To hell with the Democrats

The first US national election I got to vote in was 1988. I was disgusted with Reagan, and worried about the 1980s incarnation of the religious right. So I voted Democratic, and they lost.

In the 1992 presidential elections, I voted Democratic again. I was now thoroughly sick of the American right wing. The Democrats won: we got Clinton, Republican-lite. That was an improvement, I suppose. The Religious Right had less direct influence. Still, it was a center-right government, and all I ended up was being pissed off to a lesser degree. I cast a protest vote in 1996.

In 2000 it was back to the Democrats again. As always, the Republican alternative presented the prospect of turning too much power over to the loonies, particularly the Religious Right. And so it turned out to be, in many ways.

2004, Democrats for another loss. By 2008, I was so sick of the disastrous Bush era that I swallowed my dislike of yet another center-right Democrat and went for Obama.

In all midterm elections I have voted Democratic. I have always lived in reliably Republican or reliably Democratic districts, so my congressional votes have been irrelevant. But I did it anyway.

Now 2012 looms. I face the prospect of voting for yet another neoliberal Democrat whose policies are Republican-lite. And the only reason I can see for that is, yet again, that while the Democrats might be terrible, the Republicans are insane.

No matter who wins, business and financial interests will dominate government. Maybe the plutocratic factions that invest in the Democrats will be less Neanderthal than those who back the Republicans. Maybe the corporate looting will proceed at a slower pace under a second Obama term.

No matter who wins, church-state separation will continue to erode. Maybe with the Democrats we’ll get more inclusive, multicultural public endorsements of superstition.

No matter who wins, the US will continue its wars and its imperial madness, while threatening civil liberties back home. Maybe with Democrats—no, scratch that, it’s not worth even pretending that Democrats will be less hawkish or less prone to torture.

No matter who wins, a significant probability of environmental catastrophe looms. Maybe with Democrats we can postpone the collapse of civilization for a few more years. Maybe even until I’m dead. We certainly won’t do anything to avert catastrophe. That might interfere with someone making money.

Right now I’m sick of everything. There is little prospect that any of the interests I identify with will get represented to more than a token degree.

I accept that politics has to be about compromise. The lesser evil. Half a loaf. But for decades now I’ve been getting crumbs with shit mixed in.

So I’ve had enough. Yes, I’m a secular liberal socialist atheist evolutionist, and I understand that it is political poison for a candidate for office in the US to be associated with any of these things. But if a party wants my vote—or praise, or effort, or donations—it had better do something more substantial in line with my secular liberal socialist atheist evolutionist sensibilities. Otherwise, if I still vote for them anyway, I contribute, in however minor a fashion, to my own marginality.

Right now, Democrats have no incentive to take the concerns of people like me seriously. Perhaps this is because we are a politically insignificant minority. If so, maybe our efforts are best directed toward improving this situation, and just loyally voting for Democrats does not help. And if there is a significant secular liberal etc. etc. constituency, well, I suspect we have been stupid for not putting pressure on the Democrats. Withhold support, and perhaps Democratic hacks will notice an incentive to do more for us.

In any case, I’m done. I don’t think I can vote again for, say, Obama, while retaining my self-respect.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • LadyAtheist

    I don't particularly like Obama but I'll hold my nose and vote for him because the alternative will be much much worse. It doesn't matter who they put up against him, the opponent would rubber-stamp the crap the Republicans in the House would push at him/her. I live in Mike Pence's district, and electing a dem to his seat is a big priority for me. He's a jerk

  • vjack

    You described how I've been feeling remarkably well. I wonder how many of us there are who are being ignored at the peril of the Democrats. Maybe it is time they find out.

  • sminhinnick

    America needs (and the rest of the world needs America to have) true multi-party proportional representation, so that minority views get a voice.

    If you are frustrated with American politics shutting out your views, then find and support the group that is going to reform the U.S. voting system! Otherwise you are just whistling against the wind.

