“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” — Will Rogers

A few hours after Tom Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Michael Moore took to Facebook to lament the Democrats having once again spurned the youth and the progressive wing of the party by failing to elect Keith Ellison. Others showed up all over social media to whine and complain and once again threaten to start  a third political party because the Democrats didn’t elect their guy.

To Michael Moore and to the young firebrands want to leave the Democratic Party, I have only one question: what the hell is the matter with you?

It’s instructive to note that also hours after the DNC election Trump tweeted this:

The race for DNC Chairman was, of course, totally “rigged.” Bernie’s guy, like Bernie himself, never had a chance. Clinton demanded Perez!

Beyond the fact that this isn’t true, look at it. Look at it, and understand that Trump would like nothing more than for Democrats divide themselves over this issue or any other. That kind of division helped to elect him last Fall, and he knows it. Why don’t we?

There was a lesson in the November election, at least for those willing to learn it. The fundamental truth of our system is that it’s a two party system. Perhaps it would be better if it weren’t, perhaps it would be better if the Democratic Party were further to the left, perhaps it would have been better if Bernie had been nominated instead of Hillary, and so on. Perhaps. I don’t know any of those things for sure. What I do know is this one inescapable thing: right now, for better or for worse, it is a two party system. Third-party candidates will succeed only in draining support away from one or the other of the major party candidates.

This is especially true at the presidential level, because of the Electoral College. Yes, the Electoral College stinks…but it’s the current law. It’s also, of course, how Clinton could win three million more popular votes than Trump and still lose the election. Those of you who could not bring yourself to vote for less-than-perfect Hillary Clinton and who either didn’t vote or voted for Jill Stein contributed to the election of Donald Trump. If you don’t believe me, go and look at Stein’s vote totals  in the critical states, and then look at how much Hillary Clinton lost those states by. Go and look at the fact that something on the order of 80,000 votes in just four states cost us the presidency.

Don’t tell me that the Democrats brought this on themselves by nominating a less than perfect candidate.  There is no perfect candidate.  This is always going to be the case, now and forever. But if we are not united  because some of us are too pure or too stiff-necked to vote for anybody except our guy, we guarantee leaving the Republicans in power for the foreseeable future. Perhaps we even ensure the re-election of Donald Trump in 2020.

I understand very well the idealism that drives the desire not to accept a candidate that you see as “only the lesser of two evils.” But I understand something else as well, and that is that in politics and perhaps in the rest of life sometimes the best we can hope for is the lesser of two evils. We absolutely didn’t get that in November, did we? Can you seriously believe that any Democratic president would have given us the travel ban, or would have signed on to allowing coal companies to dump waste into streams? Can you seriously believe that any Democratic president would sign the gutting of Social Security and Medicare, or the repeal of the ACA? Can you seriously believe that any Democratic president would sign current House Bill 610, which voucherizes all federal education funds and repeals the school lunch program? Can you imagine any Democratic president winking at mosque burnings and desecration of Jewish cemeteries? Can you seriously believe that any Democrat wouldn’t be better than Trump?

And please don’t tell me (as so many if you did during the election last Fall) that if we don’t militate for change now, that if we accept a compromise like Hillary Clinton, nothing will ever change and we will always be accepting sub-optimal candidates. Even if it were true, that idea is a luxury we cannot afford right now. Right now the situation is that the country has elected a fascist to the White House, partly because of people who insisted on ideological purity instead of practical reality. Right now, nothing is more important than getting Trump out of office. Nothing.


The Question

During the Korean War, when I was just old enough to read, I read a newspaper headline that said “Red Army Advances”.  My five-year-old mind conjured up two things from this. The first, naturally, was an image of an army dressed all in red suits, which struck me as strange. The second was a frightening, urgent question, which I asked my mother: “Is there going to be another war?”

I knew there had been a war, of course, and that it had been right before I was born. I knew that my father and my uncles had been in it and had come home, and I knew that the father of my slightly-older friend Kathy had been in it and had not come home. I had a clear if undetailed understanding that wars were bad things, and that people died in them.

And I had read of an army, so of course that caused me to ask what I asked.

My mother’s answer was “I don’t know.” She didn’t say “Of course not, dear”, which would have been the easy answer. But she also didn’t quite say the truth: that there already was another war, in Korea, and that there would always be one, forever.

I was frightened by her answer, and for many years into my adulthood I remembered this with some resentment…hadn’t my mother owed me the easy, reassuring answer? Now, I’m not so sure. For one thing, my mother was only in her early thirties at the time, and World War II had ended only five years before. She was probably, I now realize, just as frightened as I was. For another, I’m fairly sure that even at five I wouldn’t have believed “of course not” — there was the Red Army in the news, and there were air raid drills in school, after all.

On balance, I now think that my mother gave me the best answer she could, however hard it was for me. The other answer, the heartbreaking truth that there would always be another war, is not an answer for a five-year-old. It shouldn’t be an answer for anybody, but even now it remains…the truth.