If We Lose…

While the Democratic establishment appears to slowly be shifting away from Hillary Clinton, one ardent supporter, former New York Mayor, Ed Koch, is sticking to his guns. Like the cliched transient on the street corner barking that the “End is near,” Koch preaches that Obama is doomed to lose.

Normally, this would be enough for me to go into defense mode in how Obama is more than capable of winning this election, but having done that once already tonight, I will address that most terrible fate of if we lose.

I like winning. I hate losing. Plain and simple. I’m not competitive by nature; I’m not the guy on the softball team that approaches every game like it’s game seven of the World Series. I’m not even on the softball team. But I’m not involved in politics to lose.

Still, the very nature of politics, and any milieu in which there is competition, is that you must accept defeat at some moment in your life. As luck, life, and fate would have it, you really do win some, and sometimes you really do lose some.

And so, when we look at the Democratic nominee and if he is fated to lose, the question becomes, is this something worth losing over? Does Obama, as a candidate, represent something important enough to potentially lose over? I happen to think he does.

You have “hope” and you have “change” which are fine enough aspirations. After seven years of Bush, I’m ready for some “change” and I would love to have a leader that gave me more reason to “hope” than despair. But these are also intangible abstracts; feel good buzzwords more than appreciable assets. And if these two were all that Obama had to offer, than even I would be skeptical of the idea that he represented something that was worth losing for.

But just as the idea that he’s all style and no substance is a fallacy, so too is the idea that all he has to offer is hope and change.

Now, as you should well know, I’m not a Kossack by any margin, but I do remember after the Hill-Bloggers’ “strike” at Daily Kos, Kos himself provided a retort to the charges that Clinton partisans leveled upon him and his site. What he delivered was, in my opinion, as close to a manifesto of the purpose and endgame to the netroots as anything else. The doctrine discussed, which was little more than an echo of the message in his book Crashing the Gates, is less ideologically driven as it was strategically driven, with some ideology thrown it. It isn’t a leftist manifesto, but instead a dream sheet on how to recapture control over our party, the key components being:

-Transform the party into a more grassroots oriented establishment.

-Adopt a 50 state strategy.

-End the Iraq War.

-Mitigate the influence of lobbyists and elite PACs.

-Put an end to the influence of a “corrosive consultant class”.

Barring the desire to end the Iraq War, in its entirety we see Kos setting a standard of transforming the party structurally, and significantly engaging voters in a bottom up and hopefully more effective fashion. This is not the kind of change that every Democrat wants, but it is still a necessary change that I think a great many of us want.

As the only major party with any kind of ideological leanings towards the left of center, progressives and liberals have found themselves in something of a political rut; the Democratic party having long been less a combatant on the political field of battle, and more like the can in a game of kick the can.

For political expediency, the will of the left is often ignored or overturned, which I could understand if they scored enough political victories, but they don’t. All too often Democrats lose both ideologically and politically, a fact that is made in no uncertain terms better when you look at the Republican party that has managed to win both ideologically and politically up until just recently.

And then we go over to this post by Matt Stoller which brings Obama back into the forefront. In painstaking detail, Stoller goes through and outlines much of what Obama has accomplished, how he has consolidated the power of a party, and transformed in so many ways the way in which politics is done.

While those things that Obama accomplished don’t fit perfectly within the conceptualization of Kos’ manifesto, the likely Democratic nominee has moved more to change the game than anyone has in a long time. His grassroots organization is ridiculous, and the fundraising is phenomenal. Think about the fundraising for a moment; 1.5 million donors and record smashing reported totals. And this compared to Hillary Clinton who had, at the beginning of the campaign, a fundraising machine that had every pundit in the game swearing she could outspend everyone into the dirt.

Stoller further details how lobbyists have been shut down, and how Obama engineered the “cornerstone” of his campaign in MyBarackObama.com; a mechanism that he projects to be about five times as large as MoveOn.org is.

In short, Obama has created a grassroots monster. On the stump, he proposes changing politics in soaring rhetoric, but on the ground, he has changed the game in very real and tangible ways. And ultimately, these are good ways.

Who doesn’t want a candidate that picks up a bulk of his fundraising not from personal loans or high powered donors, but from nickel and dime fundraising that is harnessed into a tidal wave? Who doesn’t want a candidate that doesn’t just attract and empower grass roots support, but trains them and gives them the tools to empower themselves?

All of this is to say that either candidate risks being beaten in the fall. November is still half a year away, and anyone who tells you that Obama or Clinton will win where the other can’t is staking a claim to precognitive powers that they do not have.

But we know what we get with each of these nominees. They are ideologically similar, or at least so I am told; strangely enough, though, depending on who you ask either is to the left or right of the other. The difference is in how they play politics. We know how Hillary plays politics, and I’m sure it would be very functional in the fall, but what we have seen from Obama is that he changes the game, and he changes it not only in his favor, but in the favor of those who support him.

In the past, we have seen politician after politician who owed their careers to lobbyists and PACs, and in the end, those lobbyists and PACs are who they end up being beholden to. Obama offers a campaign that owes its success to the grassroots and the netroots. There’s no guarantee that he will be beholden to them, or more accurately, us.

But I think it’s worth the possibility of a loss to find out.

One Response to “If We Lose…”

  1. Pug says:

    This quote by Ed Koch is very interesting:

    The reason that the superdelegates are there is to select that person who is most likely to prevail. And…even though he does not win on his own merits in terms of racking up sufficient delegates, in all probability the superdelegates will be afraid to exercise their own judgment. And we will simply go along with the count of the delegates that were chosen in the polls.

    The logical quetion for Koch, of course, is what is the purpose of the millions of voters? Ed Koch has probably been one who calls Barack Obama an “elitist”, but his own elitist arrogance is breathtaking.

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