Outwit. Outlast. Outplay. Outorganize.
by Tom Sullivan
Have been observing the aftermath from the Democratic convention among grassroots supporters of both Secretary Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. It is a small sample, but feelings are still raw.
A friend who worked the 2008 Obama campaign (and numerous others since) had some advice for Clinton supporters in the virtual space. They need to be graceful winners and less gloaty:
To my friends that are being mean to BernieOrBusters:
"Coddled" might not sit well with people. But his point is taken. Bernie Sanders' grassroots supporters have energy and a fire in their guts that Democrats will need, not just for this coming election, but beyond. Losing is always tough. The trick is to learn from it, to pick yourself up and channel that energy. Besides, as one Sanders delegate told a friend after the convention, "We may have lost the battle, but we won the war."
Point I'm trying to make is that most of these BernieOrBusters are either first time voters or sporadic voters, not solid Democrats, with some notable exceptions. And these voters kinda need to be coddled and nurtured into growing from sporadic voters to precinct organizers. And the DNC, to this point, has told them to fuck off. My experience is that more fuck off will not turn their heads. Telling them that they owe us their vote -- also not a winner. Telling them that they owe this to themselves -- that has a shot.
Remember the recent lesson of G. W. Bush. In 2000 Gore lost New Hampshire partially due to a successful Green Party movement that splintered off enough votes to give the state to Bush. If Gore had won that state, then the fuckery in Florida wouldn't have mattered, and probably wouldn't have even taken place. The Democrats first solution was to whine about it for four years. The result was a Bush reelection. Yes, there was some fuckery in Ohio, but Bush won that election.
Enter Howard Dean as chair of the DNC who decreed that we will stop blaming voters whom don't vote with us and instead, explain why it's best for them if they do, everywhere. Result: took back both houses of congress and the majority of state governments in the very next cycle and gave the Democrats their first landslide presidential win in a generation the cycle after that.
So please stop calling BernieOrBusters shitheads, 'cause we need them and you are tired of doing all of the precinct organizing and voter registration yourself -- you are doing those things, yes?
Colleague David Atkins (who has won a few and lost a few) seems to concur (above).
The counterpoint to my friend's comments above is that Sanders supporters are now positioned to leverage the knowledge and experience they've gained and the networks they've built into party leadership and renewal, and into legislative gains around the country. If. They. Stay. Engaged.
Progressives politics is an unending struggle to advance the ball, to make this world a better, more inclusive place for more people, and to be a check against those corrupted by power. That's what democracy is. That's what Bernie supporters have worked for. It is a struggle for the power to enact change and to displace or co-opt those with whom we disagree.
Already some of my Bernie friends are re-registering as independents, unwilling to participate further in the Democratic Party after an election contest in which, one supporter alleged, the party "wouldn't let Bernie win."
Seriously? Seriously? Letting your opponent win is called throwing the fight. That’s not how elections work. Think opponents across the aisle will be so nice?
Plus, why would anyone expect human dynamics inside a political party to be different from politics in any other organization? You can find assholes anywhere. Families feud. Clubs have fallings out. Churches have schisms. Team members don't get along. Parties have internecine struggles. So it goes.
Parties are like unions. Joining doesn't mean you are signing away your immortal soul. You don't join a union because every provision of the charter perfectly aligns with your deepest principles, or because you agree with the union president, or because you like everyone you work with or stand beside on the picket line. People join political parties for the same reason they join unions: to find strength in numbers. That's why I did.
Now, not everybody is a joiner. (By nature, I'm not.) Non-joiners prefer to stand apart, and politically independent. Sometimes defiantly so. That's their choice. But if having less of a voice in the political process makes them feel marginalized, they are marginalized by choice. They are not being excluded. To riff on that old Irish joke, it's not a private fight. Anybody can get in. All they have to do to join is register. All they have to do to participate is show up and work. Sometimes alongside people they don't much like.
Gaining influence, credibility, authority? That is something else. You don't walk into a church for the first time and expect people to ask you to preach the sermon. You don't walk in a third time and expect people to ask for your sage counsel. We all understand that. So we don't get offended when they don't. So it is in party politics. Bernie friends say they want R-E-S-P-E-C-T. What they really want is to be taken seriously. But credibility is not conferred by registering at the DMV. Credibility, you have to earn over time.
Nothing gets accomplished, resolved or advanced by leaving the game after your first setback. So to those ready to bail, which is truer? Your opponents wouldn't let you win, or by abandoning the field you let them beat you?
This ain't the Montessori School. Jumping into this fight, would-be revolutionaries are vying to lead the most powerful country on the planet. You are promising voters you are going to take on and subdue the most powerful corporate entities in the world. Are you going to run home now because Little Debbie was mean to you? Give me a fucking break.
After the starship Enterprise's first disastrous encounter with the Borg, the entity Q tells Captain Jean Luc Piccard:
Q: If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid.
People’s futures are on the line. The world is. If you expect to win at this game, first learn how to play it. If you expect to advance your agenda and defeat your rivals inside your own party – any party – you'd best learn how they play it. Better yet, cooperate with and win them over. Or else outwit, outlast, and outplay them. But this isn't "Survivor." This is for real. And in the long run, that’s what it takes to win. Plus allies. Lots of allies.
This is democracy, warts and all. At the end of the day (and on Election Day it is the end of the day) we count votes. That’s how we determine winners and losers. There is math involved. We don’t count passion or ideology or likeability or past decisions or check-off boxes on candidate questionnaires. Politics is a competition. It’s a contest. You must be present to win. If you don’t show up to play, you forfeit.