Analogy That Explains Your Role In American Politics
Look at this picture. This is how you see yourself, relative to the Democratic Party, if you're one of these idiots like me who does political blogging on progressive issues.
So many of the Dem candidate partisans keep writing about how Obama’s two-faced or Hillary’s a sell-out from the get-go or Edwards is a non-starter or "I'm gonna walk if this one’s the nominee, because I can’t support that."
I’ve tried to explain this to them, over and over, but they just reject the explanation, over and over. You see—our side is not nearly as strong as they think it is. The conservatives have been in trouble this last few years, but they’ll be back—regaining seats and maybe even the White House—as early as 2008 if the activists don’t cut out this "I demand this or I’m out" shit and get with the program.
It looks like I have to take an analogy and beat it to death to get this across to you. So here it is. There are these two restaurants, see? Only two viable restaurants in the whole town, get me? There’s "Chez GOP" and "L’Asino" (That means "The Donkey," that’s the Democratic restaurant.) They are the only two viable places to eat in town, if one goes out of business you have to eat at the other. Get me so far?
Okay. At Chez GOP, they serve shit. No, not shit as in "bad food"—they serve actual shit, as food, and their clientele pays for it. How can they stay in business doing that? Great advertising. Control of the local media. They give their shit a fancy name, and they keep advertising how fabulous it is, and they got a twenty four/seven media campaign going on that says their stuff is great and anyone who’d eat at any other restaurant is some kind of a commie homo simpleton—and that works, for thirty per cent of available customers, decade after decade. This thirty per cent of available customers have actually developed a taste for shit, as a result of this incessant advertising and media campaign. These customers have reached a point where they refuse to eat anything else!
Okay, how about the other restaurant? "L’Asino," a more romantic atmosphere. There’s a lot on the menu there that you and I would like. It’s not shit. It’s a good menu—look, you got health care, you got some identity politics there (feminism, gay rights, protection of civil rights), environmental regulations that actually mean something, a realistic economic policy that isn’t just aimed at making rich people richer, an expressed commitment to end the war rather than expand it. There’s a lot of good stuff on this menu. The problem is that you can’t depend on them to give you anything particular on the menu. You may get it, you may not.
You know where you want to eat, given these two choices, right? I mean, these are the only two going concerns--there’s always talk of opening a third joint, "El Tercer Fiesta" (the third party), but no one can ever find the necessary capital to make a go of it, they can’t get enough customers--fuck, they can’t even afford the silverware or the tablecloths unless Chez GOP gives them a little dough just to shave off the number of clientele at "L’Asino."
So okay. That’s the present reality; only two viable restaurants to eat at. If you’re in here at the Kos every week yelling about "Obama’s a this" or "Hillary’s a that" or "Edwards is God" or "Reid and Pelosi are assholes and we will punish them for that"—you don’t understand your role in this restaurant analogy! You’re talking like you think you’re the customer at "L’Asino!" You think your relationship to the party is this:
See? Look at that; that’s how you see yourself. You think you’re the angry, irate customer who’s entitled to scream about the bad service (and it is bad), and about how if you don’t get what you ordered, right away—"I’m gonna walk out of here and never come back again, because you assholes running this joint are incompetent nincompoops!"
But that’s not who you are! You’re not the fucking customer! Before I tell you who you really are—let me tell you who the other characters in the drawing are. You see that waiter? He’s Tonio, he’s a Dem organizer. He actually rounds up the votes, he goes running around doing GOTV, locking up the unions, the educators, the core constituencies, charming the swing voters. He’s apologizing to the angry customer because the angry customer ordered "End the War This Year," and they don’t have it. They don’t have it for him, because the management is convinced that if they served him that dish tonight, when he wanted it, when he needed it—there wouldn’t be a "L’Asino" restaurant next year in 2008; the whole place would go out of business and we’d all end up having to eat shit at Chez GOP—including their "Endless War Daily Shit Special."
The maitre d’? That’s Gianni; he represents the most powerful elected Dems in the party. The fat guy on the right, watching nervously as you bitch and moan? That’s Marcello, one of the owners. He owns a share in this friggin’ restaurant—he represents the party management and the funding people, the guys who put up the big money that keeps this place open. He puts up the millions and millions to keep this place going and make it viable competition for Chez GOP. He pays the guys who came up with the polling data, to tell the restaurant what will and will not sell to the electorate, what policy positions/menu items will keep "L’Asino" in business, and what policy positions/menu items will drive it out of business—leaving us all to eat shit at Chez GOP.
