Tuesday, November 06, 2007

On Voting, Elections, And Winning

If I've learned anything from the Weblog Awards race that Simply Left Behind is involved with, and the ancillary races at that site, it's this:
Getting Democrats and liberals to unite is like herding cats
And there's the difference between us and conservatives.

Ironic, isn't it?

Go take a look at the "Best Blog" categories, or "Best Community" or "Best Individual Blogger". Factor out the non-political blogs (like Fark or PostSecret) and you can see that the right wing has committed pretty substantial resources to their voting, and the liberal blogs have had to scramble to respond.

In particular, look at the Individual Blogger category: Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, is running away with the vote.

I won't like to his site, but I will link to Instaputz, where you can click through and annoy Glenn at the same time.

Read his blog, pick a post, nearly any post. He says...nothing. He writes a short blurb, and links to someone else's thoughts.

That's blogging? Notice, not even a comments thread...

And yet, he manages to draw a cadre of lockstep voters who will vote for him no matter what the circumstance. Not surprisingly, they're part of the 24 percenters.

What happens online happens in real life in this instance, and this is what troubles me about Democrats in general.

Look, we who are progressive know the majority of the country agrees with us, agrees with our values, values that transcend religious and class lines: we believe in doing good for other people, and if you have the power to do more good for people than someone else, you should try to.

This is what we believe about government: government has the power to solve problems that individuals or smaller groups cannot.

Remember that quote at the top of my blog?
"Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things...every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor."
We couldn't have done all that without the power of the government, at all levels, behind us.

We would find it immoral, in fact, not to use that power to do good for people who are less well off than we.

Like I said, values that are transcendant. Yet, that values argument got lost in the shuffle of hearing about gay marriage in Iowa, or pot-smoking hippies taking away guns. Those, it was claimed by the right, were not American values. A nonsensical straw man argument, to be sure, one that detracts from our nation's greatness, yet there it is.

But, because the right was unified on this point, because they hammered the point home relentlessly like tens of millions of chimpanzees on toy pianos, and we on the left couldn't mount an effective rebuttal, our values were subsumed.

Want a vast right wing conspiracy? There it is. It doesn't have to be a formal network of talking points passed among millions (altho at times, it has been just that, as churches and sermons became political advertisements). All it needs is a bellwether.

The chimps pick up the rest. You see this behavior in the trolls that infest blogs across Blogtopia (© Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo). You hear this behavior in any sports bar that's dumb enough to allow one loud drunk to monopolize the dialogue at the risk of having a brawl break out.

And yet we on the left don't fight back hard enough. And that costs us votes.


Part of it, I think, is that we assume that, because we hold a moral, valuable position, that people will naturally gravitate to us, light a light on a porch in the summer that attracts moths. The force of our ideas, beacons in the darkness, will shine through and people will do the right thing.

Like the herd of cats, what keeps us together isn't a perception that we have to be together, but a general agreement that we share a basic understanding of the universe and that we can agree on reality. Or maybe it's just a giant food dish. I haven't quite worked that bit out.

We on the left won't put up the fight when it's needed, until it may be too late.

Take the 2000 election: we wanted Gore to contest it to the bitter end, but how many of us Monday morning quarterbacks were out there, shaking hands, handing out fliers, making the phone calls, when it would have made a difference to Gore's campaign?

I suspect far fewer than were wringing hands about Gore's reluctance to overturn the Constitution.

Or 2004: What would have happened if, while Kerry sat back reluctant to fight the really ugly fight with the Swift Boaters, we on the left picked up the cudgel and took the fight to them?

Think that's not necessary? It wasn't the Bush campaign that "exposed" the Dan Rather memo: it was the blogosphere. They took up a fight they knew the candidate could not battle directly, and managed to turn what should have been a well-documented, factually vetted act of treason on the part of a future President into a method of exorcising a "liberal bugbear."

In short, they hate us, and we don't hate them nearly enough.

We have to dig deeper and pick up our game. Next year's election is 366 days away, and that might be the longest 366 days in the history of this country if we don't start fighting back now with every weapon at our disposal.

That means, go out and vote today, for a starter, even if all you have on your ballot is a bond proposal to help a small community of 71 families find a fresh water supply to replace the one that's drying up. It doesn't matter that it will win in a landslide with or without your vote.

It matters that YOU voted!

That's just the start. Tomorrow, you start paying attention to what people on the other side say to you, even the loud drunks in the bar, and you find a way to confront them and let people around you SEE and HEAR that there is an opposing progressive viewpoint.

Don't let them take the drunk at his word that he's right and everyone else is entitled to his opinion, because believe it or not, some people will assume that he is right because no one is debating the issue with him.

The next day, you write a letter to the local newspaper and take a stance that opposes the right wing viewpoints that some other letter writer has expressed. Even if it doesn't get printed, the editors read it, and they calculate it into their own editorials and their news decisions. They have an audience of customers to serve, and if they think the only customers they have are conservatives, well guess what kind of news you're going to get!

And then the next day, you write a letter to your local politician: mayor, Congresscritter, Senator, governor, and you take a stand on an issue.

Ask questions. Let them know YOU care. The more liberals who do this, the more they have to pay attention.

The meek shall inherit the earth, it's been said, but the grumpy get promoted.

It's not just about us being right anymore. It's about us showing everyone else just precisely how we are right. It's about pitching in and showing that you care.

Even if it's a stupid election that means nothing out of context, because they care enough to try to cheat to win, we have to care enough to stop them.