...and then figure out how. That, I believe, is how you win in politics.
Reaching a little bit? I know it's not altogether spectacular of an insight, but sometimes it's the obvious things that are easy to miss. I'm not saying that winning itself can be simply chosen- you will always face resistance of some strength, and sometimes it will be too much to work against.
But if you start with the premise that nothing, rather than something you will do will work, well, then you're screwed from the outside. Counter to that, if you start from the notion that there's some way you can win, you will do what is necessary to carry it out, and that itself will make victory more likely.
This isn't just a matter of this election. I think one purpose of the whole Tea Party debacle was to basically smack us in the jaw and say "you think the country's turning Democratic? That Obama and the Democrats are winning, and that hope and change will work? I don't think so!" It was their way of saying that not only would America not change as we wanted it to, but that we would suffer even worse defeat than before. Thinking didn't make it so, but failing to act, conceding the argument to the loud, the crude and the insane on account of the fact they got some appeal to Americans likely did.
Fact is, part of what makes Republicans powerful is that they are willing to set their minds to winning, even with the shit sandwich in hand. They practically know that Romney is a douchebag liability of the highest order, but their culture has conditioned them not to concede victory even in that case. It can be overdone, of course, and personally I think both the Republicans and the Tea Party are in a state of absolute overreach, one that's not long term supportable under the Demographics. But the ability to accept imperfect, impure conditions in order to maintain morale is critical. Whichever side loses hope and heart first will be the easiest to defeat under all but the most ideal circumstances.
If your Demographics stay home, if they buy into the notion that the shortfalls you experience mean that things will be no better if Democrats win, or at least no worse if the republicans do, then the fact that the Demographics slant in our favor won't help us.
Despair, while fashionable, is toxic to initiative. While it's all wonderful to demonstrate that you aren't mindlessly liberal, voting Democratic purely out of partisan spite for the Republicans, it's not so wise to fail to see the practical consequences of your decision. When we vote, it's not simply about giving the kid the lolipop for being good, or withholding it for being bad. It's not simply an act of accountability, it is an act of delegation of the power to write policy, and even if you cannot trust that a Democrat would write the policy you want, you can be damn sure, based on a mountain of evidence, a preponderance of evidence the likes of which only God has seen, that whatever Republicans come up with, given that power, will be worse.
We are not at a point in our history when we can count on the Republicans to appeal to the center or sit on their laurels. They are in that stage of a revolution where a combination of profound policy failures and a great deal of uncertainty about their own political prospects has launched them into a panicked purged of moderates and moderation from their ranks. Now, they can appeal to people on the basis of their zealous insistence that if elected, they would solve, and solve simply all these nasty problems, they can appeal to folks on the grounds that Obama and the Democrats need to be held accountable for the crises and the continued stagnation of our economy that they've scapegoated him for, but the fact remains they are a party and a movement that is frightened to death of its own collective political mortality.
So, what are they trying to do? First, they are doing their best to lock people into their points of view, to keep them captive to FOXNews and all that other conservative media. Second, they are engaging in every fight they can, to make sure we are overwhelmed by their resistance to any and all policies. They have their talking points sent out, their arguments and "facts" pushed out instantly to dozens of sources. Third, they are making everything into some kind of apocalyptic fight, so that people feel as if the world's going to end if Republicans don't win.
In short, they are doing everything thing they can to make sure that people want to vote, and and want to vote Republican, even if everything they're doing and saying is nuts when looked at for its own benefit. Public hysteria is the GOP's last chance at survival in its current form, it's last chance to stand as the pure conservative movement, before demographics and other forces impose changes on them from within and without.
They know they have little time, so they're going to push things as far right as they can. They know that their regime of political power and the defaults that supported it are fragile, and at risk. So they are channeling their own anxiety, their own fear into motivating Republicans and right leaning Americans into going to the polls.
Meanwhile, they're trying to make sure we're at home crying into our beer or our milk, prepared to bow down to the inevitable. They don't just want us defeated, they want us to take ourselves out as a political force. They want us to so despair that we just give up and stay home, because only if we give up and stay home do they stand a chance of making the demographics work for them. Otherwise, you will see the young, the minorities, and others rising up to claim their stake in the political arena, and as the Republican have painted themselves into the political corner, they don't have the ability to appeal to those folks strongly yet.
The voter disenfranchising elements are not merely about the vote totals in November, they are also about convincing the target Demographics that the system is rigged against them, and they cannot win. Why? Because if they don't believe they can win, if they don't see their vote as useful, they won't cast it.
Same thing about the debacles in Washington. It works to the GOP's benefit when it seems like government can't do anything. If people get the sense that they can't appeal to Washington for reform, if they follow the line of thought that has voting for their local Congressman or woman, or for the President become an act of futility, then the voters will commit the ultimate act of political futility, and not vote.
The more they can confine voting to the party faithful, to the white, older, more conservative voters, the better they will do. They are trying to stack the deck in their favor, and instill in us a despair of ever redressing the balance between us and them.
Political reality comes from political choices, even those made half-heartedly. My policy is that our system isn't simply set up so that people can hold their politicians accountable, it's set up so the people can decide for themselves what sort of government they see in their cities, their states, and their country as a whole. The shape of our political destiny is determined by the choices we make. Giving up is a choice, but not one we should ever expect to gain us the respect or the influence we want from our politicians. It seems to me sometimes that folks just want to leave the elections to chance, waiting for the better candidates to come, waiting for the party orthodoxy to shift, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting...
I'm thirty two years old, and I've spent most of my life seeing the Republicans rise up and change America's policies for the worse. I don't want to wait. I want to change things. I know it may not be the change I want, but I've seen what apathy and resignation to the other side's political victory and invulnerability have gotten us. I have also seen their political vulnerability in action, so I know that we can see better days ahead. I've read enough American history to know that many of the reforms we hold dear didn't exist once upon a time, that workers' rights, environmental protections, economic regulations once did not exist. They had to be implemented. A status quo, once overwhelmingly strong, had to be defeated, and often while posing similar challenges to what we face today.
I have no patience left for those who believe that the victory of the right is inevitable. Nothing is. I have no respect for the notion that people can't be persuaded, that the tribal divisions can't be remade. Our President was elected, in part, because some people switched allegiances.
We need to quit waiting, and start acting, and we need to start from the position that what we want to do, what we want to happen, can be done, can happen, if not all at once as we prefer, then instead over the course of a number of battles. If we can make things work in one go, then, God bless us, let's try. If we can't, then we should achieve every subordinate goal necessary to win, however long that takes. But one way or another, we need to be looking for the opportunities to win, the means to persuade people and change the character of this nation. We do not need to remain the passive-aggressive, politically pessimistic party that a lifetime's worth of Republican ascendance has beaten us into. We need to become the party and the movement that will take over for that failing, decaying relic of the twentieth century, and the twenty-first century insanity of the Tea Party.
Let's get busy doing what it takes to win.