To Win, Democrats Need To Learn How To Lose More
Get Caught Trying
On paper, picking and choosing your battles seems to make a lot of sense. Of course, you don’t want to expend all your energy on every fight, no matter how big or small. Instead you want to keep a reserve of strength so that when you do fight, you win big.
That sounds great but too often the Democratic Party uses this as an excuse to never fight. And then they end up losing the wider war.
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Losing doesn’t feel good and it wounds your pride. You don’t want to get the stink of losing on you too much because, especially for a political movement, it can then feel like you’re always on the outs. And I think this is the situation many Democratic leaders want to avoid, which is understandable.
But for years now the party has chosen what seems savvy and ended up shooting itself in the foot. There is a widespread sentiment that the Democrats just won’t fight. By keeping their powder dry for so long, the ammunition has now dried up into a massive useless lump.
To win, sometimes you need to lose.
After President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, Republicans did not tell their constituents “you just have to wait until we’re in complete control of Washington before we kill this thing.” Instead the party spent years and years making dozens and dozens of attempts to kill Obamacare, attempts that were simply doomed to fail.
The legislation they offered was not practical and should it have made it into law would have caused untold chaos and disaster for millions of people seeking health care coverage. Now granted, Republicans don’t really care about health care coverage, but even then the whole point was not in enacting a serious law.
It was about putting a line in the sand so the people who vote for Republicans understand that the party will fight for them on an issue of utmost importance to those voters. From 2010 to 2017, Republican voters clearly understood that when it came to Obamacare, which their leaders and outlets like Fox News told them (falsely) was implementing socialism across America, the party was on their side in repealing the so-called “monstrosity.”
The practical execution of this didn’t really matter, and of course when the party had all the power in Washington it still failed to repeal the health care law and even the Supreme Court ruled against them. Repeatedly. From a political point of view, all that losing helped the GOP to win elections in 2010, 2014 and 2016.
So while it might seem smart and savvy for Democratic leaders to ruefully tell voters that pursuing sure-to-be-doomed measures, if you apply that methodology to such a broad spectrum of issues, it is a net loser.
The party needs to pick more fights its going to lose, so that voters - both in the ideological base but also those who don’t pay attention to daily politics - can see the party fighting for them.
When they lose, it creates a potentially powerful rallying cry. Because if something is popular and good and it is killed by Republicans (sometimes with aid from the Democratic Party’s conservative members) then it allows party members to tell voters, “THEY stopped us from doing a really great thing for you. THEY are what stands in the way of this next step toward utopia. By voting FOR us and AGAINST them, we can get this thing done.”
A failed vote thus becomes an important bullet point on the way to a much bigger victory.
Losing leads to winning, you just have to try it more often.
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