Progressives, the Timid Warriors
The 2014, elections are now over and with the lowest voter turn-out since 1942, the Progressives did more than just lose. We were trounced, crushed and beaten like unwanted mules.
In a previous blog, http://www.blackacrepolicyforum.org/reaping-and-sowing-the-political-consequences-of-lessons-unlearned/, Blackacre offered unsolicited political advice to the Republican Party. However, given their substantial victory, Republicans require no further counsel from me. Instead, it is the Democrats who require assistance. So we offer this advice with the best of intention. For God’s sake, stop being so damn sorry and fight back. Stated differently, grow a pair.
It is often said that politics ain’t bean bag. And like life, political contests are anything but fair. As such, gentlemanly exercises of political acumen and polite, reasoned debate may sound nice, but are rarely practiced.
Politics is instead a nasty, brutish affair; a bare knuckled, no holds barred street brawl between opposing political forces of irreconcilable agendas, diametrically opposed stakeholders and contrary world views. And the prize to be won is not some symbolic belt but money, power and political sway.
Say what you will about Republicans, but they harbor no illusions about the nature of politics. They are tough, disciplined, and eager to engage in political ‘wet works’. Moreover, they pursue their goals with ruthless efficiency and a gritty, unwavering determination. They speak with one voice; each and every Republican soldier forever on message. And they always play to win.
If they have to twist the facts or bend the truth in order to prevail, they have no problem doing so. They will play the race card to their white political base and turn right around and without pause, absent conscience or remorse, play the “gay card” to black ministers in Ohio and Florida. This is precisely what they did to win the 2004 Presidential election. And they greased this political strategy with millions if not billions of federal dollars doled out to hundreds of black churches. Talk about political audacity!
Democrats and Progressives take a more genteel approach to politics. Progressives are the ‘ballers’ who fail to leave it all on the court; who instead play ‘small ball’ by nursing a lead until the clock runs out. We are tennis players who when the match is on the line, push rather than hit the ball. Instead of playing to win we play not to lose.
We are the batters who stand at the plate but never swing; the Divas who are too good to carry their own bags; to pure to worry about reviews. We are the Broadway understudy blessed with the voice of an angel yet paralyzed by stage fright. And we are the lovers who love not to the depth and breath and height our souls can reach but down to the level of our insecurities.
It’s not that we can’t fight, we can. It isn’t that we have nothing fight with or for, we do. It is instead a question of tactics and approach. Where Conservatives are the pit bulls of politics, Progressives are poodles, once ferocious hunters now reduced to timid house pets. Where Republicans do whatever it takes to win, Democrats play nice, more concerned with obeying the rules than taking the title.
We pull our punches so as not to anger an adversary determined to knock our blocks off. Rather then control the middle of the ring with constant movement, piston jabs and overhand rights, we permit our Conservative opponents to push us around; to back us into a corner so that our backs are always against the ropes. If our opponents fight dirty with elbow strikes and punches well below the belt we do not demand respect by responding in kind. We instead complain to the referee in the mistaken belief that this will ensure a fair fight.
In 2000, Al Gore lost the Presidential election by failing the tests of loyalty. Rather than run on the triumphs of the Clinton Administration, he listened to the Conservative Pharisees who harped about the Monica Lewinsky affair. In the 2014, Kentucky Senatorial election, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes failed the test of courage. She lost the election the moment she refused to admit and do so proudly, that she voted for President Obama.
And while former American Idol runner-up winner, Clay Aiken was a long shot in the 2014 North Carolina Congressional race, he failed the test of realism. In an effort to appease the right, he disavowed the President. However, given Mr. Aiken’s sexual orientation and progressive positions, the people of red North Carolina weren’t going to vote for him anyway. By standing with the President he may still have lost. But at least he would have earned a measure of respect.
Progressives must stop letting their adversaries define them. It matters not what the opposition thinks. They will dislike us no matter what. All that matters is that we stand tall. One of our biggest mistakes was allowing Conservatives to turn “liberal” into a dirty word.
So rather than apologize for the Affordable Care Act we should trumpet it. What did the other side do to provide health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans? Nothing! What have they done to fix our broken immigration system? Nothing on top of nothing! Republicans now control both houses of Congress. If they don’t like the President’s recent executive order on immigration, they might try passing a bill.
In summary, neither our policy positions nor the opposition’s attempts at voter suppression were the reasons we lost the 2014, mid-term elections. We lost because our base did not vote. The base did not vote because they were either disinterested or disheartened. And they were disinterested and/or disheartened because we failed to give them a reason to believe. We face the same risks regarding the 2016, Presidential election.
No fan, regardless as to how rabid, will long support much less respect a team that is not committed to winning. And Progressives will always fall if we refuse to stand.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy forum