We as a progressive movement are losing the argument. On issue after issue, we’re playing defense. – Sen. Al Franken (D) – MN
(video of his full comments can be found below, as well as a link to the full text)
There’s this old saying that defense wins championships.
That may be true, but that depends on the terms of the game. In football, basketball, and even soccer and hockey there is a time limit. There are referees that enforce the rules. Under these conditions, effective defense may win championships by limiting the number of points your opponent may score. At the end of the day, defense without a healthy offense ends in a draw at best, or a loss. Without an offense, even the benefit of a time limit and “impartial” observers may not be enough to make the difference.
In politics the game is much different. There is no time limit. There are few real referees. The rules are not clearly defined, and are becoming even less so as time passes. Relying on defense may stop some of the lost ground, but it will not necessarily gain you any ground. You need offense, even if it is a conservative offense, to move the “ball” down the field. To gain position, and to use the time of possession against your opponent.
Most Democrats will concede that our offense has been lacking, both nationally and locally. I won’t speculate as to why. The reasons are as wide and varied as the kinds of candidates we field, but at the end of the day, without a solid offense, no defense in the world is going to save you.
This is something that we in the “progressive blogosphere™” have been talking about for years. Nationally, I know it’s been part of the conversation since the 2004 election. Here in Tennessee, there’s been a lot of discussion about this on a more localized level since the 2008 elections. Through those discussions, there is some disagreement on just how that “offense” should be executed. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any one particular way to do it. You have to be ready to adjust to your opponent. Relying on one thing over another is a mistake that limits your ability to adjust. But at this point, I think just about everyone on our side would be happy with proof of life on any kind of offense.
What do I mean specifically? How about not falling for “straw man” arguments? Or maybe asserting your beliefs strongly and passionately rather than resting on some generic idea of “Democratic Values” which is a nice idea, but not as universal as it sounds, and falls flat on many voters across the spectrum. We have to actively define ourselves as Democrats. That’s what Franken means when he says “we’re losing the argument”… we’ve allowed ourselves to be defined, which means we’re neither playing offense, nor is our defense all that great either.
In order to win the argument, we have to passionately and succinctly assert who we are and what we stand for. We have to pull our flag up from the ground and stop merely defending our position, we have to advance our position.
Doing this feels risky for risk averse politicians worried about the next election. But the truth of the matter is that not doing so is even more risky. As we become more entrenched in what we must defend, getting ourselves out of that trench to gain ground becomes a tougher climb.
It’s time for our Democratic leaders to either lead or get out of the way. It’s time to stop relying solely on defense and put the damn offense on the field. It’s time to gain some ground. Until this happens, either by some serious stepping up, or stepping out of the way, Democrats in Tennessee will continue to be marginalized, largely of their own doing.
(h/t HuffPo though they likely wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to me)