by Tom Sullivan
I used to describe George W. Bush as a Jack Russell terrier playing tug of war with a knotted rope. Once he sank his teeth into something, he simply would not let go. You could lift him bodily off the ground and watch his butt cut circles in the air as he wrestled with his end of it. But in the end you would tire of the game first, let go, and he'd retire triumphantly to his doggy bed with his prize. I was never sure myself whether I meant that as a cut or a compliment.
This how the right wins and we lose. The thing is, conservatives often beat the left, not simply with money, but with sheer relentlessness. They play tortoise. Liberals choose hare.
At "The Fix" yesterday, Chris Cillizza looked at the national Democrats' draft "party autopsy" written in the wake of the thumping its candidates suffered in the 2014 mid-term elections. He wasn't too impressed, except with this:
The Task Force recommends that the DNC – along with the Democratic family of organizations, state parties and allied organizations – create and resource a three-cycle plan that targets and wins back legislative chambers in order to prepare for redistricting efforts. This long-term effort must be aggressive and focused on winning elections at the state and local level. It must also support efforts to take back the House of Representatives.
But even this "long-term effort" – six years – is Short Attention Span Theater compared to the decades that movement conservatives put into getting George W. Bush, their movement's apotheosis, into the White House, gaining control of Congress, and mounting a final, all-out, Koch- and ALEC-backed, legislative assault in the states on any who might oppose them. Working with those long time horizons is not the left's strong suit. We're too flighty and easily discouraged.
Traditionally, Democrats -- and, in particular, the party's major donors -- have not been terribly good at either a) seeing the big/long-term political picture or b) getting excited about downballot races. (Republicans, on the other hand, have been brilliant at both.)
Republicans have been kicking Democrats' butts at the state and local levels (and in judges races), unanswered, for a decade.
There is an ADHD component to lefty politics. We're attracted ever so briefly to bright, shiny, national races, to candidates with fleeting star-power, and to Beltway theater. Building a state and national bench from the local level doesn't provide the buzz we crave. For political junkies on the left, how many moods rise and fall based on what did or didn't happen this week in Washington? They're up, they're down, they're in, they're out, they're thrilled, they're through. I'm not talking about dedicated, hard-core organizers, but the battalions of armchair activists who stay home in off-year elections, who consume politics like pints of Ben and Jerry's and yell at the TV, but won't get their hands dirty with the real grunt work. I've met many. (And it's mostly grunt work.) They'll never win if they won't get into the game.
Or, as happened the other day, we take ourselves so seriously that we attack allies over minor foibles. Patricia Arquette backstage at the Oscars, for instance. Instead of bashing her on Twitter, Oliver Willis went glass-half-full on Arquette's pay equity comments. She used "a national stage with an extraordinarily high viewership to elevate an issue of key importance for the progressive coalition." Thst's a good thing. Some activists complained that she wasn't perfection. Yeah? And? Willis writes:
The left has a long long history of shoving its head way up its own butt and ignoring the long fight for progress. It [is] often thanks to visionary leaders, both outside the official halls of power and within it, that the movement has had its discordant energy pointed in the right direction towards great national goals.
Along that way, it seems so often as if the left is not happy because while they got 70-80% of the cake, they didn’t get that 20% so nobody should have cake forever — until the mythical day we can get 100% cake (which is never coming and has never happened, ever in history).
At Huffington Post, Brooke Sopelsa asked the LGBT community yesterday to stop "launching attacks on well-meaning straight people" for not being hip to "the latest LGBTQIA lingo" that she can't even keep up with herself.
We have enough adversaries working a divide-and-conquer strategy against us to do their work for them. NC Sen. Thom Tillis and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, to give just two examples – not to mention their Kochtopus masters.
If Democrats and the left expect to carry the day, save democracy, or whatever, we need to start training for marathons instead of sprints. It's not just a different way of doing. It's a different way of thinking.
Once, as runners milled around before the start of a 10k race, as people compared past times and personal bests, I overheard one conversation that stuck with me. This guy I knew (barely) was telling the runner beside him how a recent race had gone. He said at such-and-such weekend event he had run two-twenty-five (or something). I laughed to myself. Anybody else overhearing him would think that was a pretty good marathon time. Except he wasn't a marathoner. He was an ultra distance runner. He meant miles.