Monday night I attended the local Drinking Liberally meetup in Newport Hills, Bellevue.

DNC super-delegate Sharon Mast made a good case that Democrats need to field more candidates for local positions, such as school boards, planning commissions, and various tax districts commissions.  These positions are unglamorous but they’re the way that activists can get name recognition and build the party so that Democrats (hopefully, progressives) can win city council, county, and state-wide races.  All politics is local (sortof) and Democrats need to be in it for the long haul.  A newcomer to the meeting said she’s been involved only in national politics up to this point but she’s starting to realize the importance of being local, because effecting change nationally is so difficult (sometimes I think it’s impossible, alas).

As I’ve often noted, angry conservatives take over the GOP. Angry progressives flee to third parties or to advocacy groups like MoveOn, PDA, Sierra Club, NARAL, etc., etc.

Yes, Democratic meetings are often boring and tedious. And not everyone is pleasant.  Tough!  It’s our obligation to be involved and to improve them.  Third parties rarely have a positive influence.

I came under criticism from one attendee for my sometimes negative assessment of centrists such as Pres. Obama and the Road Kill Caucus of  Washington State Dems.   If Democrats tried to pursue a too strongly progressive agenda, the guy said, they’d be booted out of office.  Politics is the art of the possible.  Especially on the issue of taxation a clear majority of  Washington State voters are conservative.   Get real! We can’t just rush in with guns blazing; we’d be slaughtered at the polls.  I responded that our leaders don’t lead: they allow conservatives to completely control the framing for the issue. Even Governor Gregoire, who is likely not to run again, fails to market fair taxation. Someone said, “Why do you think Gregoire vetoed part of the marijuana legalization bill?  Because she’s protecting her ass in anticipation of getting a position in Washington, D.C.”

The friction between progressives and centrist Dems (such as Obama) is a BIG ISSUE and won’t go away soon, in my opinion.

I asked State Rep. Marcie Maxwell, who often attends Drinking Liberally, whether a majority of state House members would vote to override I-1053, knowing that it’s manifestly unconstitutional. She seemed to acknowledge that I-1053 is unconstitutional. But, she said, Speaker Frank Chopp won’t bring the issue up for a vote because he knows that such a bill would never pass the state Senate (due, in part, to Brad Owen and the Road Killers) and because Chopp doesn’t want to force representatives to make potentially politically damaging votes.

Dems aren’t willing to stick their necks out on the issue of fair taxation. Such unwillingness is understandable. But as I say, our leaders don’t lead, and it’s our job as progressives to pull them to the left, either with honey or with vinegar. We mustn’t forget that Republicans are mostly responsible, but we also mustn’t let Democrats off the hook.

A core issue is that the Left needs to market fair taxation and good government to the people. For that we need to build media that WE control.  We need to convince voters that the slogans “low taxes” and “small government” are destructive bases on which to build a just, affluent society. I said this at Drinking Liberally and was told, well, when things get bad enough the voters will realize their error. Til then, we just have to deal with reality.

Republicans (and conservative Dems) have so corrupted and mismanaged government that people no longer trust it or politicians. Why pay taxes when government pursues immoral wars and gives bailouts to billionaires? People have adopted a bunker mentality, and it’s hard to see how Americans can be made to recover a healthy sense of civic responsibility.  The Republican plan to drown government in debt, corruption and mistrust is coming to fruition, especially at the state level.

Bellevue’s Drinking Liberally is organized by Rob Sargent and meets the first Monday of every month at the Mustard Seed sports bar in Newport Hills.