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Sat May 2, 2015, 01:32 PM

Winning

Last edited Sat May 2, 2015, 02:02 PM - Edit history (1)

As we struggle to use our deeply pathological political process to advocate for social and economic justice, two critical activities are primary elections and general elections. We are now in primary season, and I am speaking as a progressive voter.

I am a registered Democrat for only one reason, so that I can participate in Democratic primary elections as a means of communicating my values and concerns to party leadership. The political center has been moving to the right for decades and I believe the driving force behind that trend is the failure of registered Democrats to utilize primary elections in this way. Constituents place too much emphasis on selecting a candidate who is perceived to be electable. Constituents judge candidates through the eyes of others and elevate the candidate with the most perceived broad appeal...and the most immediately recognizable spending power. Constituents dismiss candidates who more closely represent their own positions because they know those positions have been marginalized. Constituents dismiss candidates who must rely on financial contributions from the general population because we don't believe the general population can compete with entrenched power. The underlying themes in this kind of constituent behavior are fear and shame. Refusal to act in a contrary manner is compliance. Refusing to act in a contrary manner is a message to Democratic leadership that constituents are willing to give up a lot for emblematic victories.

I am fervently in support of Bernie Sanders this primary season, as I intend to be in the general election. I am also in support of anyone who favors another candidate if such an alignment is based on positions and values. But I do think a serious mistake is made when we try to shape our positions into what we hope will be winnable, rather than trying to win with the positions we believe are important.

There's an analogy in non-profit fundraising. When organizations change their programs in order to win grant support, what happens to the organization is called mission creep. When this is done time and again, the organization finds it has strayed from its intended mission and values and is participating in a smattering of activities responsive to grant guidelines. The solution is to give up that funding. Funding should chase programs; programs shouldn't chase funding.

The Democratic Party has mission creep, because we're afraid no one will chase us.

There's another analogy in fundraising. The best way to avoid mission creep is to collect the bulk of revenue through modest individual gifts. This also turns out to be best for growth. (Bernie wins again.)

My strong appeal to everyone, no matter whom you support, is to reject language about viability and electability and always frame the debate in terms of issues. This is not the same as being unconcerned about winning. It's about winning by selling what you want to sell, instead of by trying to figure out what people are buying and selling that.

(I am highly conscious that this narrative is dismissive of third parties. That's a problem. The two-party system doesn't work. I acknowledge my unwillingness to fully commit to a third party as being somewhat analogous to the misuse of Democratic primaries. I do, however, see my participation in Democratic primaries as similar to being an independent public servant who caucuses with Democrats.)

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Arrow 7 replies Author Time Post
Reply Winning (Original post)
rbnyc May 2015 OP
djean111 May 2015 #1
malthaussen May 2015 #2
Zorra May 2015 #3
brooklynite May 2015 #4
rbnyc May 2015 #7
sabrina 1 May 2015 #5
Ms. Toad May 2015 #6

Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2015, 01:38 PM

1. The Democratic Party has mission creep - yes, it does. n/t

 

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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2015, 01:39 PM

2. Well-said.

But too many politicians and voters are like Mitch McConnell, and think virtue consists in doing "whatever it takes" to "win." I hardly need to tell you how these people will scoff at you for wanting ponies and other such dismissive retorts.

Surely, if there is ever a time to air values and programs under the present system, it is in the primaries. Once the course has been set, different conditions apply.

-- Mal

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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2015, 01:45 PM

3. Recommend. Thank you. A very thoughtful post. nt

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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2015, 01:46 PM

4. My response...no

 

If the universe of voters were the people here, then you might be able to make a compelling argument about thinking in terms of issues rather than electability. But it isn't. There are million of voters out there who will be voting on simplified terms: Democratic/Republican; liberal/conservative; young/old; etc. They will have two practical choices: our candidate, and the Republican's candidate. And history has shown that when WE, run a candidate perceived as "too liberal" (regardless of how voters respond to "too liberal" issues), that candidate has a lesser ability to gain the middle of the road votes needed for election, WITHOUT appeal to an imagined pool of left-wing voters waiting to be inspired. Now, it is possible that if we run a far-left candidate and the Republicans run a far-right candidate, we might have a better opportunity to win, but we also have a far worse outcome if we lose, ESPECIALLY if the far-left candidate chooses to not take advantage of the full range of financial resources that the far-right candidate will take advantage of. Given the choice of a more liberal candidates who's prospects for winning are lower and a more moderate candidate, who's positions are still within the mainstream liberal principles of the Party (you may disagree; I think the average Democratic voter does not) and who has a better chance of winning, I'll go with the moderate.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #4)

Tue May 5, 2015, 10:34 AM

7. Well, I guess we will see.

Being afraid to appear to be too liberal just affirms the idea that there is something wrong with that, and helps create more people who shy away from identifying with progressive values. You can gamble on that in order to win, but that strategy erodes the mission of the Democratic Party year after year.

I would rather bet that there are enough people out there who want to see a candidate just plain stand up for what is right without making a political calculation that together we can regain some ground and begin to move in the right direction.

I think fatigue over the kind of political strategy you describe is at critical mass.

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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2015, 01:47 PM

5. Excellent OP. And you have nailed the solution to the Big Money problem in our electoral system:

The solution is to give up that funding. Funding should chase programs; programs shouldn't chase funding.


That is one of the main reasons why I hope Bernie wins this election.

Corporations have taken over our system of elections. Not satisfied that they had more money to spend than the people already, they got laws passed to make sure their money talks.

Imo, all Democrats should use their microphones to condemn this state of affairs and refuse to take their bribes, and they should call them that, which is the truth.

Since we can't change the laws they paid for, we CAN reject their pay offs.

Bernie is doing that. And so far, it appears that he has outraised all of the other candidates in the race in just 24 hours.

I know that at least one Democrat has refused Corporate bribes.

Imagine what a story it would be if all Democrats and any Republicans with some ethics, did the same?

But at least this time we do have a candidate who I believe is going to make this a huge issue in his campaign, and it's about time.

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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Sat May 2, 2015, 03:09 PM

6. This.

I am also in support of anyone who favors another candidate if such an alignment is based on positions and values. But I do think a serious mistake is made when we try to shape our positions into what we hope will be winnable, rather than trying to win with the positions we believe are important.


It explains both why I believe coronation of Clinton is wrong, and why I will vote against Clinton (or not vote at all) in the Democratic primary. In the primary, I am unwilling to vote merely to win, or to vote for a candidate whose positions change based on what is perceived as winning rather than on principle.

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