Dayenu is a song sung during the Passover Seder–the Jewish celebration of the ancient exodus from Egypt. The lyrics acknowledge the miracles God is said to have performed on behalf of those escaping servitude, and each miracle is followed by “Dayenu”–meaning, it would have been enough.
So “If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them— Dayenu, it would have been enough!
“If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols”— Dayenu, it would have been enough!
The song goes on in that fashion for numerous stanzas. What brought it to mind was an especially annoying element of the current infighting among Democrats. (Bear with me.)
I frequently see angry posts from liberals, decrying what they see as a lack of a compelling Democratic Party message going into the midterm elections. Comments posted to this blog and elsewhere are harshly critical of both major political parties; there are frequent assertions that there is little difference between them or between the oligarchs that control both. Some of the criticism is misplaced, but some of it is fair.
Here in Indiana, where Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly is up for re-election, his less-than-liberal positions also come in for considerable criticism, and–at least from my perspective– much of that criticism is deserved.
Here’s the problem: These negative analyses of Donnelly and the Democrats are frequently accompanied by pledges to refrain from voting for either. The authors of these pledges are simply too pure to cast their votes for flawed, imperfect candidates of a flawed, imperfect political party. They argue that “it isn’t enough just to be against Trump and his GOP enablers.”
Dayenu. Right now, it is enough.
Not so fast. Remember what happened in 2016, when Libertarian Gary Johnson got 3.2 percent of the popular vote and Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 1.06 percent. Enough votes that, had they gone to Hillary Clinton, she’d have won the Electoral College, and Donald Trump wouldn’t be in the White House.
Oh, and anyone remember what happened in 2000, when the votes that went to Ralph Nader all but sealed the fate of Al Gore, and gave us George W. Bush.
You see the problem? In a winner-take-all system like ours, votes for third party candidates siphon away votes from the major party candidate whose views are closest to that third-party candidate. So by not voting for the lesser of two evils, if that’s what you want to call them, you end up with the worse of two evils.
Voters who are unhappy with their choices do have options: we can work through our chosen parties to effect change; we can support better candidates in the primaries. We can work for better campaign finance laws, an end to gerrymandering, and other systemic changes that will make it harder for special interests to buy/bribe lawmakers.
Of course, doing those things requires considerable time and effort. It also requires working within a system that is far from perfect or even admirable.( Politics is, after all, the art of the possible.) Purists prefer making the perfect the enemy of the good.
I will vote a straight Democratic ticket in November. That includes voting for Joe Donnelly. Is he my ideal Senator? No. Is he a far better choice that any of the Republicans running in the May primary for the right to oppose him? Absolutely. Is his re-election essential to a Democratic takeover of the Senate? Yes. Is a Democratic takeover of the Senate necessary to stop the refashioning of the federal judiciary and the steady confirmation of extremist, rightwing judges? Yes.
Will a “blue wave” in November bring us a perfect government? Hell no. But it will give us some desperately-needed breathing room–the time we need to fight for a better, fairer, more inclusive America. A wave will allow us to overturn the most egregious and harmful measures imposed by the Trump Kakistocracy. It will allow us to begin what will be a long and arduous process of restoring American civility, sanity and the rule of law.
DAYENU–that will be enough.