To see change, be the change you want to see
Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism.
In the wake of the Trumpnado currently devastating our country even before the winds have truly picked up speed, I have been hearing a great deal from the progressives who hated Hillary so much they were willing to let the most uniquely unsuitable and unqualified president-elect in living memory into the White House, all too often by default. From their armchairs or computer chairs, they spew hate and disdain toward the Democratic Party as if it was the greater evil, when the truth is that the former Republican Party, now a strange amalgam between Trump and his ilk, Tea Partiers and white supremacists, is the demonic legion in question, not the admittedly flawed but mostly well intentioned DNC.
This thinking is flawed because you have to have realistic, human expectations of real, human Democratic politicians. These people are up against a phalanx of Tea Partiers who are fighting tooth and nail to destroy the common person. Their end game is to create a theocracy that will enable them to keep all those nonwhite, furriner, nonpenis-bearing and/or homasekshul types down in the gutter where they belong even as they grow rich on our backs.
I also hear a great deal about wanting enormous changes and wanting them now — and condemning the people of the past as if they were do-nothings. This is simply not true. I was born in 1955 and to you born so much later, that world would be completely beyond your comprehension. Even I, who lived it, am staggered when I look back. Trust me, if you were able to travel back and visit that time, you would feel as stranded as if you were picked up by helicopter in the dark of night and deposited in a country where every single aspect of it was strange to you.
In the past 61 years, while it started out at a pace modern people would consider glacial, I’ve seen mind boggling changes and much of what is so bitterly derided as inadequate would have at the time been culturally impossible. Our accumulated knowledge and understanding is snowballing and to us now, this swift pace of change is normal, so we apply modern expectations to the past, but that isn’t fair or feasible. The fact that we had as much change as we did — particularly before the true age of information — is pretty impressive (consider that the Civil Rights movement began even before we had calculators). It happened then the way it was possible at the time, not the way we expect it to be now. These days, the changes are as fast as the Internet and we expect them to happen at that speed. In reality, even with all our progress, it’s simply not going to happen at that pace because we’re still just human and there’s only so much we can do without throwing the world into unmanageable chaos.
Another thing to remember is that the changes from the past we savor and take for granted now were not brought to us by Republicans. They came to us by the dogged work of the Democrats, hampered as much as humanly possible by the Republicans. By the time I was here, the time of Eisenhower Republicans was over — we were just post Senator Joseph McCarthy and Republicans were well on their way to being advocates only for themselves, corporate interests and the very rich. It was the Democrats — the liberals — who brought us civil rights, reproductive freedom, women’s rights, gay rights and all those other improvements we count on now.
Something more to consider is that the two party system really does work if it isn’t broken. If you look at other countries with many different parties, they’re often dominated by conservatives simply because conservatives excel at organization and manipulation where liberals are generally more ethical but tend to splinter into little bickering factions, grumbling that their pet cause isn’t at the top of the list or that somebody isn’t politically correct enough. While the liberals are in a spat, the conservatives are doggedly creating a wall that completely shuts the liberals out — hence, Trump and the Republican Congress. I understand the temptation to throw the whole mess out and start over, but take a good look at Israel, with its many political parties, ruled by the hawkish ultra-Orthodox because, again, the liberals can’t stop squabbling long enough to organize and don’t seem to ever figure out what the conservatives are doing that works so well.
In my personal and considered opinion, throwing out the Democratic Party is a bad idea for all those reasons plus the fact that the infrastructure is already so well-established and in place. Rather than trash it, it would be better to get in there, roll up our sleeves and start making changes from within. Hate the status quo? Go get your hands dirty. Literally be the change you want to see. It’s the best use of our time.
I am actually planning to dive into the sphere of politics, possibly even considering a run for some sort of office, but at least just working to become a part of the structure of the DNC, because it is overdue for fresh and adamant voices. Mind you, the thought is anathema to me — it’s not love of power but a reluctant civic duty that drives me — but if we’re going to take our government back from these bastards, it won’t be by crying at the skies “Why don’t they do something about it?” It will be when we all say “How about we get in there and do what needs to be done?” That’s when the changes we crave will begin.