Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Happens Today Doesn't Matter


Busby Fails!  GOP passes litmus test!


Tester loses!  Victory for "moderates"!


Siegelman beats Baxley!


All this may happen today.  In fact, all of this is likely to happen today.  Like all of you, I'm hoping it doesn't.  Like most of you, I've sent in my money and even donated some of my time to one or more of these wonderful candidates.  And yes, I'm on pins and needles.


But it could certainly happen today--much to our collective chagrin, and subsequent depression.


But if all of these headlines above DO come to pass, there's a message I want to share with all my fellows here on the left:


Chill.  These are already extraordinary achievements, WIN OR LOSE.

Why?  Here are a few reasons.


1) These are not exactly progressive-friendly areas.  Yes, I know that true progressivism, done right, can and should appeal to even those in the most rural and ostensibly conservative areas: ideas such as conservationism, competence, self-direction, common good and privacy rights are universals.  But let's not kid ourselves.


We're talking about Montana here.  And San Diego.  And Alabama.    These aren't just long-shots for progressives: they're half-court shots.

I'm not saying we should settle for moral victories--we shouldn't--but let's be realistic, here. These areas are so progressive-unfriendly that moral victories and close shaves here are almost guarantees for actual victories in friendlier areas. And getting depressed about possible losses in these areas, as if they were the end all and be all (that would be November, remember...) and as if we should be expected to win here, is so counterproductive that it's almost falling into a GOP talking point.


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2) The bellwether arguments don't wash.  Never forget this.  Especially about the Busby election.  Pundits who call the Busby election a "bellwether" are stupid.  Busby shouldn't even be competing in this race.  It's a terribly long shot.


Calling the Busby election a "bellwether" would be like having a 14-year-old boy shoot layups, and having Michael Jordan shoot half-court shots--and then saying that the results are a "bellwether" of who would win a one-on-one matchup.  That's insane.  That Busby has even made it this far is a testament to how low the GOP has sunk.  Never forget that.


And as for the other two races?  Calling a couple of progressive/DLC races in Montana and Alabama a bellwether for the prospects of progressives in the national Democratic Party goes so far beyond stupid that words for it don't belong in polite company.


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3) All politics is local.  And missteps abound.


If Busby loses today, it will probably have been because of her recent "gaffe."  Elections are unpredictable, and hinge largely on local issues--no matter what the general politics wave is.


In statistics, there is a rule about sampling: the smaller the sample set versus the general population, the fewer conclusions can be drawn about the general population from it, and the higher the margin for error.


To take two or three races happening today, and attempt to draw conclusions about our prospects in hundreds of of races occurring nationwide, is pointless.  People make gaffes.  Individual and local issues come up at the last minute.  It's an unpredictable game.


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4) These races are receiving unnatural amounts of attention.


The GOP has been spending an enormous amount of money to defeat Busby--way more than they would if this were just another November race.


Same goes for the Democratic DLC establishment trying to defeat Tester.


The glare of the intense spotlight heightens every move, and blows up little details and stupid non-stories out of proportion in ways that will never happen in November because of information overload.


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5) Finally, This is how it's done--win or lose.  In their excellent book Off-Center, authors Hacker and Pierson lay in crisp and clear detail how the GOP machine threw four, five, and sometimes six primaries, again and again, at those they wanted to remove in their party in order to achieve the ideological transformation they desired.


They didn't give up after the first defeat.  Or the second.  Or the third.


If someone had come to the "New Republicans" early in their movement, and laughed at them for being 0-30 or some similar number in elections, their response would have been simple: "Wait and see."


And that's what I urge Progressives today, in the face of ridicule if we lose.  "Wait and see."  These things often take time--but the fact that we're even here is a miracle.


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So take heart, my fellow progressives--no matter what happens today.


Know well that Busby's challenge has already struck terror into the hearts of the GOP and drained their coffers--and that Tester's challenge has done the same for the DLC establishment.


Know well that actually making these half-court shots would be a miracle in and of itself--and that missing them is no indication of how we'll fare on a more even playing field.


Know well that we are winning--and on track to victory in November--whether we win or lose today in these races.


Take heart, my friends.  And stay focused.

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