One of my first encounters with political philosophy came when I was about thirteen or fourteen. Until that time, my political philosophy was basically the right-of-center position of my father. And, to be fair, I don't really know what my father's political views really were. I've got a slightly better idea of what they are now, but back when I was young, I just assumed that we were Republicans.
There are days in my childhood that I remember fairly vividly: I remember the day that the Challenger orbiter blew up mid-launch - we watched every launch from our back yard and saw this one with my own eyes, free of commentary and the filter of television. I also remember the day that Clinton was elected. I remember everyone (everyone in my family and church) talking about how terrible he was going to be for our country. It was pretty frightening. I just couldn't fathom why anyone would even vote for someone who was so awful.
Then one of my uncles quipped that "The Republican party was essentially evil and the Democratic party was essential incompetent." I don't know if this was his thought or if he was quoting someone else, but it stuck with me. At first I bristled at the thought that Republicans were basically evil, although I enjoyed the thought that Democrats were inept. This little ditty has stayed in my head and is replayed every time I vote or think about politics. I heard it when I voted for Dole in 1996 (I was still a Republican) and when I didn't vote for Gore or Bush in 2000 (I assumed that both were bad choices) and when I voted and canvassed neighborhoods for Kerry (Bush's first term had made a solid Democrat out of me, and was on its way to making me an atheist) and when I was fired up for Obama.
Through all that time I constantly recalled that little truism, but I focused on the first part. And that is a very important part. Of course the Republicans are evil. It's so obvious! Slightly less obvious, however, is how very inept the Democrats are. They are inept, they are weak-willed, and they are too worried about what the Republicans would say about them. Honestly, it reminds me of the Jocks vs. Nerds narrative. Jocks don't have anything but power, persuasion and crude bullying on their side. Nerds are smart, humble and try to make good decisions, but they spend their time and considerable talents trying to woo the hot girl (voters, in this case) and, instead of just being themselves, they try too hard to emulate the Jocks.
I'm proud to be a Nerd. I'm proud to be a liberal and a progressive, although I'm growing less and less enthusiastic about the "Democrat" label. I wish my team would stop trying to impress the Jocks and the cheerleaders and focus on being themselves. But maybe my uncle's little ditty was right. Maybe the Democratic party is incompetent. Maybe the periods of Democratic control are just little breathers, little rests between the steady push of the Republican, conservative political agenda into a sort of corporate oligarchy.
Come on, Dems! Show some courage! Paint your faces like Maori warriors and make a stand!