To win, one must be willing to lose, to sacrifice the very prize one is willing to gain, leave behind the comfort of certainty and face defeat time and again until the goal is attained. Along the way, one must remain focused on the ultimate goal, and not let minor setbacks get in the way. Some of the greatest individuals in history faced defeat time and again. Lincoln was not highly regarded by politicians of his time even as president, and faced almost certain defeat in the election of 1864, had Sherman not taken Atlanta, giving the president the boost he needed. With the support of his generals in the field, Lincoln went on to save the Union, after the initial two years of defeats made the outcome of the Civil War anything but certain. Throughout it all, Lincoln remained focused on the overall goal of preserving the Union even when common sense may have dictated that he cut his losses and propose a truce.
If the Democrats want to be a viable party again, they need to start focusing on the big picture, the ultimate goal. That’s how the Republicans won the overwhelming majorities they now enjoy. Democratic voters need to emulate the Tea Party. Vote for progressive candidates even if it results in splitting the vote and losing. Force the party left. Of course, this means running more progressive Democrats in races. Stop trying to build consensus with the Republicans and fight. Trust me, the Republicans don’t care about bi-partisanship. Not that they have to anymore. My biggest disappointment with the Democrats has always been that they try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. I believe in building consensus, too, but when one’s opponents prove to be intractable, it’s time to change tactics.
Perhaps the solution is to let the Democrats fix their own party if they can, and instead focus on forming a new party focused on Progressive ideals, that’s not corrupted by corporate money. One could argue, for instance, that the Green Party is, at least, the ideal of a new Democratic party. But just like the Libertarians are sort of the bargan basement version of Republicans, the Greens currently seem more like the K-Mart version of the Democrats. True, they support a lot of progressive causes, but they’re also overrun by anti-vaccine advocates and other fringe believers. Plus the Greens don’t seem to have much of a local strategy, only showing up during national races, and not bothering with trying to make gains in the House, the Senate, or the statehouse.
Perhaps it’s time to completely abandon the two-party tyranny that’s ruined our democracy and instead find candidates free from party idealogy to represent us at the state and national level. Politics thrives on local action. Find good people, convince them to run and hold them accountable to the constituents who elected them. They don’t have to make decisions with which the voters always agree, but they always need to be able to explain to the voters why they made the decisions they made. The current crop of corporate candidates don’t know or care what the constituents want and the constituents have made it easy for them by not holding them accountable for ignoring us. Over the past four years, Congress has had its worse approval ratings in decades, yet the voters keep rewarding them by sending them back to do more damage. This has to end. As long as elections are decided by the extremist base of each party, the politicians have no incentive to work for the people. We need to take away the certainty career politicians have of retaining their positions and once again make them work for our votes, not just campaign for them.
Our political system is badly broken and the 2016 campaign only showed how broken it is. Now we have a president-elect only a small fraction of the public wants, and a Congress totally divorced from the will of the people. We no longer need to fear the worst possible scenario, because that’s exactly what we have. The time to act is now, to shake off complacency and start planning for a better future. We need to stop acting like politics is something that happens to someone else and start being responsible for our political system. We may not get many more chances.