Seeking overwhelming choices in electoral politics


Matthew Dowd [right] talking to a Republican who will never leave the past

One big way I have changed is how I look at politics, governing and, ultimately, all relationships. In the past I was very adept when I worked in campaigns on both sides of the aisle in coming up with strategies and tactics that would provide a candidate or a legislative effort with just enough votes to win. We call it the 51 percent effort. You figure out the coalition to just barely win, then create the campaign to achieve that. And this is what is employed in most instances in nearly every campaign and legislative effort.

And it is these 51 percent campaigns that have helped contribute to a very divided and polarized country. I have remorse over my own involvement in them. Today I believe our country needs something more, and something very different. We need to design campaigns and policy efforts that will receive overwhelming support…

These 51 percent campaigns have contributed to a lack of governing ability by politicians from the White House to state houses around the country. Without real mandates or without having run campaigns targeted at a huge majority, leaders are left with very little room for error and political capital. So many leaders are faced with 49% of the voters totally out of sync with their leadership, and they have difficult time governing, floundering throughout their terms…

And turning to our personal lives, I have come to the same conclusion that we shouldn’t settle for bare majorities in the choices we make in life. In the few big decisions we get to make in this world from who we choose as partners or companions to the work we do, we should strive to make decisions that are from a place of overwhelming joy. We shouldn’t be putting together a balance-sheet approach to these decisions that, when calculated, barely get us in the positive direction.

I disagree with half of Matthew Dowd’s analysis. Yes, I agree about the 51% – not about why we are where we are.

The essentials of his analysis presumes both halves of our shoddy two-party-limited electoral system are equally interested in moving living standards forward as a nation. That hasn’t been the case in decades. The decline began with the adoption of the Southern Strategy by Nixon and the Republican Party.

Before that, the racist vote in the United States belonged to the Democrats. It was an inheritance that traveled a convoluted path from the Civil War up into the start of FDR’s New Deal. Nixon saw the Democrats were becoming an instrument of equal opportunity. And he realized he could fire the coals of racism and take the electoral loyalty of disaffected whites over to the party that didn’t care at all about their economic lot – but, would feed on their ignorance and hatred.

Time passes and regardless of success and failure, the progressive movement ain’t going away. Building a better life on Earth is still the most natural way to live. And, so, the equally natural reaction of that class of people profiting from bigotry and hatred has been to fight the most stubborn retreat in American history.

As I would expect of someone who lives like the old-fashioned Christians I grew up with, Matthew Dowd also applies his philosophy to the non-political side of his life. Frankly, that works pretty well. Get folks away from the ideology they’ve been sold to govern the political side of their lives and humanity takes hold on its own. An important conclusion he draws from his own experience. For that he deserves respect and praise.

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