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The lesser of two evils is not a winning strategy

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, August 12, 2010 20:47 EDT
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Even though we’re being encouraged to pretend that Robert Gibbs’ bullshit about the “professional left” and cable news wasn’t an attempt to shame the netroots and especially the folks at MSNBC for their refusal to be Fox News-style sycophants, Rachel Maddow isn’t buying it. And her revenge is spending half her show reminding the Obama administration that her job is calling it as she sees it, which includes calling out the administration when they fail to do the right thing.

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Rachel tackled this from a human rights standpoint, but I’m going to shame the administration for being bad team players for the Democratic party. Gibbs not only admitted, but smirked as he said it, that the administration feels it can renege on its promises to progressives and engage in hippie-punching because those progressives will vote for them anyway, because hey, they’re not Republicans.

This confirmed to me that they’re more interested in finding ways to blame the base when the Democrats take a bath in November than in actually winning the fucking election for Democrats in the midterms.

You would think that the Obama administration would understand the importance of getting out the vote, especially since the Obama campaign put so much of its resources into one of the most efficient, effective GOTV campaigns the country’s ever seen. You might think they realize that it’s true that progressives will pull the lever for you, but only if they’re in the voting booth to begin with. You might think they get the fact that Democrats typically have voter turnout problems because their working class, younger base is often the first to skip voting.

From the ugliness of earlier discussions about this, I fully expect to be told that I’m a bad person who is threatening not to vote. This is stupid; I’m going to vote. I’m going to encourage people to vote. Shooting the messenger when progressives tell you that the “least bad of two options” campaign strategy reduces voter turnout is the thinking you get in to when you’re more interested in assigning blame than winning elections. It’s stupid and it’s childish, especially when progressives are telling you this because they want you to stop crying and start winning.

This is about brutal realities. You can point fingers at the voters and whine and cry when lack of motivation meets lack of time and people don’t bother to vote, but again, that’s not how you win elections. You accept the public as they are and give them a reason to carve out time to vote. Your single mom working class voter who has to get the kids fed, dressed, to school, and then has to go to work and then pick the kids up and feed them and put them to bed may genuinely feel that carving out half an hour to vote is an onerous task, and if you give her reason to believe you don’t really care about her or her vote, she may find it’s just easier to skip it. Yes, the odds are high that woman would have pulled the lever for a Democrat, but you’ll never know, because she didn’t fucking vote. Too bad she’s likely seen no improvement in her circumstances or hasn’t heard about real progress that would make a better life for her children that would entice her to get up a little earlier than usual to vote.

And let’s talk about money. “Screw you” is roughly the worst fund-raising strategy I can think of. The “professional left” that Gibbs smirks at, so reassured of our support? Those are the people who put time and energy and money into crafting a donation strategy or building an Act Blue page. Being told that their contributions don’t matter is likely to make them wonder if they wouldn’t be better off finding another, more useful way to spend their time and money. I know that I’m really not interested in giving to candidates myself. I’ve done it, but on the whole, I hate it. I hate it because I hate feeling like my money goes to people who a) are more interested in assigning blame than winning, b) make fun of me and mine, and c) sell out the issues I care most about first.

Imagine, if you will, those liberal elite who actually give money and/or spend time fund-raising for causes that matter to them. Say, folks who think gay rights is the major human rights issue of our time. After the dawdling over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, what do you think those folks are going to do with the money they have to give away or the time they spend fund-raising? Are they going to give it to campaigns, or are they going to figure their resources are better given to non-profit activist groups who actually work really hard on goals that are important to them? I have my guess.

Or take me, for example. Reproductive rights is a top tier issue for me, and I tend, when I have money to give, to give it to organizations that help women in need get reproductive health care, like Planned Parenthood or the National Network for Abortion Funds. Imagine what would have happened in health care reform made sure that every woman who had an abortion in this country had coverage for it. Money and time that I and folks like me (all those bowl-a-thon people!) would be freed up. If we were assured that our representatives would be effective at improving women’s access to health care, we’d probably turn our attentions to getting them elected. But right now, people who think this is an important issue believe that the Democrats will never really do much to help women on this issue. I don’t even have an Act Blue page. I often mean to get around to it, but when I have bandwidth to spend time working on that kind of stuff, I tend immediately to think first of feminist organizations. And I know lots of folks like me. The way to get those resources directed at campaigns is to give those folks reason to believe you a) give a shit and b) will actually do something about it.

This isn’t about the base being naughty because they don’t do enough to support politicians who tell them to piss off, or about how evil the Republicans are. This is about being a grown-up and seeing votes, money, and time as limited resources that must be nurtured instead of demanded. I can’t believe that we even have to have this discussion, since it’s so obvious.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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