Thursday, March 17, 2005

Living with losing

Many people are rightly upset about the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. As were many people upset about the (Moral) Bankruptcy bill, the confirmations of Rice and Gonzalez, etc., etc. I understand the despair many are feeling at these actions, but there is something everyone in this fight needs to keep in mind: we are going to lose a lot more of these battles in the next two years.

When we can stop some particular bit of perfidy we should do so (such as the Bush's plan to gut Social Security or the nomination of extremist judges), but we shouldn't let despair be our primary response to the fact that we are going to lose many of these votes. Our mission today is not simply to win a particular fight. It is to lay the groundwork for taking back the mechanisms of power.

Liberal Oasis addresses this point today with respect to the oil drilling in Alaska:

And as nice as it is to stop bad things from happening, in the long-run, we’ll be able to stop Republicans from continually doing bad things if the public sees what they’re up to and demands a change in direction.

The public hasn’t really seen what the GOP is up to on the environment, because they have learned to be relatively cagey about their anti-environment platform.

This wasn’t always so.

After the GOP took over Congress in ’94, the House passed a number of overtly destructive environmental bills.

But the public backlash was strong, and Senate didn’t follow suit.

By 1996, Newt Gingrich found it necessary to repair the party’s image on the environment, convening a study group to publish a “vision statement” with calmer language.

The lesson: don’t get suckered by polls that put the environment low of people’s list of political priorities.

Please note that I am not advocating that we simply sit back and wait for the Republicans to step in the shit. We must fight these battles, even if we are going to lose, if for no other reason then we can use the fact that we did fight them to prove that we offer the voters an alternative. The loss on individual battles is bad in the short-term. But these losses can be turned to our advantage in the coming election cycle (at least they can as long as certain Democrats don't give the Republicans bi-partisan cover). There's nothing like have a Republican's vote on the record to use as a weapon against them in a future election. It worked against Kerry didn't it?

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