I hate to lose. I know you hate to lose. Losing sucks.
When our surrogates lose, we feel like we lose. When our surrogates win, we feel like we’ve won. And we make a dangerous decision about these wins and losses: that it is ideologies that win and lose on election day. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Ideologies never win. People win. It’s like those bumper stickers that read
Guns don’t kill people, I do.
We aren’t what we believe and our beliefs are never what elections are about. That’s why the media covers the horse race and we have questions like
Which candidate would you rather drink a beer with?
And other campaigns win and lose because of pictures like this one:
And as my father bemoans every election year about my grandmother
She voted for Ronald Reagan because she thought he was cute! She thought he was cute!!!
This statement is always accompanied with a groan and a head tilt that shouts for him
My own mother voted in a presidential election and based that vote entirely on the person’s looks!
And so it might be tempting for well-intentioned people to see an incumbent winning a recall by a few percentage points in which he outspent the challenger nearly 10-to-1 as some kind of referrendum or a declaritive victory for the conservative ideology, I caution you to remember:
File this under “Lessons we refuse to learn”
Ideologies do not win. People do. People who run particular campaigns promising particular things in a particular way. For all those watching Wisconsin yesterday and today, take the campaigns seriously, not their claims about conservatism and the end of labor. Take seriously the anti-recall sentiment. Take seriously the incredible amounts of outside cash that poured in for Scott Walker and how very much more corporate money there was than union money. Take seriously how unbalanced that spending was. Take seriously how narrow that victory is given all the advantages the incumbent started with. Take seriously the truth that a hypothetical recall of Tom Barrett in the state house with a 10-to-1 spending supremacy would no doubt yield a similar result of an incumbent victory.
Make no mistake that conservatism didn’t win last night: the Walker Campaign did. And with it comes a blueprint for the fall. Not a blueprint for ideology, but for campaigning:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
(Marc Antony, Julius Caesar)
If you don’t like it, it won’t matter, until your speech is equal to a millionaire’s.