"Then why," you may ask, "do you seem to always pick on the Republicans?"
That's a valid question, and I think the reason is simple and obvious. If you want to skip down to the bottom and see what it is without bothering with all of my blathering on and self-justification, go ahead. But, if you really want to know why, I will tell you what I know.
I know that the Democratic party is, as a rule, a loosely related raggle-taggle group of frustrated progressives, corporate glad-handers, smarmy con artists, deluded ex-hippies, and (occasionally) well-meaning people who are trying to fix problems using the government as a tool to do so. The most visible and successful of them tend to become vaguely (but not provably) corrupt and disconnected from whatever movement launched their career in the first place. It is this, and the smug condescension that they exude when they contrast themselves with challengers, that annoys me, and that is the most often cited criticism of Democrats that I hear from their opponents.
In fact, the one thing I most often hear as criticism of any given Democrat is that they "are smug elitists who think they are better and smarter than anyone else." The other favorite old trope to drag out is that the "love to spend money", or to put it into modern mis-speech, "they're socialists". (They're not, for the most part... but that's not to say that there isn't a separate and distinct socialist movement out there.)
When I think about individual Democrats - like John Kerry, Howard Dean, the Clintons - I see those traits that I don't like: unprincipled, pandering, unreliable, and generally... well, "political", in the sense that they are more interested in manipulating the vote count than in making sensible policy (a whole essay in itself, and a very boring one). In fact, until Barack Obama came along and began saying the things about our government that I have been thinking for years and years, there wasn't a single visible Democrat that I could point to and identify with.
Now, I have spoken before about my background as a fundamentalist conservative kid, growing up in the Reagan era, and how I outgrew a lot of the ideas that many people today are embracing and plastering on Tea Party posters at astro-turfed rallies. There were a lot of stupid ideas out there 20+ years ago, and as I grew older and became a voter, I realized that I didn't want to simply flip-flop out of a frying pan of stupid ideas and into a sterno can full of other stupid ideas. What I began looking for was Something Better, and it's really hard to figure out what that is, especially when the only two parties with any realistic shot at winning elections are furiously spinning every fact, report, or incident to their favor.
So why do I seem to pick on the Republicans? I suppose you could call it disappointment. The Democrats are easy to paint as awful people - many of them ARE awful people - and it should be easy to "be better" than any given Democrat candidate. What I see from the Republican party (and many of their supposedly "independent" supporters) is not "better" by any stretch.
Where it is so easy to point out the "mote in the eye" of the Democrats, the GOP has had a seriously difficult time removing the "log" in their own. They have labored to appeal to the worst in us to achieve their goals, taking the cruelest, stupidest, most self-destructive positions on every issue they can find, and they've almost made it a part of their brand to take positions that go against their own stated principles.
My own pet issues of energy independence from oil and reducing defense spending through reform of our horribly broken contract/acquisition system would seem to be easy conservative Wins. Conservative voices could completely disarm their Democrat opponents by taking up against the behemoth Military Industrial Complex, as Republican President Eisenhower cautioned; instead they have focused on attacking "entitlement" spending (while at the same time defending Medicare from any cuts) and defending nation building as if it were a national sport. And conservatism is all about "sustainability", and yet it is rare to find a Republican willing to suggest that the world's supply of oil is something we are far too addicted to (or to recognize that the billions of dollars in oil subsidies we pay should be rethought).
But rather than face any real issues, or take on any real governing tasks, the GOP strategy has been to throw mud - not just at Democrats, but at anyone who isn't "Republican enough". It wouldn't be so easy to pick on them all the time if there weren't always another over-hyped, pathos-laden slander scandal blowing up somewhere. Stuff that wouldn't have been news if reputable reporting were a standard any more is spewed out on one side, and carefully picked through by the other while the rest of us scratch our heads and wonder "why does it feel like the Government doesn't get anything getting done?"
And that's the beauty of the GOP strategy; they want to prove the point that Government is "bad" - ineffective, inefficient, and onerous. All they have to do is constantly. Slow. It. Down. And they win.
That's also what makes me angry. Because as crappy and flaccid as Democrat-led government seems to be, it is better than the alternative that the GOP offers. I don't like anarchy, and I outgrew the stark, nihilistic objectivism of Libertarianism not too long after I outgrew the sour, acidic version of Christianity that ties itself to the conservative agenda. The party that claims the patriotism title ought not to be seeking to destroy the nation; the party that claims to fight for fiscal responsibility ought not slave itself to the broken defense system or whore itself to oil and coal industries. The party that claims to be on God's side in the trumped up Culture Wars ought not to be selling out the two things that Jesus taught (love thy neighbor and thy God) for political clout.
Most vexing to me is that people I know - my friends and family; people I love - buy into all of this, and come to the conclusion that because I disagree with them, or because I criticize their mistaken beliefs that I somehow "hate" them. The GOP has loaded their rhetoric with so much fear, loathing, bile, and ignorance that it has tainted everyone with this general feeling of weary suspicion. And so it is usually their crap that I see floating through my Facebook feed or RSS reader that I feel I need to address. I can't let it go and imply that I approve or agree with it; and either no one wants to talk about it (which fosters more suspicion) or they jump to a heated defense.
So that's why: the Democrats may be annoying and uninspired, but they don't claim to be much more than that in the first place. The Republicans claim to be a sensible alternative, but behave like spoiled, crazy children and poison the whole environment - literally and figuratively. I want something better, and they keep digging up the worst.
Now, will you please stop calling me a "liberal" and wasting my time by crying about how offended you are that I criticized your stupid, bigoted Tea Party opinions, and start finding some third party alternatives with actual sense?