This election cycle does not look very good for Democrats. There are structural problems of having won seats in the House that we might not have taken if we had not had the massive outpouring of support for President Obama’s campaign. There is the issue of the economy where voters tend to punish the party in power, regardless of if it was they who drove the economy into trouble or not. There is the mid-term issue where the party that holds the White House historically loses seats. All these combined with a base that is unhappy (with some good reason) with the way that a historic majority has compromised so many of their priorities and values.

Whether it is your intent to support Democrats or not, the time to get involved in the process is now. If you just can’t stomach your particular Democratic candidate, then find a way to work for the ones that you can. Nothing is more important than protecting the liberal and progressive members of Congress, if the long term goal is to move the nation to the left politically.

Some of my friends talk about sending a message to Democrats by not supporting them this cycle. I have and continue to argue that they won’t learn that lesson from losing seats. However, there is another component that might (probably won’t, but might) increase the chances of them hearing this lesson, that is if the most progressive or liberal candidates are the ones who retain their seats.

But in one way that does not really matter. If long term change is what you are interested in, then it is critical that you get involved now, so when the left is doing its post mortem on this bad election cycle you can be there to make your voice heard about the need to stand up for liberal and progressive values. To be able to make the case that it was not that the Dems were too liberal and that is why they lost it was that they were not liberal enough to stand up for what the people wanted.

Being on the inside is the key to being able to make any message heard, and there is a lot of power there. Nothing in politics is fast, simple or easy. If those are the things that attract you, then you’re better off buying a box cake mix.

Rayne recently wrote in a comment on her great series on the Angry Left:

This was not something to be done for a Congressional term, or a presidential term. A democracy takes a lifetime to maintain; this isn’t something from which we can walk away feeling like the work is done.
The lessons were already set before us; our founding fathers spent their entire lifetimes on creating a democracy. Should we really expect it to take less time and investment to keep it?

The process of maintaining our democracy is one that requires a lot of work, but it does not require it from a lot of people. Here on this website there are enough people that we can change the face of the Democratic Party, if we are willing to do the work. That is the rub. Just blogging or talking with folks who feel the same as you is not going to get it done.

If you want change, just yelling louder is not enough. You have to be willing to go and push your way to the front of the party. Then you can steer things the way you want. It takes time but if everyone who posts or reads here got out there and started to work with a political party now, and then you will be ready to make some difference in the choices for 2012.

That’s the kind of time frame you have to focus on. There is work to be done for this cycle, but the choices are already set. The nominees are known and you really have three choices, vote for a Republican, and vote for a Democrat or cast some kind of protest vote or sit out (basically the same thing). Personally I see anything but a vote for Democrats at this point as de facto vote for Republicans and their Tea Party driven agenda of crazy. Opinions on that vary but it is not really the point of this post.

All of us want to have better options in 2012 which means we need to start working for that now. It does not matter if you get involved with the Greens or the Libertarians or the Democrats but go and get involved. Try to be in the Party and work to get in the governing structure. It will take commitment. Think of it as the hobby that will take up all of your extra free time. You won’t be given authority right away, but if you join with a couple of friends and put yourselves forward you will find it very easy to get to positions of middling authority. This is important as you are trying to build a structure that will let you and your liberal cohorts have a voice in the recruiting and nominating process.

This is how we get better candidates and eventually better governors, Representatives and Senators. I am not going to gild the lily here, it is going to take time. You might not have a lot of influence in 2012 or you might have a ton. It is really hard to know, but even if you have a lot of influence the job is not over. Getting the liberal side of the Democratic Party back in the driver’s seat is going to take a long sustained effort. Or if you just won’t work with the Dems, then it will be a longer time to get a third party in shape. In any case the way to do it is to start now. There is a ton of work to be done and there is no better way to gain credibility with your local and state party than to work in an election that is going to be tough.

Just think about what it would mean if the 5,000 or so people on this site today all went and got involved with their local party (minus those already involved). 10 people in one state party can really shift things if they are willing to work hard. They can take over a county party without too much trouble. If we all got out there and started working instead of just writing and reading for change, then we really can change things. Hell, we might even be able to make it clear that when Dem voters stay home it is not because they want their elected officials to be more like the Republicans.

So, now it up to you; it is not like it is the governance of your nation or anything important like that we are talking about. Oh, wait, yes it is. You still have the choice, you can do nothing or just grudgingly vote and have the same lousy choices next cycle or you can start to lay the ground work for change and candidates that you can be proud to support and say “I helped elect that gal/guy”. Someone will be doing this, most recently we have seen it from the Tea Partiers, but it could be the Liberals who make the next big splash and move the nation in the right direction. It just requires showing up and working.

The floor is yours.