Base Campers Wanted
Yesterday, I posted a lengthy critique on the views of the conservative wing of American politics, and how their policies of late are more based on exclusion, rather than inclusion. Tonight, it’s the liberal’s turn.
For those unaware of the name Tenzing Norgay, he is the sherpa who accompanied Edmund Hillary to the the top of Mount Everest. By all accounts, Tenzing was an equal to Hillary, in almost every measurable capacity: both men carried the same weight, used the same equipment, and, by Hillary’s account, reached the summit at the exact same time. But, as history treasures individual achievement more than collaborative effort, Sir Edmund got the glory, while Tenzing was[unfairly] relegated to second place. What’s interesting to note is that neither man genuinely cared position of place at the summit; both agreed that the achievement mattered more than whose shoe landed where and when.
I bring this up because, when I look at at the liberal left today, I get the impression of a horde of mountaineering tourists; standing at the base of a Tibetan peak, staring upward into the sun and dreaming of one day reaching reach a summit. The problem is, that’s all I see — a collection of summitteers, a surplus of “top men” with no base camp, sherpas, or support group in sight. Climbing a mountain is not a solo activity, and reaching the tops of an Everest requires a tremendous amount of preparatory work, carried out by an army of supporters comfortable with the knowledge that they may never see the summit through anything other than another person’s photographs.
Why is this problematic? Well, take a look at the current distribution of of Republicans to Democrats within the lowest tiers of government. Back in the 1980’s, Newt Gingrich rediscovered the Aryan ideal of single party state in the form of a permanent majority at every single level of government. Unlike the Democrats, who were concentrating all their ideology and (more importantly) campaign finances to capturing seats at the upper levels of federal government, Republicans devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to stacking the deck of U.S. politics from the bottom up. School boards, city councils, public service commissions, state houses, and governorships were fed instructions and infusions of cash that poured straight from the throats of a well-fed, and extraordinarily well-organized national machine. While Democrats wailed about their lack of authority in the House and Senate, the legs of the the ladders they had used to climb to those lofty heights were being sawn off as they stood astride them.
The result is self evident. Take a look at the makeup of any local area government, and you will see a startling dearth of Democratic presence. In some states, such as my own, the only candidates being put forth for local office are those possessing GOP credentials. In the most recent primary in my state, there were exactly two new Democratic candidates on a ballot with thirty-two electable positions. As much as this Democrat waned to help out the national cause, the national cause didn’t seem to be too interested in returning the favor, and the end result was a deep, and possibly permanent dissatisfaction. And I can’t imagine that I’m the only person who felt this way.
The modern Democratic party cannot survive it insists on perpetuating the belief that a collection of lofty idealists, focused solely on the targets at the roof of the world, are more important than the people in the base camp making the entire ascent possible in the first place. While it may appear to some that Barack Obama sprang from the forehead of Zeus and landed directly in the White House, the fact of the matter is the man “made his bones in the ‘hood” before ever setting foot on the national stage. He was, first and foremost, a base-camp operative, testing the strength of the pitons, crampons, and climbing harnesses for others before donning the gear for himself and attempting the climb with his own team.
In other words, Democrats need to find more people like Tenzing Norgay; people focused on the achievement rather than where they may place in the final equation. There needs to be a concentrated effort to reestablish a competitive base that targets government at every level, from community organizer, to school board member, to state house representative, to governor, and up. Democrats need to set aside the idea that leapfrogging the team in favor of personal glory is more important that working together. The benefits are not only greater party unity, but also an increase in depth of coverage — should one candidate falter, the entire operation need not be scrapped as there is no worthy, or other, successor. If the message of the party is inclusivity for all, what other course is there?