Faith is not rational — remember that because we will be coming back to it.
This column has been long delayed for a variety of reasons, which matter not to the essence of what I have to share today. An autopsy of the November 4, 2014 election continues to manifest itself in many publications and television shows the world over. It’s about science and philosophy. It’s about methods and monitoring. It’s about polling and participation. It’s about a lot of things that at this point don’t matter much to me.
The truth is simple: Democrats, Progressives, and even many Independents lost a lot on November 4, 2014. Nothing will change that, so you best get over it and placing blame, at this point is futile. I’ll explain in a moment, but the truth being what it is and my delay in writing this has a sense of pre-destiny to me.
I have been here before. I was in West Palm Beach the night of the 2000 election where the history of politics would shift in ways no one thought possible. The national mood was so divisive that people were literally fist fighting in the streets because of political Party loyalty and what was at stake. George W. Bush was selected by the Supreme Court (see how important the Supreme Court is?) and political life, as we knew it, was left behind.
I was deeply embedded in the 2004 campaign as I spoke to thousands of people throughout the election season in an effort to elect John Kerry. I was at the Democratic National Convention in Boston that year and met face to face with the Swift Boat guys that mistook me as a conservative political talk show host because I wore a suit and tie and that gave me scary access to their thinking. Did it work? Yes, to a degree, but that is not why John Kerry lost, is it?
Of course here in Michigan, like many other states, the national results rarely reflect the state votes. I have never quite gotten that until this election and I wish it were more than just about one issue or one person, but it is not, is it?
Immediately after the polls closed, I, like so many of you, started the blame game. Who was responsible? Who should we be mad at? How could this happen? Blah, blah, blah!!!
I am not trying to be blasé about this in the least, I assure you, but I have asked myself too many times now who is responsible for the results of last Tuesday’s election and there is one truth that continues to tug at me, a truth so profoundly simple that it not only makes sense, but will not make any of you happy. Trust me on that for now.
There are many camps within the Democratic Party of activists, advocates and voters. Some want to blame Michigan Democratic Chair, Lon Johnson. Some want to blame former Michigan Democratic Chair, Mark Brewer. Some blame Mark Schauer, and some blame money. The list is lengthy and, just humor me here, but making a list like this changes nothing. It never has and it never will. Why waste our time on the blame game when there is now very critical work to do?
We all know that having a target after something goes wrong is human nature. It’s not just in politics now, is it? We look at the disappointments in our lives; those failures that deflate us and make us say to ourselves and others that it wasn’t me, it was him, or her, or whomever. We do that because we have been trained to look to something other than ourselves. We have all done it, so just accept that for what it is.
I am not saying that someone or something from outside of us can’t be responsible and that someone or something has created havoc, disappointment, even loss. Things are outside of our control and sometimes we get trapped into a situation where we are dragged down and end up losing important things. It’s called life.
I write all of this because the truth about last Tuesday’s election does have a fundamental reason why we lost. It does have someone to place blame on. This dismal loss, which we will pay for, for a long, long time, is reason for deep concern and remarkable disappointment.
The reason we lost last Tuesday in Michigan is simple and the only person we should be blaming is ourselves.
Simply because we, you and I, didn’t do our job and get the vote out. We didn’t do much more than preach to the choir, including me. I spoke to thousands of people throughout the state in this election cycle delivering my best GOTV speech. I had passion and purpose to my arguments. There was logic and reason to what I was saying, and voters loved it. I was patted on the back and encouraged to stay on the stump, and was invited to more and more meetings because I was delivering a message that that wanted to be heard, and I ended almost every speech reminding people that it wasn’t them I was concerned about voting, but their network of friends, family and co-workers whom they needed to educate and get to the polls. Sure, some did that, but many more didn’t.
Let’s go all out right now. Labor, Organized Labor, the backbone of the Democratic Party, did not vote in the numbers they were thought to do. Traditional voters, the Democrats or Republicans, or people who think they are, who show up and vote with little thought to candidates or issues did not show up as we expected. They have an ideology that says follow the leader and when they don’t get the result they want or expect, the blame the leader, right? YAWN!
The Democratic Party is not exciting any longer. We have devalued our brand to the point that we think we stand for everything but rarely stand up to defend it. Democrats are very loud and very vocal, no question that is true, but when it comes to putting our money where are mouths are, well, we are not so good at that. We believe our own meme that we have less money, but we have the people, basically giving you the excuse you need to not write a check to a candidate or cause. Democrats have fallen into the trap that says if we stay true to our middle class values that the masses will follow us, and we were and are wrong. And continue to be wrong. It is actually free to join the Michigan Democratic Party, yes free, yet how many Democrats are not card-carrying members of the MDP? Why?
The Democratic Party in Michigan and in the country is broken. We have an amazing President in Barack Obama but because of the Republican commitment to block most of what he wants, and an American people who continue to elect people who obstruct progress for him, and all of us, he can’t get anything done. It is not as confusing as you think. Folks, like it or not, the Democratic Party continues to do the same thing election cycle after election cycle. They hit the right messages, but don’t have a plan to actually fix things they attach themselves to. They talk a great game but have little to show for it. That is not entirely their fault, especially since they are serving in the minority, right?
