DINOs and Revolutionaries

You want to know why I left the Democratic Party and registered as an Independent nearly a decade ago? Because of DINOs – Democrats in Name Only.

The Democrats are supposed to be the ones who represent the people – the ones who stand on the side of women, pigmentational minorities, GLBT people, working people, the elderly, the differently abled, the poor. The ones courageous and principled enough to take on the mainstream, bigots, corporations and outmoded, unfair “norms” in order to fight for a higher good and for the true American values of justice, fairness, opportunity and equality for all under law. In its heyday, this party made its share of mistakes, of course, but much more often than not, its missteps were guided by principle, by doing what it thought was right rather than what was expedient or pragmatic or popular.

Now, however, the party is run by DINOs, exceedingly limber politicians who will contort themselves to fit a centrist, conservative-leaning pose they believe will be better accepted by the US mainstream, who will say whatever they think will win them political currency – whatever they really believe deep down be damned.

  • Hillary Clinton talks a tough game these days, but don’t forget that she voted in favor of Bush’s illegal “war.”
  • Charles Schumer wants New Yorkers to believe that he’s a populist, but he clearly shows he is the boy of business.
  • Barbara Mikulski of Maryland intones that “discrimination is wrong, plain and simple,” yet casts a vote for the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.
  • Former President Bill Clinton, a DINO, signed DoMA into law and crowed about on right-wing radio.
  • Marriage equality – on its face an issue that speaks to basic issues of legal justice for all – can’t be discussed in mainstream Democratic circles, even as DINOs insist that they are the party for GLBT Americans. But when it comes to equality for GLBT people and their families, the only 2004 presidential candidates to endorse it publicly were Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braum and Al Sharpton – all progressive, all deemed “unelectible” by the party’s powers-that-be.
  • And just last night, the National Uniformity for Food Act was passed last night by the Republican-rule House of Representatives. This obviously pro-business, anti-consumer bill was a bipartisan effort backed by a host of Democrats in Name Only. See for yourself how the votes were cast.

DINOs poison local politics too: Take the case of Pennsylvania. I’ve railed about this before, but this infuriates me infinitely: A strong progressive candidate with a successful background as a political organizer, Dr. Chuck Pennacchio, is hoping to unseat a very dangerous pol with a dangerous agenda, right-wing Republican Sen. Rick Santorum. Does the Democratic Party hoist Pennacchio on its shoulders and declare its enthusiastic endorsement? No. Its leaders – and many of the high-powered Democratic blogs and organizations, including the GLBT civil-rights group Human Rights Campaign – hail state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. as its golden boy. Casey is a DINO if ever there was one: His positions aren’t very different from Santorum’s. He is anti-choice, won’t call for a living wage, opposes stem-cell research, and on and on. Ask him about gay rights and he’ll say he supports them, but when filling out a questionnaire for Pennsylvania’s Catholic Conference, he indicated that he opposed gay marriage and opposed adoption by gay people. But these DINOs insist Casey is the only hope for beating Santorum. I don’t know about that: John Kerry is a DINO to beat all DINOs. Is he the president?

A lot of people ask why I haven’t registered as a Green, given that my beliefs are close – though not identical – to Green Party platform planks. It’s because my experience within a Democratic Party that betrayed our core principles and betrayed true progressives scarred me so much that I am reluctant to trust any party. It’s easier to go it alone and to know that I won’t be betrayed, that I can maintain my integrity. And integrity matters to me. Hence my distaste for DINOs.

My friend and fellow Marylander Thomas Nephew of Newsrack Blog (and a Pennacchio supporter too) inspired this rant. Today, he takes on DINOs and what he writes is worth reading. Here is an excerpt that addresses the recent Texas primaries and the defeat of progressive Ciro Rodriguez by DINO Henry Cuellar:

…Rodriguez’ loss isn’t just a defeat, it’s a debacle — firedoglake et al notwithstanding — more akin to doomed Union regiments storming the stone wall at Fredericksburg than losing a battle worth the fight. Not only were everyday Republicans free to foul the results, it should be remembered this was an internecine fight courtesy of Tom DeLay and the least favorable districts computers could draw. Talk about unfavorable terrain. No wonder “Democrats In Name Only” like Henry Cuellar have climbed out of the political ooze to take their place as DINOs in the swamps of American politics. …

What should big-time liberal bloggers — the likes of Atrios, dKos, myDD, firedoglake, Gilliard — be up to in the first place? It should be dawning on them (and more to the point, their readers) at some point that, at least for now, they’re not giant-killers or kingmakers, except under very, very, very rare circumstances.

