cross-posted from Operation Reach B.L.A.C.K.

some observations/personal reflections following Tuesday’s special election . . .

Perhaps you’ll hear from a “frustrated” voter who claimed to walk 100 miles to canvass for Obama. And that voter will tell you that Obama is weak because he didn’t fix eight years of bad policy in his first year of office. This voter will wax poetic about a time when he or she once made out to’s “Yes We Can” song. And, if you’re lucky, this “disenchanted” voter will lecture you on how Obama should have done XY or Z without the necessary votes in Congress because Presidents FDR, LBJ and GWB were. . . (sigh) I don’t know . . . special?

And you’ll certainly hear endless criticism of the Democratic establishment and stupid mistakes by the candidate.

But if history is any indicator, you might also hear pundit after pundit talk about the “protest vote” or those who deliberately chose to sit on their hands to “teach the Dems a lesson” (assuming they are qualified to teach whatever that lesson may be).

What lesson, you may ask?

Well, the same lesson Dems supposedly learned from their great teacher, Ralph Nader, in 2000. That oh so persuasive “lesson” that only the truly progressive, ideologically pure, intellectually superior must teach to the masses of mindless “Obamatons,” “kool-aid drinkers,” “cult members” – feel free to add any of a number of condescending pejoratives -who are just too emotionally swayed by the President’s swagger to remove the rose-colored glasses when judging this President and his policies.

You’ll hear it, and you’ll know it verbatim. Why? Because you’ve heard it a million times before. Which speaks to one of two possibilities:

1. Democrats are extremely dense; or
2. Liberals take themselves way too seriously

But whatever you hear, ask yourselves this . . .

When was the last time the self-righteous liberal actually did something? Sure, they talk a good game. They’re well-read. Articulate. Impressive. And I’m certainly not suggesting that they don’t do good work on a local level. But please name the last time you saw a legitimate sustained social movement from the left? Because it seems that such victories (if any) have been few and far between in a generation of conservative dominance in our national politics.

See, there’s a lot of history to fall back on. Most will cite the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist movement, the rally for labor rights. But those things happened decades ago. Of course there’s the current struggle for marriage equality. But, while long overdue, don’t look towards the ballot for success stories as far as that’s concerned either.

What am I getting at?

Liberals better start looking in the mirror. Liberals better start reevaluating how they relate towards the very people they claim to represent. And they better start talking to rather than at the American people.

There’s a long list of what went wrong in MA. But, if any of it has to do with “disenchanted liberals” or an apathetic base. . .

Well, all I know is 45,000 deaths a year was a rallying cry for health reform. But now some progressives would just assume we start over or let the bill die because it has one too many flaws. As for those 45,000 lives at stake? Your guess is as good as mine.

And what of other broken promises? What further tugs at the heart strings only to quit when times get tough or when the result isn’t as perfect as we might have originally anticipated? And what will happen to the people once we’ve left them to fight the next trend-worthy battle to show how much we care?

People who care get out to vote when the stakes are so high.

As for the political lesson moving forward — Go further left? Go to the middle? Go to the right?

How about we just get the damn bill passed. Why don’t we focus on being the party of competence rather than the party of handwringers? Why don’t we project a sense of confidence and unity rather than self-doubt and chaos? And we wonder why we lose elections like we did tonight.

Seems like we’d rather lecture the world on what it should be and fight over the details. It’s not a matter of moving to the political left, right or center. It’s about building a political movement by finding leadership in unlikely places. Places like urban neighborhoods that Dems love to talk about during the campaign, but don’t necessarily visit when it’s time to make policy. It’s about building a set of shared goals.

Because it doesn’t stop here. Nothing is ever perfect. And as long as we use perfection as our standard we’ll let a lot of possibilities fall by the wayside for what? To say we stood on “principle.” Feed your family on “principle.” Get health care on “principle.” Find a job on “principle.”

Well, to play off of a popular spiritual phrase, pinciple without works is dead.

Politics is all about what have you done for me lately. And while Dems are infighting their way to the perfect at the expense of the possible, Republicans will gladly take back power in Washington. And you’ll be left in a familiar position – loser – with a familiar task – to complain.

Politics is also about a choice. And that choice is always there whether we like the options presented to us or not. Because politics is more than fighting to get your candidate in office . . . it’s also about making sure your opponent stays out.

And that’s where liberals fall short. Because if the tables were flipped I’d have a hard time imagining an ACLU endorsed liberal winning a Senate seat in the deep South on a pro-Immigration, anti-gun, pro-NARAL, big government platform. . . especially when that particular Senate seat might hold the key to one of the Republican party’s biggest platform agendas. . .

especially if that candidate did something weird like, oh I don’t know, pose butt-naked for a magazine.

The voters wouldn’t allow it. But flip the script and, for some reason, the tea party just took Ted Kennedy’s old seat in that great “liberal” bastion known as the northeast.

If Democratic voters weren’t thrilled at the prospect of getting Martha Coakley in that vacant Senate seat, they should have at least made sure they kept Scott Brown out.

The circumstances are not always ideal, but the consequences of our actions and inaction are still very real. And contrary to the historic Obama campaign of 2008, not every political fight gets to play out like the final season of The West Wing.

We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that we can’t progress unless the circumstances are ideal. We’ve filled ourselves with such doubt that only the truly extraordinary might survive the knee-jerk second-guessing and self-defeatism we’ve come to expect at the first sign of adversity. Because there are two glaring truths to come out of this election:

1. The Republicans campaigned harder (that’s on Martha Coakley); and
2. The tea party out organized the democratic base (that’s on the base).

The fact that Democrats couldn’t keep that seat blue speaks towards serious issues of competency in running campaigns and a disconnect from the political base. Yet, at the same time, the fact that Democratic voters allowed that seat to turn blue despite all of the inherit advantages to favor the “progressive” agenda hints at a sense of spitefulness on the part of a voter who is prone to take his ball and go home.

This is not an indictment of all liberals. I, myself am a liberal. I myself, have fought for progressive causes. I am proud to call myself a progressive. And, trust me, I’d bet that there were many self-identified liberals who did their civic duty in Massachusetts on Tuesday. Those people are not the issue. Those people know one important truism in progressive politics . . .

“Progressives” progress. They get things done. And they don’t waste precious time forming a circular firing squad over the smallest of details, especially when they’re confident that they’ve got enough of a rapport with their constituents that they’ll get more than one bite at the apple.

Because there must come a point where the “principles” we fight for move from theory to practice. There must come a point where our lofty ideals actually start affecting real people. Talk is cheap.

Fair-weather liberals are guilty of the very crime they accuse this President of passing onto the American people: they talk a good game, but they don’t do much. They pimp the legacies of their predecessors from social movements gone by, but rarely have any ideas of their own (or any practical means to accomplish such goals). They forsake what gains they do make (see 2006 and 2008 elections) because change requires more than lofty rhetoric. And they come up with self-defeating plans to teach others a “lesson” like . . .

Voting a tea party endorsed Republican to fill a, now formerly, Democratic seat.

Thanks Massachusetts.

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