The chef, where is he? The one who actually turn out the food (ie, the policy?) He doesn’t matter, because if he doesn’t do what the owners tell him, he’s fired. You can always get another chef, and you can always get another policy wonk or academic; chefs and academics are as common as prostitutes. Marcello and the other owners are the ones that make the final decision about what goes on the menu, taking into account what will attract the most customers and taking into account that they refuse to serve absolute shit like Chez GOP. Because they do have some small principles; they think that serving shit up like food is wrong. (At Chez GOP, the owners have no such principles.)
And in this next cartoon, you can see who you really are, God help you:
That’s right—you’re Finucchio--the bus boy! If you’re a grass roots activist, a net roots activist, whatever the hell you call yourself—you are a bus boy. If you don’t have the millions necessary to be one of the owners—you’re not entitled to get angry and complain about the service, you’re not entitled to demand that this issue or that issue be "our special for today!" You eat here, because the bus boys eat at the restaurants they work at, but you get whatever they put on the fuckin’ menu that night—not what you may happen to "feel like eating!" If you want to be one of the guys who decide what actually is on the menu—you damn well better put up a million dollars of your own, Finucchio! (Or deliver a million more customers. Either delivery will entitle you to decide one dish on the menu, Finook.)
But if you can’t deliver either of those, the million bucks or the million new votes—well, chief, you better face the fact that you’re a bus boy who can’t do that! And the management already thinks you’re an asshole, but they don’t even respect you enough to tell you that. You know why? Because bus boys who work as cheap as you are hard to get, it’s hard to get a bus boy who works as cheap as you. They’ll tolerate you and even flatter you because even with all your bitching and moaning it’s better than having no bus boys at all.
But if you don’t acknowledge you’re a bus boy and you keep acting like an unhappy customer and you keep bitching and moaning about this restaurant and how lousy it is—you’ll start to drive the real customers out (i.e. the part of the electorate that is up for grabs.) By sitting down at the table with them and telling them how lousy this restaurant is and how there’s really no difference between this restaurant and Chez GOP. (That’s a lie, by the way; they serve shit over at Chez GOP—here, you may not get what you want when you order it, but at least they don’t serve up actual shit and call it food.) If you keep pretending you’re a customer and telling people this is just as crappy a restaurant as Chez GOP-- this restaurant will go out of business--and we’ll all end up eating shit at Chez GOP! Again!
That’s why the waiters and the maitre d’ and the owners think you’re an asshole, for acting the way you act, complaining and pretending you’re a customer. This business is in a competition-to-the-death with Chez GOP—and here are the busboys sitting down at the table and acting like they’re customers all of a sudden? What kind of crazy fucked-up idiocy is that? How does that help?
Who is that pinhead sitting at the table with the fork in his cheek? That is the uncommitted voters, the customers we need to attract to keep this place open. They don’t know what is going on, they just want to get something good to eat that’s not shit. (These pinheads—about fifty per cent of the electorate—may not know much about politics, but they know a pile of shit when they see it, and they won’t eat that unless they’re conned into doing so. The thirty per cent of the pinheads who have already been conned into eating shit and paying for the privilege are already the regular customers at Chez GOP.)
Who represents the candidates in these pictures? It’s that silly fuck on the guitar playing mood music, the guitar idiot. He (or she, as the case may be) is actually one of the least important people in the restaurant! If there wasn’t a restaurant, or if the restaurant went out of business, that silly shit would be the first guy out of a job! That’s how much this "who the candidate is" shit matters: if the restaurant goes out of business because you won’t shut up and bus the tables and because you’re a bus boy who is suffering a bizarre delusion that he is the customer and not a busboy—we all end up eating shit at Chez GOP, and your beloved candidate is out of a job and they certainly won’t hire him at Chez GOP either, because that crowd hates the kind of songs he sings. You understand what I’m saying here?
If "L’Asino" goes out of business next year, there won’t be anything on the menu for us at all. No identity politics, no civil liberties protections, no economic turnaround for working people, no protecting pro-choice, no protecting the environment. All of that, and more--"off the menu!" It’s not that you can get anything you want on our menu if "L’Asino" stays open—it’s that you will have to eat shit at Chez GOP if "L’Asino" closes!
So for God’s sake shut up and start bussing some of these tables again. What do I mean by "bussing the tables," in this analogy? That stands for contributing money to the party, talking up the Dem candidates instead of character assassination, badmouthing the GOP instead of the Dem leadership, by telling the sordid truth about the shit they serve. We have got to get some more customers in here and win this competition against Chez GOP! They already have thirty per cent of the available customers, even though they serve shit! We cannot hope to win this thing if you spend fifty per cent your time here bitching about the management, bus boy!
Christ, I hope you guys start understanding this real soon. Because if you don’t start understanding this real soon—you and me and everybody else are going to spend the next four years eating shit at Chez GOP—again!