Instead, they’re catalysts for and harbingers of change — fairly slow, opinion-changing, community-building change. That’s a terrifically important, even revolutionary role. But it’s more about morale and spirit and direction than about full frontal assault — more Tom Paine than George Washington. And Tom Paine should be listening to Paul Revere and the rest of the B-list revolutionaries a little more often. …

I’ve mentioned Chuck Pennacchio before. He’s running for the U.S. Senate in the Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania. His chief opponent is Bob Casey, Jr., a guy who will be the American Heritage dictionary illustration of “DINO” if he’s ever elected. While the last I heard from MyDD about him was that Pennacchio wasn’t “viable,” I now see that neither was their favorite son, Ciro Rodriguez. … So either MyDD should admit “viability” isn’t an issue, or that they’re not very good judges of it in the first place.

If so, what’s left? Same as it ever was: saying what you’re for, finding candidates who are as well, and building from there. I’m not saying Ciro Rodriguez wasn’t such a candidate — he was. The point is, so is Pennacchio. The point isn’t whether you can guarantee either one will win — evidently, you can’t. But of the two, Pennacchio isn’t the one fighting on terrain mapped by an archenemy of the Democratic Party, Pennacchio isn’t the one campaigning in a system where essentially Republicans can affect the outcome of a Democratic primary, and Pennacchio isn’t the one who already had name recognition (Rodriguez is an ex-Congressman). His battleground is on better terrain than Rodriguez’ was, and he needs our help more.

Absolutely. Here is a Democrat who is progressive, who is on the right side of issues, and won’t pander to purely political concerns. In short, he is a candidate with integrity, which, sadly, appears to be in short supply among the Democratic leadership and, tragically, is rarely rewarded.

Perhaps DINOs should rethink the matter before they go the way of… Party leaders ought to consider doing what Thomas suggests: following the lead of the revolutionaries for a change. After all, historically speaking, Democrats were the revolutionaries, the progressives. Few believed that John Adams and Co. would win the day. Even if they had lost the battle for independence from Britain, would they have been wrong to engage the struggle? I don’t think so. They would have gone down knowing that they had done what was right.

If progressive Democratic candidates are bound to go down to defeat – and I don’t believe that is necessarily true; screw the supposedly pragmatic market-research concept of “viability” – wouldn’t it be better to do so with integrity and principle intact? And who knows… As it did for the revolutionaries of 1776, it ultimately may lead to victory – and to a better day for the American people.

Do read Thomas’ essay; it’s a thing of beauty.

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10 thoughts on “DINOs and Revolutionaries

  1. Natalie,

    I just want to make you and your readers aware that Rick Santorum has a primary challenger — me!

    My name is John Featherman, and I’m a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-stem cell research, pro-drug decriminalization Republican. I ran against Santorum 6 years ago as a Libertarian, and I’ve decided to run against him in his party now.

    Please check out my views at http://www.featherman.com.

    John Featherman
    Republican Candidate, US Senate-PA

  2. Nice to meet you, John. With any luck, the general election will be a Pennacchio/Featherman matchup.

    I will check out your site. It’s so cool to see a liberal (libertarian) Republican. Doesn’t happen often (I ought to know; I was one nearly 30 years ago and it was a lonely thing to be).

  3. Beautiful, Natalie.

    I just sent off an e-mail to the DSCC, where I told them that I would not vote for nor endorse Casey, and I asked them where Pennacchio’s name was on their list. They quote some poll where Casey leads Santorum and they never mention the fact that Pennacchio is ahead of both in the Zogby Poll.

    It would be nice if Mr Featherman and Dr Pennacchio created a new political party where people stop calling themselves Republicans or Democrats. I think we need that alternative as voters, and as Americans before the party. (I know it’s probably not possible, but it would be very interesting.)

    Another Concerned PA Voter

  4. Wow, RD, they don’t even include Chuck’s name? That is just so wrong on so many levels. Undemocratic too.

    Realigning the parties to reflect reality – and honesty – would be a decent trick. Yeah, it’s probably not possible and even if it were, I imagine new parties would become corrupted not long after.

  5. rebel yell the name of your commenter, mr.featherman.

    the repuke primary is an excellent place to smash (in)Sanitarium.

    The DSCC may fear Pinocchio’s name as a media joke, even though he has the balls to speak the truth. Maybe he could get a transplant.

  6. Natalie,

    It seems hard for those on the Left to accept that the Democratic Party they romanticize hasn’t existed for a very long time. It’s a myth.

    There are two business parties in mainstream American politics. When I hear laments about the party “abandoning” the few enlightened candidates who dare swim upstream, I wag my head. That why I proudly call myself a radical. You can’t expect the fox to protect the henhouse; let’s look for a real farmer.


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