What kind of a Democrat are you?

Let’s see now; how do I brand myself as a Democrat? Am I a liberal, progressive, moderate, neoliberal…?  Am I a populist kind of guy/gal or am I more of an FDR type; just a regular liberal?  Wait, maybe I’m a leftist type Democrat.  No…, maybe I’m a neoliberal; yeah – that’s it, I’m a neoliberal.  W-e-l-l with the way that I think, I’m probably more of a social conservative Democrat.  No…  But I know that I can’t be a libertarian because that’s Republican, isn’t it?

With the way that things are going today and with all of the different names that are floating around out there for those who are Democrats and those who are Republicans, people who are not political geeks but who regularly follow politics struggle to identify themselves (without an argument from those who identify themselves by the same name but define the name/term differently; e.g., conservative/conservatism). Even the political geeks and political pundits argue about this.

Right now USA Today has a headline that declares, “Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders battle over meaning of ‘progressive’. That’s right, each candidate and members of their respective staff are saying things like, he is not the gatekeeper of progressivism and she can’t be a moderate one day and a progressive the next simply depending on who she is speaking to.  If you presented all of the labels available to the regular Joe Democrat or Republican and then asked them, which one are you; do you think that they might have a tough time responding?  Remember when you could just be a liberal, moderate or conservative Democrat or a moderate or conservative Republican?

There are a lot of people who might argue that Democrats ran away from the ‘liberal’ word because Republicans had painstakingly defined it for Democrats and put it out to the world as something terrible and because Democrats were not able to effectively change that definition, they simply renamed it ‘progressive’. But this time Democrats defined it before the Republicans could trash it for them; although, obviously, we still argue over the definition.

So what is the big deal with all of this ‘I am a liberal’, ‘I am a progressive’, ‘I am a moderate’, ‘I am a social conservative’ Democrat etc. and etc.? Is it hard for the candidates to put less emphasis on that and focus more on the nitty-gritty stuff because the media and other political pundits emphasize it because it makes talking about politics more in-depth and, therefore more challenging and interesting to them?  Is it because the candidates themselves emphasize it for purposes of media coverage because they know that this is a tempting hook for the media?

I guess the regular Joe is left to either figure all of this out or just ignore it if they are to determine who they want to vote for then actually get out and vote for them despite the fact that all of the labels create some confusion as to what each candidate actually stands for. To make matters worse, it appears that they will be relegated to decipher this while different candidates are saying I am a liberal so I stand for this, I am a progressive so I stand for that.  And their opponents are saying, how can he/she be a progressive when they don’t stand for this, how can they be a progressive when they don’t stand for that?  He’s not a liberal, he stands for this!

But wait, you haven’t reached the finish line yet; there is still more to contend with. You are only dealing with the primary election.  You have to caucus for your candidate if you really want them to have a chance to win.  That’s right.  You can’ just go to their political rallies, show your support and let them know that you will vote for them in the primary and general election; you have to caucus for them.  Do what?

Ask most people (usually the regular Joes of the world) if they are going to caucus for their candidate and they will likely tell you yes because they have heard the word before. Then ask them what it means to caucus for their candidate and usually they don’t really know: you will normally get a bunch of stammering from them or just a blank stare.

What most people don’t know is that their candidate could have, for sake of a simple example, 1,000 supporters and someone else’s could have 500. However; if at caucus 100 (10%) of the supporters of the candidate with 1,000 supporters show up and 125 (25%) of the supporters of the candidate with 500 supporters show up, the candidate with 500 supporters will win.  Of course the process is significantly more complicated than what the example depicts but that is generally how things work at a caucus.

If you do manage to reach the finish line with your candidate as your Party’s nominee, the general election will still leave you and your candidate of choice to deal with all of the liberal, progressive, moderate, conservative etc. and etc. labels. But you will have successfully made it through the primaries process so the rest should be easy.  All you have to do now is stay informed and get out and vote.

That notwithstanding, hopefully the gatekeepers of liberalism, progressivism, conservatism and all of the rest will help us out before the 2016 presidential election takes place. Good luck to all of the regular Joe’s out there, you will probably need it!

Eulus Dennis – author, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line