Legendary humorist Will Rogers once famously joked, "I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat." It's just as valid today.
When Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos and DLC Chairman Harold Ford held their pointed talk on "Meet the Press" the previous Sunday about the Democratic Party's future, their palpable disagreement was seeping through the pores. However, most notable was how passionately they wanted to convince the other because of everything else they agreed about. The heartfelt handshake at the end spoke volumes.
Disagreement, you see, is actually good. It brings vibrancy and discussion, and best, it allows for creating consensus. What it avoids is blind acceptance, which is what's dug the inextricable hole Republicans are in -- knowingly following a leader driving who's them over the cliff. In many of the better societies, this is one of the definitions of insanity.
All people of common sense know that life isn't simple black-and-white answers. For goodness sake, people struggle over "What shoes should I wear today?" Even God wrestled with Jacob. There's no reason to expect a political party to be simplistic. Indeed, there's every reason to avoid such things.
This came to mind during public discussion on the recent votes in Congress that passed the temporary wiretap bill extension.
Understandably, most vocal Democrats were furious. Angry, not only at the result, but at the Democratic Party letting them down. But understandable as the anger was, it's important to step back and recognize the full perspective of reality. The "Democratic Party" in Congress, of course, did not vote for these civil rights-gutting laws.
In the House, Democrats voted massively against the bill, 181-41. Senate Democrats voted "No" by 28-16 -- even that an almost two-to-one rejection.
Let's contrast this with Republicans.
House Republicans voted for the bill by a breathtaking 186-2. But even that was liberal compared to the Senate, where Republicans swept the table, 43-0. Together, that's a G.O.P. vote in favor of gutting the U.S. Constitution and spying on Americans, 229-2.
By comparison, Democrats together voted against illegal wiretapping, 229-57.
To any Democrats feeling let down by their party, your representatives voted the way you wanted, 229-57. The other side of the aisle repudiated your views, 229-2.
The Democratic Party did not let you down. In the face of faux-charges of supporting terrorism, 80% of the Democratic Party stood up for defending civil rights, the U.S. Constitution and America.
It should be 100%, but 57 individuals unfortunately voted otherwise. In a better world, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid should have done a much stronger job nailing down more than the 80% support they did. But that's life. That's the Democratic Party -- it's nourished with a wide range of views: liberal, moderate and conservative. It's not lock-step. Republicans mistakenly like to ridicule Democrats for having internal fights. But that's the very vibrancy of the Democratic Party. When they make up, the nation gets Social Security, Medicare and civil rights laws.
The Democratic Party voted 80% against this act, 229-57. And it's temporary for six months. With the visceral anger that's been voiced across the party, it will be re-addressed soon enough, none too soon.
Far more telling, however, is that other side of the aisle. You know, the 229-2 in favor of gutting the Constitution and every American's civil rights side. The side that wants to spy on you without warrants and considers the U.S. Constitution "just a piece of paper." Democrats may not be perfect (okay, aren't perfect), but 229-2 for abusing civil rights shines a spotlight on the Republican Party and defines it.
"I'm not comfortable suspending the constitution even temporarily," Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) told the Washington Post. And that explains the difference between the two sides. Republicans have made it plain that they are for tossing out the U.S Constitution and its protections for Americans.
Rep. Holt put it in its larger, even more proper perspective: "The countries we detest around the world are the ones that spy on their own people. Usually they say they do it for the sake of public safety and security."
The Democratic Party representatives, for all their many sides and internal arguments, voted for actually protecting America under its constitution, 229-57. The Republican Party -- almost unanimously -- voted the very opposite, 229-2.
Whatever very real disagreements and conflicts exist within the Democratic Party -- and they are huge and will always be huge -- the reality of the dividing line with the Republican Party and the rest of America is far too obvious to ignore.