Why We Lose Elections
Source Nathan Newman
Date 99/05/01/22:23

/* Written 11:32 AM Oct 29, 1998 by in igc:labr.all */
/* ---------- "Fwd: dsanet: Why We Lose Elections" ---------- */
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 11:52:55 -0700 (MST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 13:29:36 -0500
From: Nathan Newman

an interesting dialogue between Jeff Cox and Nathan Newman on electoral

Dave Anderson

Jeff Cox:

>Patterns of campaign finance in which business >groups outspend labor
inside the Democratic Party, and patterns of >candidate recruitment which
produce Democratic candidates who are either >entrepreneurs or trial
lawyers, have produced a balance of forces in this >country that is
dangerously weighted against the interests of the >wage-earning majority.
In those circumstances, a strategy of: "Support >the progressive caucus,
and never, ever, do anything that might endanger >the election of the
Clintons, Gores, and Schumers", has produced an >almost complete
marginalization of progressives.

Nathan Newman responds:
I've never understood why progressives feel it is better to lose in
November than lose in a primary - since all the complaints you list will
apply to November elections as much as Democratic primaries, with the only
difference being that the progressive loss in November will end up
electing the most rightwing candidate possible.

If labor unions, civil rights activists, feminists and every other group
cannot mobilize the money and energy to win a Democratic primary, why
should anyone believe that the magic of a separate ballot line will
suddenly change anything?

The reality is that the progressive movement spends relatively little time
and effort on electoral politics, preferring to spend its funds on legal
battles, lobbying and research campaigns, workplace organizing, direct
action and other non-electoral approaches.

Maybe that is the correct decision, but there is no reason progressive
have to be outspent and outorganized - we have a lot of folks on our side
despite the defeatism some people seem to espouse. THe media makes a big
deal when the AFL-CIO spends $25 million on an election cycle, but that is
just one-half of one percent of the $5 billion raised annually by the
labor movement. The environmental movement raises hundreds of millions of
dollars each year and the civil rights movement raises tens of millions of
dollars. Same with the feminist movement and so on.

So why are there Congressional Republicans going unopposed? Mainstream
Democrats have bypassed many races, yet you don't see progressives taking
the opportunity to drop $100,000 on a worthy candidate to take a shot.

It is absurd to argue that shifting the limited resources progressives
spend on electoral politics from Democratic primaries to third party
ballot lines will make any difference.

And if we increase the amount of money spent by progressives on electoral
campaigns, then the arguments against fighting in primaries because "we
will get outspent" largely disappear.

It is progressives who have marginalized progressives in electoral
politics by failing to focus serious effort on it. I mentioned money
above, but the same applies to people power- there is little serious
recruitment for electoral campaigns by progressives compared to
recruitment spent on a myriad of other campaigns. Again, that may be a
wise choice, but it is a choice and other groups - such as the NRA and the
Christian Coalition - have made different choices in recent years and we
have seen the results.

There is no magic bullet. If we want to do better in the electoral arena,
we need to raise more money and recruit more volunteers. Period.

The third party argument is largely an excuse to ignore basic
bread-and-butter failures of organizing by progressives.

--nathan newman

[View the list]

InternetBoard v1.0
Copyright (c) 1998, Joongpil Cho