Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Strategy for PUMAs

September 9, 2008, 8:00 a.m.; September 13, 2008, 5:00 p.m.

Maria Houser Conzemius, Deepak Chopra, and Molly Ivins

Our local PUMA ("Party Unity My A**"), popular and often insightful Press-Citizen blogger, has announced today why she is leaving the Democratic Party: the Party's failure to bestow its nominations for either president or vice president on Senator Hillary Clinton. Maria Houser Conzemius, "Why I've left the Democrats," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 9, 2008.

By September 13 the Press-Citizen had received enough response to the column to devote an entire page to columns and letters of rebuttal -- linked at the bottom of this blog entry.

She is expressing a frustration, and taking action on the basis of it, that many Democrats and Republicans have felt over the years with regard to one disappointment or another.

There is a progressive wing of the Democratic Party -- sometimes called "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- the members of which feel a great deal of frustration with "the corporate wing of the Democratic Party." These are the folks who feel the Party has turned its back on its natural constituencies of poor, working poor, working class, and lower middle class -- and ask their Party's leaders, "So, how's that working for you?" Because their abandonment has happened to coincide with a good many lost elections, when in the progressives' view, had the Party stood by them it could have won virtually every position in the country from court house to White House. They feel they are being taken for granted, that the Party leadership believes it can ignore them because they have nowhere else to go.

But the reality is that they really don't have anywhere else to go -- except to third parties.

How to reconcile their dilemma? The late Molly Ivins advised disaffected progressives, when Ralph Nader was running: (1) determine how close the Democratic Party-Republican Party race is in your state; (2) if it's close, vote Democratic; (3) if not (either way) vote for Ralph.

Isn't this another case where the PUMAs can "have it all"? Rather than not voting at all, or voting for McCain-Palin, why not apply the Ivins' rule?

If you're an angry Hillary Clinton supporter who lives in a state that's "too close to call" vote Democrat. If the polls indicate either McCain or Obama are going to win in a walk, by a wide margin, write in Senator Hillary Clinton for president.

Wouldn't that be a more effective way to make your point? You'd actually get to vote for Hillary -- at least in some states, making your point, and your frustration, much more specific and clear than by not voting, or voting for McCain. But you'd also avoid turning the country over to the right wing, anti-feminist ideology and programs, the continuation of the Bush Administration, represented by the McCain-Palin ticket.

This is gratuitous advice, I recognize. I don't have a dog in this particular fight. But I can relate to Maria's frustration and just think there may be more effective -- and less destructive -- ways for her and other PUMAs to vent it.

Deepak Chopra is a controversial guy. I don't want to take responsibility for all he's ever said and written any more than I'd endorse everything ever said by a visiting minister in my church. But I've always been more interested in judging ideas on the basis of their content than on the basis of their source. And I thought his take on the significance of the differences between Palin and Obama -- not unrelated to Maria's column -- worth excerpting this morning.

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. . . . Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. . . .

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change? Everything's OK as it is." The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. . . . Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow -- we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.
Deepak Chopra, "Obama and the Palin Effect," The Huffington Post, September 4, 2008.

For a view that is, while not identical, certainly not inconsistent with that of Chopra, see George Lakoff, "The Palin Choice: The Reality of the Political Mind," Tikkun Magazine, September 4, 2008.

I'm not saying Chopra's "right" -- after all, how could you ever "prove" or "disprove" such an hypothesis to the satisfaction of the scientific community? I'm just saying I found it something worth reflecting upon this morning as I continue to try to make sense of this year's presidential election.

The September 13th Response

Lisa Krotz, "Palin comes at too much of a price," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17 ("Conzemius quotes a pro-Hillary blogger saying she looks forward to a day when the Democratic party is 'willing to nominate and support female candidates.' Was she asleep during all of 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro was running on the democratic ticket for vice president? If Conzemius chooses to vote against Obama for political, ideological and issues-based reasons, that is certainly her prerogative. But voting against . . . what appear to be her own self-interests serves little purpose.").

Lenore Holte, Brenda Pearson, Amy Correia, Dixie and Phil Ecklund, Kathy Gloer, Linda Louko, Niki Neems and Tricia Zebrowski, "Making life fair for women everywhere," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17 ("McCain's choice of Plain as a running mate appears to us to be less a commitment to the political future of women and more a diversionary tactic to try: To appeal to disillusioned Clinton supporters, To appease rightwing social conservatives; and To distract the electorate from the fact that he has an abysmal record in supporting causes important to women.").

Chris Owen, "Don't judge just in terms of party," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17.

Leroy Powell, "Obama campaign is falling apart," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17.

Holly Hart, "PUMAS should be voting Green," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17.

Jean Justice, "Cut off your nose to spite your face," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17.

Gary Gussin, "Column must have been satire," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17.

Amy Dobrian, "Columnist insults Clinton's legacy," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17.

Dale Bingham, "Conzemius is a traitor to Dems," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17.

And Maria's response:

Maria Houser Conzemius, "Conzemius responds to her critics," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 13, 2008, p. A17 ("The battle strategy of voting for McCain/Palin is not a game to us PUMAs; it's war. We've had enough. We're not stepping aside anymore. We're not going to the back of the bus anymore.").

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1 comment:

sajohnson said...

I agree with Molly Ivins.

I have been giving people the exact same advice.

My wife and I plan to vote for Ralph Nader unless the race is very close here in Maryland.