Glenn Greenwald has written a worthwhile article that pins a good share of the responsibility for the Bush administration's atrocities exactly where it belongs: on the shoulders of the Democrats. This naturally led to a fix-the-Democrats-or-abandon-them debate, with one person ("alyosha") taking the former position: "We have to do as the far right did to the Republican party, in other words, take over the Democratic party. It won’t be fast, and it won’t be easy, but it is happening, and we need the patience and perseverance to see it through."
My response (in comments):
I'd agree that working to take over the Democratic party is a good goal to have, even though I myself am a proud and absolutely unrepentant Nader voter and expect never to vote for a Democrat again. But: you don't further that goal one inch (and in fact you render it all but unattainable) when you actually vote for Democrats who are doing the wrong thing. Participate in your local Democratic party, work with them in the primaries, make sure they hear you in a thousand ways--but you must not give them your vote at election time unless they've given you a candidate who actually deserves it, or you're defeating your own purpose.
Consider just one example: what message do you think the Democrats received from Kerry's performance in 2004? They ran a candiate who was so much like Bush that it was difficult to discern a meaningful difference--and frightened progressives flocked to him in droves, no matter what their politics may otherwise have been. The message couldn't have been clearer: the Democrats can count the progressive votes before the election even starts, so there's certainly no need for them to move in that direction.
Now take the flip side: imagine what would have happened if millions of voters like yourself had withheld their votes from Kerry. Imagine that Kerry had lost not just by a few million votes, but by tens of millions. And then imagine that all of those people who withheld their votes wrote to the Democrats and let them know that they had refused to vote for Kerry because of his craven, opportunistic embrace of Republican positions and values. The outcome would have been identical--Bush in the White House, again--but the Democrats would have known exactly why they had lost.
Which scenario do you think was more likely to strengthen the position of progressives within the Democratic party and move the party to where progressives want it to be?
I'm not for a moment suggesting that a more progressive Democratic party would be a guaranteed outcome of that second scenario; the Democrats are fully capable of drawing the wrong conclusions from any outcome, because they're institutionally inclined to do so. But the fact is that the strategy that you and others pursued failed spectacularly, just as it has failed in the past and it's guaranteed to fail again in the future. Given a choice between a strategy that's guaranteed to fail and one that has even a tiny chance of succeeding, it's clear which is the better option.
So I ask you and all other progressives who held their noses to vote for Kerry in 2004 (and even Gore in 2000) to consider the harm you've done, and to be willing in the future to do what it takes to make it right (no matter how difficult it may seem at the time): withhold your votes from Democratic presidential candidates who do not reflect your values and beliefs.
UPDATE: Dennis Perrin rightfully skewers Greenwald's article for its pie-in-the-sky claims about the righteousness and Democratic-independence of YearlyKos attendees. I gagged on those bits as well, but still thought the article was worthwhile for its fairly robust Democrat-bashing; it's a good sign when even someone as mainstream as Greenwald is willing to throw that kind of abuse at the Democrats.