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There’s Nothing Wrong With Losing A Battle — As Long As You LEARN From It

June 6, 2012
Walker in victory

DON’T let this happen again!

So. much. angst.

The left is understandably nursing its wounds from yesterday’s defeat in the Wisconsin recall election. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with licking your wounds (or affixing some blame). But at some point, you have to move on. With a few short months to go until the November elections, we need to pick ourselves back up and start moving on pretty darn soon. But let’s not do that until we’re sure we’ve learned the right lessons from this lost battle.

We’re hearing a lot about the right’s part in this: the Kochs and other millionaires and billionaires, outside front groups and corporations flooding  the state with money and out-spending the left 7 to 1. An opaque and unaccountable system of vote counts and exit polling… The unjustice of a post-Citizens-United world…

Well, certainly that’s all true – but what are you going to do about it? When the vast majority of corporate America and the 1% are aligned with the Republican party, how are Democrats ever going to be able to outspend them? Short answer? We’re not. Now get over it and move on to what we can do: organize, and most importantly, address the issues that actually matter to voters, not with bombast and scare tactics, but with real,  sincere solutions.

Fox News contributor Sally Kohn, whom I’m proud to call a friend, has a great piece up today on the lessons to be learned from the Wisconsin recall for Democrats and Republicans. As always, Sally is brilliant, and I highly recommend you go read her entire post. (Even if it is Fox News.) But here we’ll share some excerpts from her lessons for Democrats – because we really need to take this to heart:

Lessons for Democrats

1.  Centrist candidates don’t motivate liberal voters.

Tom Barrett was a troublesome candidate from the get-go.  Apart from the fact that he had already lost to Scott Walker in their first match up, Barrett earned the ire [of] labor unions for trying to takeover the Milwaukee public school system and supporting charter schools.  Unlike conservatives, who have seen a bump in voter energy and thus, victory, in recent years by running candidates whose positions and values match the conservative base, Democrats keep promoting folks who can only be described as Clinton Democrat after Clinton Democrat and then wondering why liberal voters stay home…

2.  It is hard to translate grassroots anger into electoral power.  

This is a tough one for progressives.  Comprised of people who are used to being marginalized, and are often self-marginalizing politically, converting on-the-ground protests to in-the-ballot-box organization has always tripped up the left.  This is one thing the Tea Party, on the other hand, did very smoothly (though the third phase, comfort with governance and the necessary compromises, isn’t coming so easily to the right either).   Perhaps the only silver lining of defeats like Tuesday night is they will continue to provoke progressive activists to keep honing their electoral skills and build real power that holds the Democratic Party accountable.

3.  Democrats don’t get how small fights build to big fights

The real story is the failure of the national Democratic Party, and President Obama in particular, to throw down for Barrett in the Wisconsin race. The party sent some fundraising help but never direct cash from its coffers. Obama steered clear until the last moment when he tweeted about the race…

Presumably, the president didn’t want to take his eye off the larger fall contest. Understandable.

But as likely is the fact that while Republicans understood winning in Wisconsin was key to perpetuating their larger, anti-union narrative across the country, national Democratic leadership repeatedly fails to understand how “small” fights at the state and local level add up to seismic shifts in public opinion and policy nationally.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 7, 2012 8:18 am

    I haven’t read the piece upon which you base your article but based on your representation, I quibble with only one point. “Centrist Democrats don’t motivate liberal voters”. This may be true but it’s nothing to be happy about. It’s the same trap the GOP finds itself in where “moderate” is suddenly a dirty word. Perfectly conservative congress critters are getting booted out the door because they’re not right wing nut jobs. This is not IMHO a pattern liberals should be emulating on the Democrat side of the aisle.

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