All elections matter. Not just the presidency, but the House and the Senate and the governorship and the rest of state government. Even if you’re not inspired you need to give the Democrats the tools to fight and change things. You might think you’re settling for less, but you’ll be getting a lot more. And if you don’t vote blue, the GOP wins.
The Democrats typically try to play by the rules and tend to avoid “dirty tricks.” For this I applaud them. But we’re up against a different sort of competition, one which will not hesitate to take the low road and win by any means possible. They’ll confirm someone to the Supreme Court with only days left in a president’s term right after saying that it’s undemocratic to do exactly that. They’ll support a candidate who instigated an insurrection. They’ll try to keep people from voting. Then they’ll deny the results of an election (but only one they don’t win– the others are legit obviously.) They’ll pressure another country looking for political dirt. Heck, they’ll even try to take over the offices that approve the votes.
The Democrats aren’t weak. They just lack the power. Forget voting only for what we want. We need to vote against what we don’t want.
So how do we deal with this? Taking the low road and playing our own dirty tricks is not a sure-fire way to get there. You might pull it off once, you might win a few battles, but that’s not a strategy that will win a war, and it’s against the ethos of a party that is, for the most part, typically pretty ethical.
There’s a really easy way to do this. But we need to have everyone on board. Here’s what we do. We need to settle to get all our people into power even if they’re not “exciting” or talking about our pet issue(s). Not “win one here and there” but a steady always-in-control position from which we can be free to maneuver and take on other challenges. And we need to get all of them up and down the ballot as they say.
Why compromise when they don’t compromise?
This sounds like compromise. Why should we do it when they don’t do it? Because with compromise we obtain and keep power. And once firmly in control of Congress and the presidency, not just for two years, but for 10 or more, we can enjoy the looks on their faces as they wonder what happened.
Even if they’re not talking about your hot button item you at least can be sure they’re not going to pass some “don’t say gay” or “anti-wokeness” legislation. The GOP has shown they’re not only willing but anxious to do those things.
Sometimes I hear people get mad because the Democrats are too nice. It’s not niceness. They simply don’t have to votes. They don’t have to power. You can’t do anything significant if you’re not in power. Here’s how things have been looking.
Obama is the only more recent Democrat president to have 2 years of unified power and he had something once-in-a-lifetime special: a filibuster-proof super majority Senate with 60 Democrats.
Obama had something once-in-a-lifetime special. He had the House and a super majority in the Senate.
That ended fairly quickly when Teddy Kennedy died and a Republican won the special election. The ACA got through the Senate before Kennedy died but couldn’t be fundamentally changed to fix problems in the original legislation. Only small changes are allowed in reconciliation. A key reason he was able to take on such an ambitious goal was his party was completely in power and he had the backing. Yes, he had charisma and vision, but he also had the necessary support. He had the power.
The table above shows Biden having a majority in both the House and the Senate and he did but we don’t show that as unified because he still had to make a number of concessions to move the ball. He had Dems who were balking and had to recruit GOP to fill their places, and in doing so, toss them a bone.
Let’s run the numbers
Now for the sake of discussion, let’s say your best case government is 9/10 what you want it to be but only in full control for 1/10 the time (control of house, senate, and presidency):
0.9 * 0.1 = 0.09.
You’ve got a net of about 9% of what you want. And 91% of what you don’t want.
However if you settle for 7/10, just a fairly good government, but are in control 9/10 of the time:
0.7 * 0.9 = 0.63.
Then you have a net of 7 times what you had before. You’ve compromised and gotten a lot more. The amount of compromise needed to achieve a majority is likely very small. We typically only need single digit percentage points.
Now the presidential race gets most of the attention and often sets the tone. It certainly helps to have a charismatic candidate but we can’t get much done with just a president. They need solid backing, preferably a super majority in the Senate and a simple majority in House. A simple majority across the board is table stakes. While we’d like quality candidates all around, our plan needs to work even with B- candidates and it’s got to work in the purple states (or even the red ones) because we need majorities to accomplish anything. Without power we get nothing.
I keep coming back to that “power” thing. As I noted above there are many times we’ve felt “the Dems are just wimps” but they just didn’t have the power. They’ve spent precious little time with the power. If we want them to stand tall, we’ve got to give them the tools to do it. We’ve got to get them the power.
Sign me up, how do we get there?
OK here’s the tricky part. You’re going to have to hold your nose, accept less than you think is necessary, and vote for the candidate that can win and that is closest to what you want. You’re likely going to have to compromise and sacrifice some oh-so-obvious good stuff but that’s only at the voting booth. And you’re going to have to make yourself vote even if you’re not excited by the candidate(s).
You can keep fighting for those other priorities in any other way you choose.
You can keep fighting for those other priorities in any other way you choose, donating money, attending demonstrations, appealing to your representatives, or writing blog posts. The voting booth is the only place you need to make a change.
Now of course the candidates themselves are going to need to tack toward the center and throw their support behind items that are broad and politically expedient. They can’t try to overplay their hand and risk losing the election. So they’re going to need to make a small compromise to assure they’re the winner. And you the voter are going to need to understand this and vote accordingly, even if that compromise is cutting into your priorities.
A lot of people can’t imagine giving something up they feel is important. They don’t give anything up. Why should we? Because power. Once we have power and stay in power it’s a whole new game. Instead of tiptoeing around and taking on small things or scrambling to get bigger stuff done during a short period when we have complete control (for example the ACA), we instead can survey the landscape and begin picking off items. And then we control the message and can use this power as a stepping stone to other goals and priorities. We accrue a lot of secondary perks by being the party in power.
I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that
Now on the other hand if you refuse to compromise, here’s what happens. That electable candidate that might have been “close but no cigar” loses and the candidate that represents all that is bad gets elected. That candidate you didn’t vote for that had deliberately modified their position just to increase electability loses. They likely even share your long term goals and desires but just know they cannot win an election (yet) talking about those issues. So you’ve been true to your conscience but the net result is not at all in line with what you were wanting. You get the Other Guy.
And then in the broader scope of things the Democrats cannot stay in power and they can’t get you anything you want, not the general stuff and certainly not the more specific items. So by being too greedy and wanting too much you get zippo. Should you get everything you want? In a perfect world probably. But the other team has built a really powerful media machine and have a bunch of acolytes who only believe what their machine peddles. It’s not fair, it’s not correct, but it’s the reality of what you have to deal with.
The big picture
The democrats are a much more diverse group than the GOP. We don’t all watch the same TV channel. We don’t all forward the same things back and forth on social media. There are many different things which motivate us where as their media machine gets them all totally fired up about things like “trans bathroom access” and then when Fox plays the tune, everyone dances (aka “votes”).
We will never have a single unified voice like that. But that doesn’t mean we can all act with one mind and go out and get things done that we want. Things that open up a brighter future, if not for us, for our kids. And importantly we prevent things like loss of women’s bodily autonomy from happening. That’s some Christian Sharia law, some third world stuff, but it’s happening here.
Carry on with the rest of the fight
Just to reiterate, there are many facets to the game, not just going to the voting booth. If you really want something you’ve got to work to get it. You still need to put in the sweat, blood, and tears. Voting is only a small but important part of it. So don’t feel like since you compromised for strategic reasons at the voting booth that you need to roll over elsewhere. The fight goes on. You may have to give up something you really want but just try to picture how much you’ll get to enjoy watching the other guys squirm and grovel and come to you for favors. I don’t want to sound petty, but I think I’d like to try that.
Political parties are pointless unless they win power.CNN Politics
P.S. And I need you all to do this. I’m tired of living in an increasingly red world.