Electability

I have a tendancy to irritate or alienate a good deal of my liberal friends. It’s not that I’m not a great guy, I am; handsome, charming, and chock full of wit. I mean, I fully realize that on any normal given day, it’s rather difficult not to grow enamored with me.

But politics are different, and I have a nasty tendancy to rub people the wrong way. Ironically enough, often the people I alienate are those with whom I share political beliefs on a personal level.

And I understand why. Paticularly for liberals, political beliefs are often as deeply held as religious beliefs, molded and constructed from cherished moral values. Liberals don’t believe in, say, equal rights for all out of some sterile and logical idea that to ensure equal rights for all will make society run more smoothly. No, they believe in this ideal and others because to them, or more accurately, to us, it is a moral value.

So the more embedded you get, the more vehemently you hold your political beliefs, and you will find, the more frequently you will find yourself at odds with me.

I’m not exactly sure why this is. Maybe it’s something as simple as I just grew interested in politics later in life. Perhaps it’s because that no matter how diverse my background, I personally have experienced my entire life as a middle class white guy. Maybe it’s because I just tend to approach most things in life with a sort of pragmatic detachment, or possibly it’s because when I first entered into the political debate as a person, I did it partly out of my own morality, and partly out of intellectual curiosity.

Sure, Bush’s war on gay might have been what got my attention, but the way campaigns are run, the way a single moment on television can sink or elevate a candidate, the way polls are born out and guage the public’s opinion… these are the things that intrigued me and fascinated me.

All this merely to set the stage, and I think it’s important. As the campaign for President of the United States of America continues, I’ll be liveblogging debates, parsing polls, and probably saying a lot of things that are going to irritate you folks, things like, Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have a chance at the Democratic nomination, let alone the presidency.

I want to clear the air because I don’t want people shaking their heads and thinking, ‘It’s because of people like that asshole Mr. M that we can’t ever get a good candidate,’ or, ‘We’ll never get an honest president with defeatists and compromisers like him.’

Because that is what I am; a compromiser. I freely admit it. I will support a candidate that I am less aligned with politically over one I am more aligned with based solely off of that one word: electability. And people hate this.

But why? Why do I settle? Why will I prop up someone who many liberals might call a Republican-lite, when there are good honest liberals out there that can make a difference?

Again: Electability.

And further more, I believe in that one word. I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing, and I fully embrace the idea of compromising some of my values to support an electable candidate. I’ve spent time and time again putting forth my political philosophy, the concept of slowly pushing left from the center. But here’s why.

As many know, I celebrate this country’s vast and diverse culture. It’s my favorite part of this country, because frankly, I’ve been to prettier places, with better food no less. The Parthenon and the Acropolis may be stunning to behold in person, but when I catch that plane home, I want it to be here, where I know my uniquely diverse friends and family are waiting for me with open arms.

But celebrating this country’s culture also means understanding it, and to a degree accepting it. It means understanding that there are some elements I don’t agree with, and don’t agree with me right back. And much like many of us liberals believe it is morally wrong to impose upon a woman’s right to have free choice over her reproductive system, there is a large population out there that believe it is morally wrong to allow women to have abortions.

These battle lines are drawn all accross America, and you will fine that the large the stage in politics, the more significant these battle lines are. Bigger populations often result in more diversity, and this means more conflicting points of view.

So on a local scale, it’s possible to be dyed in the wool liberal/conservative/libertarian/socialist, and expect to see a positive outcome. Local populations have a tendancy to be more homogenous. For instance, when I volunteered for Governor Tim Kaine’s campaign, the pit bosses in the call centers had us flooding Norfolk with phone calls while we practically ignored Va Beach. The reasoning behind this was simple; Norfolk was largely Democratic, while Virginia Beach is Repub territory. Don’t even bother showin up if you’re blue.

And this makes sense, like people tend to live with each other. It’s not often that you will find an affluent white family living in a Latino ghetto.

But as you zoom out, so to speak, you find the picture gets fuzzier. Whereas if you were running for a state legislature seat, you could take a quick look at your district, realize they were mostly conservatives, and campaign accordingly. But now let’s say you are running for the US Senate. Now you don’t have to worry about just Norfolk, but Virginia Beach as well, and Richmond, and Williamsburg. You find that the red and blue blocks grow to be differing shades of purple.

And here is where things get interesting. Sure, you may be an ultra liberal Democrat, but the job you’re running for is to represent ALL of the people in the state. Yes, you are representing the largely Democratic state capital of Richmond, but also the largely conservative rural communities as well.

Zoom out some more to the highest office in the land, and I’m sure you can imagine what a mess that is. Here is where so many national candidates get perceived as losing their soul, and this is why a Dennis Kucinich or a Mike Gravel are unelectable.

The simple fact is, people don’t see the world around them the same way. What is irrefutably right to you or I is not so to someone else, and we have to respect that, or at the very least, understand it. It may be difficult for someone opposed to the very idea of the military industrial complex to respect someone who believes in its value, however, if there is a sizeable number of people who disagree with you, you must make a concession for them.

Because they vote too.

And that is ultimately where the idea of electability comes from. It is essentially that essence of a candidate that makes them appealing to varying demographics. And if we were to be thinking logically, then we must understand that the more polarized a candidate, the less electable they are. Sure, they may receive undying support from their base, but unfortunately, this support and catering to said base has the unfortunate side affect of alientating those opposed to the base, and further, that vital block of undecideds and swing votes.

Therefore, when I approach politics, particularly those on a large stage, my ideal candidate does not necessarily agree with me on all the issues. Instead, I look for that candidate that appeals to the most people, but will still work for some sort of progress as far as pushing the country in the direction I would like to see it going.

Admittedly, this is slow work, but I think it is far superior to the alternative where we put forth the kind of inspiring candidates that would fight for those things we believe in, but never get a chance to ever step into the ring because no one but us would vote for them.

There is another alternative, however, but I think many of us would not necessarily see this as a good thing. It is possible for a polarized candidate to win on a national scale, pursuing a radical agenda once in office. In fact, we’ve seen this… recently. I would go so far as to say that the current President is an example, and let’s take a look at how he was elected both times…

I rest my case.

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