Sunday, November 9, 2014

Polonius Was Right

There's nothing much to add to the chorus of mea culpas and finger pointing coming from Democrats about our hideous trouncing on November 4. Democrats lost for lots of reasons, only some of which were related to outside money. The most obvious reason has to do with failing to stand for anything, much less for Democratic principles, and running away from the administration's successes while failing to call them on their failures. The remarkable cave-in of NY's Working Families Party, which lost any credibility it had left when it made a toothless deal with Cuomo, is just one example of progressives making deals with the devil to avoid confrontation.

Campaigns should be about confrontation. Polonius told Laertes, "Beware/Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,/Bear ’t that th' oppos├Ęd may beware of thee." If you're not willing to stand up for yourself and define yourself, you allow your opponent to define you. That happened time and time again this year. "This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man." If you're pretending to be centrist, or working-class, or a teen mom, or something that you really are not, your campaign won't pass the smell test, and the electorate will feel used. If you leave little room between yourself and your opponent because you are afraid to come out as [anti-fracking/pro-choice/pro-ACA/anti-gun/fill-in-the-blank], you take away any reason to vote for you. And if you campaign on trivia rather than on something big like income inequality, your campaign loses meaning and fades into the noise.

I wonder whether the cautious Clintons, whose stumping this year was more useless than not, will learn something from all this. I know that 2016 will be a very different year for lots of reasons, only some of which will be related to outside money. Let's hope one of the differences is the way Democrats talk about themselves and their ideals.

No comments: