakness of the network is that a multi-pronged approach is not as powerful as a singular focus on one problem by all members–there is strength in numbers. From my personal experiences in business and politics, many women tend to prefer the team approach, so I was not surprised when PUMA used a networking frame to build itself.

    I would suggest that PUMA identify three to five major problem areas in which we would like to see changes. My big three: overt misogyny/homophobia is currently acceptable in the US; too few elected officials are female/LGBT; and, the unfair and unequal primary/caucus delegate selection system currently used by both parties. If we run off in too many directions, our influence becomes too diffused. By the same token, selecting only one issue could cause a splintering of the original network.

    The good news is that we have some time to discuss our options and formulate a plan. The period between Election Day and the Inauguration is traditionally the time for political introspection. You review, reassess, and formulate new plans and goals. As a political force, PUMA did not emerge until the contest was nearly over. Our success or failure will be judged two years from now. My favorite quote from this year is, “We were the ones they were not expecting.” They certainly don’t expect us to survive. Let’s prove them wrong.

  7. alice says:

    myiq, this may be my new favorite essay of yours. The Poe, the Poe!

    Good points. It seems to me that a lot of alternative (I don’t have better a term to express the coalition right now) blogs are only getting better, post-election. I’m starting to see multiple strategies around multiple issues (misogyny, education, 30% solution, Prop 8 and LGBT rights), and it’s heartening after such a disheartening electoral season. “Disheartening.” As in, just about ripped my heart out. Happily, I do believe that those of us still standing are a strong as earth, rocks and waves at this point.

    I’m intrigued by the “union of voters” concept.

    (Also, your point about the Mormon church is well taken — I also think the anger directed Mormons is misplaced, because it’s “safer” to misplace it there.)

  8. riverdaughter says:

    Hey! I can post here! {{happy dance}}

    I like this idea myiq. It’s a good first start. Maybe we can write some principles around which we can coalesce. Like, oj, I don’t know, “one person, one vote”? No scads and scads of bussed in people from other states for a caucus? I know, I know, it sounds so radical.

    Native1: I disagree. Every movement *does* need leaders. Unfortunately, I am an “Idea Rat” and lack the organizationa skills for such an undertaking. But yes, in order to be effective, we need critical mass and in order to get that, we need people who can keep the interested parties focussed and cohesive. Leaders are a necessary evil.
    And not all of them are corruptible.

  9. myiq2xu says:


    That wuz me, not N1

  10. native1 says:

    Anyone person or groups of persons are corruptible. I don’t think we should let that stop us. I don’t think that anyone here believes we should throw in the towel because of this. It will be hard and probably painful to start a third party and make it viable. The points against a centralized leadership are well spoken and have merit. Here’s my” but”, without a unified identifiable voice how do you become anything other than background noise?

    I haven’t posted much because it has been awhile since I have had to organize my thoughts in a coherent manner. I’m a much better speaker than writer. Thank you all for the forums you provide for me to express my thoughts no matter how incoherent.

  11. bluemorning says:

    I like to reply here and not at confluence because there’s so many comments over there and less here. Thanks for posting both places.
    Anyway, I think there are some great points to this topic.
    The need to build a voting bloc to wield influence and get pandered to,
    sounds like a no-brainer.
    But we are similar to herding cats- not so easy to unify unless there’s a dominant issue- like Nobama was.
    I agree with stxeabuela that we need to find a few issues of common ground, maybe work on them separately, like New Agenda for sexism, PumaPac for politics, and somewhere else as an alternative media and critique of MSM. We truly need new alternative media site, maybe like HP used to be.
    Just examples though.
    I’ve heard the Repubs are intent on marginalizing their moderates- and we know what the Dems did to us- maybe our common ground would be to appeal to moderates of both parties.

  12. johninca says:

    That Poe guy knew how to wield a pen; I’ll give him that.

    I’m glad he wasn’t around when RD was handing out the
    poet laureate award at the Confluence.

    I’d have been about as anxious
    to go head to head with him as Sonny Liston was to step in the ring
    with Muhammad Ali.

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