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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Winning doesn't always mean getting elected

I have friends who are Hillary supporters, and other's who are Bernie Supporters. Initially I was a Bernie supporter. I stand behind some of the same ideas as Bernie does. I like him best when he talks about ideas and defeating the Cons.

Bernie say's he's not running for President to lose the election. I admire his determination but winning isn't everything and sometimes winning a personal battle can be a Pyrrhic victory. One can take the field and lose the war for wasting resources. Sometimes one can lose a battle in order to win a war. In this case of this election the war is not a war between Bernie and Hillary. It is a war between neo-liberal "zombie economics" and progressive/ equitable notions of economy. So when he focuses on winning the election to the point of distorting the issues and attacking his allies he loses me. And he has.

But it is also about strategy. Sometimes you don't get your way right away.

Sometimes it takes patience.

Giving them Hell

I was hoping Bernie's attitude would be more like Henry George's or Eugene Debs. The article cited above notes about George:

“You cannot be elected,” William M. Ivins, the city chamberlain supposedly said, “but your running will raise hell!”

They offered Henry George a House seat if only he'd leave Tammany Hall alone. He didn't care.

I wanted Bernie to raise hell. But not quite the way he did.

Changing the Zeitgeist

History shows us that sometimes campaigns that "don't stand a chance" -- can change the zeitgeist of the country and influence "mainstream" candidates. Last June, in my post reviewing "A Tale of Two Cities" I noted how the Tammany Hall group wasn't defeated until after years of infighting, within our Democratic party. One of the earliest people to challenge Tammany Hall was a man named Henry George who wanted progressive taxation of income from rents, currency reform and wages exempted from taxation. But the focus on the article was on how Robert Kennedy (Bobby Kennedy) famously asked reformers not to disrupt his brothers election campaigns. But he also promised to help them defeat Tammany Hall if they would do that. Robert Kennedy kept his promise.

A Movement Requires Building Relationships and specific targets

While Mark Lane didn't get help against Tammany Hall right away, he did get it. Because the specific goal of making New York politics more democratic wasn't merely his idea. It was a common goal. Sometimes the way to win is to work with people and be patient about the results. It's not about you or me along. It's about US.

Focus on the Goal not the Ego

The truly great leaders of history don't always even get labeled "great" because they are more focused on the goals of the people they are fighting for, the "general good prize", than their own winnings. When such people run a wild campaign that "doesn't stand a chance" -- they aren't focused on winning the campaign -- but winning the war. Lane won the war against Tammany Hall because he worked with Robert Kennedy. He was less successful with the Warren Commission when he tried to defend Oswald from being singled out as a lone gunman in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the long run he probably was right.

Focus on Changing minds not Bashing

Winning wars on policy requires movements because they require people to change minds. And that starts with organizing people to push for those ideas. It doesn't always take as long as it did to overcome Tammany Hall, or to get civil rights for black folks or women, but movements are successful when they stay focused on their goal for long periods of time. That changes minds. The threshold for change is to get more than 51% of people to agree with you. The objective is consensus.

A movement isn't just an organization, but it takes organization. It isn't just a set of goals, but it requires defined ones. Movements don't usually succeed in a day. And they can't be successful if the reflect the ego and vanity of ambitious people./p>

Long Term Success requires Changing Attitudes

For movements to succeed and make lasting change, they can't merely change the people, laws and institutions of their land, but they must also change the attitudes and mindsets, purposes and missions of those institutions and people. When such a change is accomplished it is not a superficial change but a change in the zeitgeist of the people influenced and benefiting from a successful movement.

Overthrow Mindsets!

Such changes don't aim to overthrow governments so much as overthrow mindsets. A successful movement changes the conversation. It creates a new "mainstream." The Founders of the United States sparked a movement towards liberty and freedom that benefited people around the world -- and justified them to fight for their own liberation from foreign oppression. Our own revolution never really ended. Thomas Jefferson created a movement that became the Democratic party. FDR was able to change the conversation in our country. Mohandas Gandhi was able to use non violence to help free India -- and change the mindset of activists around the world. One of the people he influenced was Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King was able to change the mindset of many of our citizens.

Post Script

When I started this post months ago I was still genuinely neutral but I was worried that Bernie's winning strategies would subvert his own ideas. Since then they have. Even so, he "gave them hell" and hopefully enough people will have been influenced that they can start convincing others and organizing to elect people, to convince or replace people who disagree with our ideas. And to win the goals. I don't feel bad about not finishing this when I started it because I doubt he would have behaved any differently even if he'd seen my comments.

Sources and Further Readings

Related Posts
Additional Sources and Readings
Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years By David Talbot

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