Fight For The Policy Not The Person

In 40 some years of following and participating in politics, there is one axiom I have learned that is a truism for all things political:

Fight for the policy not the person.

This has been proven again this cycle….with emphasis on the proven.

Democrats always seem to get lost in their search for the perfect candidate. They grow so anxious in the seeming necessity that this one particular candidate that they support MUST win. This one candidate has to wind up on top at all costs….or all is lost.


We are never going to come up with perfection. Barack Obama couldn’t meet this ridiculously  impossible standard and no one else ever has either. We went through the myriad of made up foibles of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in 2016 and with the 20 some others in the field for 2020. It is not fair to any of the candidates or the Party to be held to this kind of standard.

Underlying this position is what we really need to be passionate about – the policies. Contrary to the narrative, candidates are more maleable than you think. Sure, they promote a set of ideas that they want to promote if they win and we, as individuals, follow those that tend to match up with our own.

But if you look closely, the talking points aren’t all that different among the Democratic candidates. They often find a particularly popular portion of a policy and drive that home, but in the end, whatever they believe in has to be molded into a consensus. A President can set the narrative, but the final product is fashioned by what can pass a 535 member Congressional body. And, of course, that means many voices weigh in before anything becomes the law of the land.

Medicare for All or Upgraded Obamacare have exactly the same end game. Universal coverage for every American. That is the policy, right? That is where we want to go. How we get there will follow a legislative path – but if you insist on a certain nuance of how it is accomplished, then you will be disappointed.

Same with Climate Change. We want to reduce carbon emissions as low as possible. How we do that has to be hammered out in the trenches. But if we stubbornly stand on an impossible hill, you will die there and nothing will be accomplished.

We need to establish some simple bottom lines that can be flexible in how they are accomplished. But first and foremost, our Democratic candidates must be elected. They don’t have to have litmus tests or purity or even a revolution – they just need to be willing to work hard on the pragmatic work of governing. And that means governing everybody and all the myriad points of view that entails.

It irritates me immensely when people insist that ONLY their candidate can accomplish our bottom line goals. And it irritates me even more when supporters say that if “their” candidate is not nominated they are going to sit it out.  Grrrrr!!!!!

The laborious process of finding the nominee seems to be down to two candidates – Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Yes, they have differences in what they want to do. Yes, they have long histories of sometimes controversial stances in the past. But the bottom line goals are pretty much identical. And if we all work together and get one of them elected, then, and only then, will we have the opportunity to start the policy process.

Al Davis was the controversial owner of the Oakland Raiders and his bottom line philosophy was quite simple – “Just win baby!” How you get there isn’t the bottom line – it’s the winning. And that is where we are right now. Winning this election is so important. All the petty bickering and online attacks are just unnecessary noise. I know that it is pretty much impossible to avoid that in a diverse party like ours, but we do need to minimize it. Especially now.

If you are dependent on your candidate winning….so much so that you won’t vote otherwise…then you are useless and have limited value for the bottom line policy. The process continues and there will be some things to work out, but we are closing in on the point where we concentrate, not on the candidate, but the policy. That is where we want to be.

But first, we have to just win baby.

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