The Republican election plan has been simple for a long time now and, right or wrong, it works. Here it is: find a handful of issues you know the Democrats are passionate to change. Lie about them. Throw lots of money at it. Repeat it even though it has been proven wrong. Do it consistently. They win. Think I am wrong? Look at the results and then tell me I am wrong.
Democrats like to bitch and complain. Ask an average Democratic voter why they are a Democrat and they will not have an easy time answering that question. Ask a Republican the same question and they say things like they like smaller government or they don’t want to pay more taxes. Another good one, although also false, it that Republicans don’t believe in taking away rights, even though no one is trying to take them away, or giving away entitlements to people who should just “buck up” and find a job. The lies of the Right are told so often and so consistently they have become living myths that have eroded the foundation of our democracy, yet they win time and time gain.
Is there an answer to all of this? Sure there is. Is it maybe time for a strong third political Party in the US? Well, there are plenty to choose from, so go for it, but that, to me, is not the solution.
Consider the following:
Consider that what I am about to share is simplistic, and let me suggest that this is a good thing.
We need better candidates and we need to stop clearing the field. Let the democratic process rule. I am not suggesting that Mark Schauer and Gary Peters were not excellent candidates, but the pre-primary battle to gain your party’s nomination should be earned, not anointed.
We need candidates that understand the way we live our lives and can speak to that. I love passionate candidates and love it when one can actually talk to us like they are one of us, but at the same time tap into the emotions that matter to us.
Stop being afraid to be a Democrat. Embrace it. Live it. Be a Democrat without worry of what the other side will say or do. There is a reason that a lot of voters think all politicians, and I mean ALL politicians, are the same. People hear your message but carefully chosen words are used that don’t instill confidence that you will be able to stand up to the challenges that lie ahead. If you are a Democrat, be a proud Democrat.
You have to stop whining and complaining about Republicans and get out of your house and do something. Nothing replaces that commitment, nothing replaces that commitment, and I mean nothing replaces that commitment. Have I made that point?
Write a check, even if it is for $5. If you write a check you will feel more invested in a campaign and will find that you are more willing to volunteer your time, energies or talents to a candidate or a cause.
Considering running for office yourself. I have twice and there is nothing about being a candidate that is easy, ever. You will assuredly disappoint someone every day and you will also make someone happy every day. It’s a balancing game and you have to learn how to coordinate your life and your mind to make that happen. It’s the hardest and loneliest job you will ever have and that you will never get paid to do.
Lastly, for now, anyway, pick a few causes and candidates and make a commitment to that. I will be sharing with you what I am committing to in my next column and why. Maybe it’s time you start working on your list as well.
We don’t have time to wait, serious voter, we don’t have any time at all.
There’s more but let me try to wrap this up. I started this off saying that faith is not rational and it is not. Most of us political junkies, activists, and advocates, etc. use faith as our barometer and that is often times where we make our mistakes in politics. I am not saying that you shouldn’t have faith, as you should, but using faith alone has gotten us nowhere, so let’s be honest about that. Politics is a HUGE business with rules and speed bumps no matter where you go. There are built in traps and few treasures. We will not get money out of politics for a very long time, if ever, so get use to it. Should we continue to fight it? Yes, but don’t hang your hat on changing that. Is redistricting unfair and in desperate need to reform? Yes, and I am committed to that change and will report on that in future communication with you, if you will still have me after this column!
Let me close with this, and for those who can’t handle rough language, stop reading here.
It’s time we shut the fuck up and start being honest with each other with respect and compassion. Let’s try being loyal with each other and instead of just saying you are going to do something, actually do something. When I was running for the state House this year I would have thirty people say they would volunteer to knock doors and only two would show up. You smile and say it is no big deal, but it is. Post on Facebook and Twitter all you want, but until you actually demonstrate you will put yourself out there you are not important to any cause or candidate. I love the people that are involved and I am blessed to know them, but they are the exception to the rule and you know it.
Those who are reading this right now that have never done more than bitch and post to online social networking sites are non-factors. You are not Democrats, you are people who want more than they are willing to give and frankly, I no longer have time for you. If you want change you must be willing to work for it and nothing replaces showing up and doing something.
I am profoundly disappointed in the election and what struggles we will have moving forward, but I don’t need a crystal ball to know this one fact: if you don’t get off the couch and start fighting for a real future, each and every one of you, then don’t bother at all.
History tells us that when the masses want change, change happens. Don’t be fooled into thinking that signing an on-line petition is anything more than theatrics, because that is all it is. You want to be noticed? You want to see change? You want to place blame? Start with blaming yourself and then shrug it off and get to work. It’s what I did and continue to do. That doesn’t not make me better than you but it does make me stronger than you.
I am willing to lead but you have to be willing to follow and that will require you to leave the house. Don’t like it? Tough shit! The truth sometimes hurts. Now, who’s ready? I know I am. In fact I have already started.