I've often wondered whether -- had I been born less than a decade earlier than I was -- I would have had the courage (or foolishness, as some here will surely say) to burn my draft card in protest of the Vietnam War. We'll never know -- but today I did what was possible...and burned my Democratic Party voter registration card. Since it was a nice day, I shunned the fireplace and went with the gas grill.
I was a registered member of the Democratic Party for all of 54 days, and the experience taught me one thing above all else: That I really, really value my political independence. It was Groucho Marx who once said: "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." I certainly agree, although I'd add in this case that I don't care to belong to any club that would have Debbie Wasserman Schultz as its leader, either.
Make no mistake, I wouldn't change one thing about those 54 days. On April 26, in the Pennsylvania primary, that now-charred card was my day pass to vote for two outstanding, if doomed, candidates, Bernie Sanders for president and John Fetterman for the U.S. Senate. I never saw these as wasted votes -- merely a floor ticket to a political revolution whose best years are yet to come.
That was then, this is now. I don't expect burning my Democratic ID to be a particularly popular act. In 2016, though, NOTHING you can do in the political arena will be particularly popular, with the Hillary Men and the Bernie Bros and the Trump...um, supporters constantly on the prowl for whatever they deem that night is bad behavior. If I went on Twitter to announce that I had a runny nose, the Hillary People would say I caught it "down in the gutter" with Bernie's other supporters and the Bernie Bros would say it's because we don't have single-payer health care and it would go on for three hours and 247 tweets.
But let me at least try to explain why I did it.
1) I was keeping my promise. I'm not going to re-hash all of my earlier post from March, but I did vow that I would again become a registered independent -- as I have been for most of my adult voting life -- as soon as the primary campaign was over. During those 54 days, Donald Trump -- whose know-nothing campaign is fundamental threat to our democracy -- all but clinched the GOP nomination, raising the stakes for America. But the good news is that I can vote against Trump in November as an independent, without associating myself with either of two major parties that -- in their own ways -- have each valued the concerns of their big-money donors over the day-to-day problems of their rank-and-file voters.
2) The inept, bought-off elite leadership of the Democratic Party has worked continually to game the primary process, and is unfortunately more than capable of blowing the November election as well. Go back to last year, and the initial (failed, thankfully) effort by Wasserman Schultz to bury the debates at laughably insane times, including the Saturday night before Christmas and during an NFL playoff game, to limit exposure to Hillary Clinton's opponents.
Now, with July's convention in Philadelphia drawing close, Wasserman Schultz and her pro-Hillary cronies -- even though the Democrats' anti-democratic system of "superdelegates" is doing its job of protecting the party elites against a popular uprising -- are still working overtime to stifle an open debate on the party platform. The party leader named two bitterly vocal critics of Sanders's movement -- including former Rep. Barney Frank, who has lashed out against the Vermont senator on numerous occasions and will now be chairing the Rules Committee -- to key Philly posts. Look, I get it -- staging a bland "infomercial" and squelching open debate is what political conventions do in the 21st Century. But please don't do it in my name.
The elites argue that the party doesn't have time to debate getting big money out of politics or a living $15-an-hour wage for families that can barely feed their kids or universal college education -- because it needs to unite to defeat Trump. But given its lame efforts so far ("Dangerous Donald"? That's the best you've got?), I think the people will do better rising up and defeating Trump on our own, without help from Wasserman Schultz or a party platform drafted by lobbyists.
3) I won't belabor this point because it's an evergreen theme here at Attytood, but the Democratic Party leadership is far too beholden to Wall Street and other corporate interests to do the real hard work of helping America's middle class back on its feet. Exhibit A, unfortunately, is the all-but-presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, whose paid speeches to powerful corporate clients like Goldman Sachs -- part of a broader tangled web of paid speeches, her husband's consulting work, donors to the Clinton Foundation and players with major issues before the United States government -- show why she is a regrettable option for stopping Trump's neofascism and salvaging American democracy.
I will point to a piece that Zaid Jilani and Lee Fang published last week in The Intercept that looked at the Pennsylvania Democrats (or nominal Democrats) running the Host Committe for the DNC at the Wells Fargo Center. It runs down a tangle of corporate ties and divided loyalties, including Comcast honcho David L. Cohen, DNC Host finance chair Dan Hilferty from Independence Blue Cross who lobbied against Obamacare, and Ed Rendell's work for frackers and groups seeking to balance the budget on the backs of Social Security recipients.
When Bernie Sanders calls for a political revolution in this country, the Host Committee of the DNC is exactly NOT what he's talking about.
4) Today's Democratic Party is way too corrupt to be a real agent of progressive change. Maybe I'm biased on this front, writing this from my office in the heart of Philadelphia, where a sitting U.S. congressman is on trial on federal corruption charges, a slew of state lawmakers were caught on tape taking cash and gifts from a lobbyist, a state senator was just indicted on corruption charges, and the state treasurer and Rendell's former chief of staff got caught breaking the law and ended up wearing a wire for the FBI, and...do you really need to hear more?
I didn't even mention the city streets commissioner punching a guy out. And this is the city that Democrats want to showcase to rest of America? Look, if political purity were a soccer match, the Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a scoreless draw for decades. But, as noted here recently, even tolerating corruption is antithetical to everything that liberals are supposed to stand for. The excuses that I've heard for corrupt behavior in recent months....well, let's just say that didn't keep me and my Democratic voter card away from the matchbook.
With Trump seizing control of the GOP, much of the political world is focused on the looming implosion of the Republican Party. This is indeed happening -- but the delusional Democratic elites seem to be living in their own house of glass here. Far be it from me -- an ex-member after only 54 days in the party -- to tell Wasserman Schultz and her cohorts what they can do to get this fragile house back in order.
But as a concerned citizen and a progressive independent voter, I'd love to see an open convention and an honest debate about the future of the Democratic Party here in Philadelphia. I have little doubt that a fair and transparent confab, guided by rank-and-file progressives and not by lobbyists, would cast the money changers from the temple and embrace policies -- like health care and college opportunity for all -- that are favored by the majority of American voters.