I’m Done With Democrats

I’m not sure what was the final straw. Was it last night, when Rachel Maddow treated the leaked two pages of the President’s tax returns like a smoking gun when, in fact, they revealed nothing we didn’t already know? Was it Tom Perez, the new DNC chair backed by the Democratic establishment, who saw the Hillary issue as nothing more than “messaging” winning out over Keith Ellison? Was it the “Save Melania” signs I saw at the women’s march? Can it be traced all the way back to the ancient debate of Hillary-versus-Bernie? Or even further, back to the 2010 election, where Democrats proved yet again that no one would turn up for a mid-term?

I’m a self-described shrieking liberal. I’m not about to start campaigning for Republicans as a convert. Trump is a monster. But I can’t stand the Democratic party anymore.

After the election, I was galvanized — ready to do something, ready to make change, ready to scream in the streets at the very least. I was introduced to candidates and presumed to support them without hearing a single meaningful idea out of them. Would I come work this event for free? Could I knock on doors to get out the vote? There was little talk of policy and lots of talk of free labor, and more emails about contributing money to campaigns. And at none of them did I feel anything we did affected real change.

I come from the generation of the unpaid internship. The sword of Damocles hanging over me is my student loan debt. The lives my friends without student loans live are totally alien to me. I was on CommonwealthCare, the ACA pilot program in Massachussets, and it was worse than useless — it was cheaper to pay for my birth control out of pocket and take the tax hit than to pay $220 a month for a high-deductible plan that didn’t cover anything short of cancer or a car wreck. I was employed full-time, but they didn’t have to offer me insurance, and they certainly didn’t have to subsidize it. I have paid and worked and worked and paid and now, when I am angry enough to go to the streets, I am being told to sit and listen to leaders I know nothing about, do work for them, and pay more — that the solution is to plow more mindless effort and money into an organization that has, completely, utterly, failed me and mine. I can access all of human knowledge with a device in my pocket and yet we can’t convince people that global warming is real. We know the names and faces and corporations responsible for the housing crisis and yet a justice department appointed by a Democratic White House refused to make them face jail time. And while the ACA’s regulations are incredible strides forward, must we accept this marketplace as the best we can do when single-payer state-run examples exist throughout the rest of the first world?

I didn’t show up to these meetings to take on a new unpaid part-time job that I didn’t have time for. I showed up to tell elected officials that it was time to take the gloves off, it was time to stop being nice and start screaming, and to hold someone accountable for the milquetoast, conciliatory bullshit that the Democratic party had churned out in the past years. I showed up to get mad about the fact that conservatives have demonized regulation for decades and no liberal had stepped up to the megaphone and said that regulations are good, that all the parts of the ACA that people like — preexisting condition coverage, identical pricing for women and men — are regulations. I showed up to scream demand single payer, jail Wall Street CEOs, no private prisons, racial justice, stop giving the police tanks, and slash the military, for a start. I showed up to make my voice heard and was instead told to run for a minor office, volunteer my time, and knock on doors for candidates I suspected wouldn’t offer more than a token effort for the things I really believed in. I don’t care if it’s career suicide to advocate for a gun buyback program or aggressive gun law reform because I do not care about any one Democrat’s career more than I care about stopping school shootings. I do not care if single payer is unrealistic and unable to pass, I still want someone trying to pass it the same way conservatives try to sneak a personhood amendment by every year. Every meeting I went to, I couldn’t purge the specter of Business-As-Usual that Republicans levied at the Democratic party. It galls me to say that it almost feels like the Republican party was right about us. Because everything felt like business as usual: we lost this one, gang, but don’t worry! We have the money and clout to get back in, and the agenda doesn’t really matter.

At the advent of Candidate Trump, much was made of how the Republican party would resurrect itself from the rubble after their presumptive crushing defeat at the hands of Clinton. After the election, I don’t believe the Republican party to be any less rickety. The White House is a sieve and no matter how many uncomfortable looks Paul Ryan gives to the camera, he has given over his party to open hate.

But the Democrats are just as culpable.The country has been dragged further and further to the right and liberals, instead of resisting, keep listening to think tanks like Third Way to help us brainstorm how to make peace with “job creators” looking for handouts and fundamentalist theocrats. We are told not to focus on “identity politics” when our identities are the very eyes through with we see the world. The party of the wage worker who fought and died for the right to unionize now is contemptible in the eyes of those very unionized workers. And why shouldn’t they be? The culture war is over with them, and liberals lost. The only real victory we have standing right now is a few states of marijuana legalization. Sure, we have Elizabeth Warren — whose 2012 victory was slim, and who faces a terrifying mid-term 2018 reelection campaign — and the sainted Bernie Sanders, but they are not enough. Cory Booker, the neoliberal 2020 hopeful, is too cowardly to stand up for anything. Meanwhile, the opposition has an ever-larger military to threaten the world with and a brisk business reselling those tools to local police forces, a hole named Guantanamo to throw people into without charges, voting rights removed, immigrants terrified, and a white house that openly embraces the racism and xenophobia they’ve been dancing around for decades. But, you know, at least we can get legally baked until Jeff Sessions decides to shut that down too.

If we want to be in a position to actually effect real, meaningful, directed change in 2018 or even 2020, we can’t just resist. If we want to, as the popular Indivisible Guide recommends, repurpose the tools of the Tea Party for our own purposes, we have to have our own agenda that we advocate for. It doesn’t have to be some of the things I named. It should be some of them. But it has to be something, a list of a few concise points we can stand for. I’m not the person to make that list. I don’t need my candidates to take on every item on that list. But I am done blindly voting for Democrats. I am done making compromises with monsters and theocrats. And if the Democrats continue this way, I am done being a Democrat. It’s time to be a liberal.