    And educate yourself about various proportional representation voting systems that exist.

  • Pepe

    Maybe the more liberal democrats can form a movement within the Democratic Party mirroring the Tea Party. It's been pretty successful (unfortunately) for them. We could call it the Latte Party.

  • Tettle

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Bradley Bowen

    Think of it this way:

    A vote for Obama is a vote against the Republicans. To not vote or to vote for a third-party candidate is just a vote for the Republicans.

    Voting for Obama does not mean that you have to like or praise anything Obama does. You can vote for him on one day, and then protest his actions or policies the next day.

    I'm a secular liberal socialist atheist evolutionist too, but I believe that Democrats will keep the USA from becoming a fascist state and the Republicans will not, and that seems to me to be a significant difference between the two parties.

    A vote for Obama is a vote against fascism.

  • Hal

    I share the feeling of disgust, but three words always neutralize that feeling: Supreme Court nominees.

  • Keith Parsons

    Hal makes a key point. Right now we have the hard-right bloc of Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and Thomas. Scalia is in his seventies, but appears depressingly healthy. The addition of another far-right ideologue to the Gang of Four would be a disaster for every progressive cause. Of particular interest to those who follow this site would be the effect a conservative majority would have on church/state issues. One more like those four, and gangway for theocracy!

  • Taner Edis

    Hal and Keith,

    The Supreme Court doesn't hold as much weight with me. Look at what happened with abortion rights. Technically Roe v Wade still stands, but the practical availability of abortion and the legitimacy of abortion has been on the slides for decades. In many parts of the country, the right does not exist in practice.

    With Democrats nominating people to the Court, we'd get the same with regard to theocracy. That is, no outright endorsement of evenhanded support for religion, but a gradual erosion, compromise, and delegitimization of the separation of church and state.

  • Ross

    You're concerned about what you see as the erosion of church-state separation in your country. On the other hand, many American Christians are concerned about what they see as a rising tide of secularism, and the increasing marginalization from the public sphere of the institutional church, which is not as powerful or influential as you might think.

    You can't both be right.

  • Taner Edis


    There is a sense in which we can both be right.

    I don't consider a public sphere infused with religion secular, even if this religion comes in a flavor of diffuse spirituality, ecumenical every-tradition-is-right affirmations, or support for a bland common-denominator Christian heritage. This is where I see the Democrats heading; not some fantasy about theocracy.

    And yet, conservative Christians can easily (and from their perspective perhaps rightly) see this as an unacceptable dilution of what they take to be the proper public role of religion. Indeed, conservatives have a habit of confusing nontraditional and liberal forms of spirituality with secularism.

  • Ross

    I see.

  • Charles

    I must live near LadyAtheist, as my Rep. is Andre Carson, a rep I can live with. But for the most part, democrats are useless, but you must still pick and choose. Even though I was mildly surprised that Obama carried Indiana, I still would vote for Ralph Nader again for president. I have resolved to vote for the candidate (of the ones I'm allowed to in restrictive Indiana) that most aligns with my thinking, regardless of how likely he or she will win. By encouraging others to vote their own consciences and not for the candidates that the mainstream media deem acceptable, maybe the 2-headed dragon can be weakened. See also web sites for CommonDreams and Democracy Now! for alternative views.

  • Woodcarver Son

    If there were any way in hell to convince you to continue to vote democratic I wish I knew it. I have the misfortune of having been close to the core of the people who became the conservative christian movement. Giving Republicans any more control at all is an invitation to hell.

    Please do not listen to the message that Obama is incompetent. What you do not see is the extent to which the ship of state is controlled by lunatics. Obama is doing all he can against an obstructionist program and a ditch dug too deep. Democrats are just a few seats away from regaining control. Please do not give it up.

    But if you remember anything, please remember that it is not about logic. The christian conservatives are not about logic. Making sense does not matter to them. Control is all that matters.