Three Factors Tell the Tale- And They are Not the Ones You Think
Wait! Wait! I Know the Answer to This One!
Ask how it is that the Republican party is shrinking at a crisp pace, yet they have a remarkable level of power, and most people will say something along the following:
“Three reasons. They care only about maintaining power, they are ready and eager to do anything to keep it, and they don’t care how this impacts democracy.”
I am sad to say all three statements are largely true, especially for Congressional and state party Republicans, but the answer is inadequate. These are motivations, not tools to get the job done. Three other, sometimes less visible, factors account for the state we are in today.
Factor 1: It’s Never Over. There are No Pauses in the Effort
I had the privilege years ago to command Army units that deployed to our National Training Center (NTC), located on a huge tract of land in the California high desert. Every time was a unique and challenging opportunity. Soldiers with combat experience often said that the hardest battles they ever fought were not in war but at the NTC. It was a 24/7 tempo; most of us lost about 10 pounds over the two-week deployment.
So why am I telling you this? Because one of the first lessons I learned at the NTC carries over into politics. Units who came to the NTC tended to rest right after a battle had concluded. They were exhausted, exhilarated, frustrated, or all of the above. The opposing force, a permanent unit at the NTC, took no such breaks. They began setting the groundwork for the next battle as soon as the last one was over. Guess who most often won that second battle?
It is often the same for Democrats. They are great at turning out every four years when there is a presidential race. They are much less present in primaries and are practically nonexistent in so-called off years. Republicans at many levels have no such problem. They see the contest as continuous, just with different phases. Their folks continue to show up at precinct meetings, at town halls, and at other opportunities. Therefore, they don’t have to recruit and ramp up nearly as much; they never stood down. Over time, that has effects.
Factor 2: Attention to Detail and The Grass Roots Game
Have you ever noted how often terrible legislation in state and local bodies frequently read so similarly? One major reason for that is outfits like the Koch Brothers build templates for legislation, talking points for press releases, and guidelines for lobbying – all of it trimmed and tailored for each location and provided on a silver platter.
Locals who might be inclined to agree with them find it easy to get things done. They come to the legislative battle with time and conflict tested tools for legislation and messaging. In short, they do their homework, and they coordinate nationally. That works.
Factor 3: The Long Game Mindset
Closely related to Factor 1. Some Republican strategists have for a long time thought about their game plan as running for decades, not just during main election cycles. They thought about the value of building community and state bases, not just national politics. The occasional set back tends not to deter such a mindset. It is a bit like planting a lawn. Growth happens in a lot of places; the occasional bald spot eventually gets filled back in.
How To Overcome These Factors
That a political party would plan and act as described in these four factors makes sense. In many ways, they should be congratulated for this approach. The problem is, of course, that parallel to this approach has been a debasement of ethics and political philosophy. This impressive machinery started in more normal times but has adapted seamlessly to a much darker, more destructive party that bodes ill for America.
Countering all this requires three things, but not fourth. The first is more daylight. Call out coordinated and templated national efforts. Don’t let them sell something as local and homegrown when it is shoveled from national bins. People should know when they are being manipulated. The second is to match their performance metrics, and exceed them, in the sense of a more deliberate, long term growth plan for moderates and progressives. Empower and train at all levels, stress the never-ending nature of this contest.
Third, understand that there are now elements all over the country dedicated to voter suppression. Fight them first and foremost by phenomenal turnout. Yes, go to the courts when possible, and fight inside local legislatures, but above all be determined that people will vote, will overcome the obstacles, at every turn. Then new office holders can correct the legislative and judicial excesses.
The Fourth One that Can be Passed Upon?
Becoming more Republican than Republicans. Yes, Democrats need to quit showing up at gun fights with a knife and they need tougher messaging. But they don’t need to resort to distortion, lying, or ethical corruption.
One party doing all that regularly is bad enough. Somebody has to be worthy of governing this nation.
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