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you can't beat "something" with "nothing"
thoughts on the "red ripple" and american tribal politics
i know a lot of people were expecting a “red wave” but as i had been cautioning, that’s A LOT harder than it looks and despite massive and widespread anger at team donkey over the economy, inflation, covid, crime, schools, and 30 other things, in the end there is an old political adage that generally dominates:
“you can’t beat something with nothing.”
and with a few notable exceptions, the GOP pretty much ran “nothing” and this matters because US politics is mostly about inertia and “nothing goes nowhere.”
less than 5% splits R/D.
this means it is VERY hard to move the needle in any place that is not balanced on a knife edge pre-election.
it’s far less about “candidate” than about “team and about tribe” and to move people off their spot requires vast impetus.
you are not asking them to pick you.
you are asking them to change families.
you need a seriously compelling offer to get people to split from their party. the systemic structure and the societal mindset vastly favors staying put and to get the rock moving is a herculean undertaking.
in most cases, the characters are less important than one would think.
george washington said this about the emergence of political parties in america:
Let that party set up a broomstick, and call it a true son of Liberty, a Democrat, or give it any other epithet that will suit their purpose, and it will command their votes in toto
and george may have been an optimist as this issue has been greatly exacerbated since his time by the concentration of power into executive branches as well as in the taking it from the states and its centralization in the federal leviathan.
the dominant structural outcome of an imperial presidency and governorships is a 2 party system because it’s winner take all for the big prize that controls so much power.
any party who fractures loses their shot at the crown. so they must stay unified or fail.
the dominant structural outcome of a 2 party system is competing hostage situations where each party casts itself as “saving” its constituency from “the other guys doing terrible things.”
if you do not vote for your tribe, the other tribe will eat you.
tribal leaders ensure tribal loyalty by being always at war.
it’s not dissimilar to prison gangs. “join the donks or the phants will shank you in the shower.” nobody is safe alone. and it persists because it works. (well, for them it works; for you, not so much…)
this makes change exceedingly difficult.
no one defects from corrupt to corrupt or venal to venal.
that takes inspiration, not a sense that no matter what you do, the boulder is going to roll over you.
and so long as voters perceive the trade off to look like this, you aren’t going to get any.
with a few notable exceptions (like ron desantis or rand paul or kari lake) the GOP did not really stand for much in any high profile or cohesive sense. they did not state as a simple positive “this is who we are, this is what we will stand for, and this is what we will do.”
they ran as hecklers. biden bad. world bad. economy bad. inflation bad. and that cannot really take you very far.
they ran on vagaries and vague promises rooted in ideals but lacking in substance and substantive plans.
they sounded like the vacuous politicians that so many of them were.
this is not how you flip a straight ticket from one team to another.
this is how you lock them in place.
changing teams requires a reason to join the new team.
and that was mostly absent.
there was no solution.
there was no dream into which to buy.
there was oz and walker blowing easy pick ups (though the latter may get a run off) in an environment where 75% of the country thinks it’s going in the wrong direction.
just agreeing with voters that “this is not going well” will not make them follow a candidate, much less leave their political family for a new one.
voters desperately wanted to get on board with a plan. but there was no plan.
there was the party of mitch fricking mcconnell who is about as inspiring as a bag of wet paper towels and vague hand waving from leadership.
my advice to team elephant is simple:
blaming "the system" or "mail in" misses the point.
people voted for courage, vision, and character.
go find some or get used to losing.
the absolute red rout in florida is telling. districts that NEVER go red went red because there was a leader. there was a vision. and there was a brave guy who stood tall and faced down the whole rest of the country and the federal government along with it to protect the rights of floridians.
there was confidence, swagger, and stature.
there was character.
and the people fricking love him for it. he flipped the “straight tickets” past crimson and into outright ruby and everyone got to come along, house, senate, and dogcatcher. he barely squeaked into office the first time in a seriously purple state but showed what he has and put up a crushing 20% win this time to the point where folks are saying “i think FL is red now.”
personally, i am less sure. maybe. maybe not. perhaps florida is not so much R as RDS because, at the end of the day, people follow teams and tribes and thus parties, but parties are led by people and who those people are matters and so too does their vision.
and this brings us back to “you can’t beat something with nothing.”
say what you will about team donkey, but at least they have a vision. it may not be one you like (i certainly do not) but they have one and they can state it as a simple positive. they have a whole pile of stuff they are trying to do, agendas, laws. they have a dream to sell, a set of tangible plans to put forward, and villains to vanquish. and some seem to like these ideas. it’s “something.”
and the GOP brought “nothing.”
you know what’s not compelling? this:
and for anything to change, we need to do better.
there was no plan this cycle, no vision, no simple "here's what i'll do stated as a direct attainable positive."
we needed “a contract with america 2.0.”
we got kevin “who the heck is that guy?” mccarthy and the legions of lassitude.
the gingrich congress was that wild rarity: real GOP congressional leadership with an actual plan that could be stated as a positive and taken to the american people as achievable agenda.
it was a doable program of vision, courage, and change.
and people will get behind that.
they drove a red wave in the face of the 2 bad years that began the clinton presidency by running on fiscal responsibility, freedom, and smaller government.
they drove this by taking it past hand waving and “ideas and ideals campaigning” by putting it all on paper as a cohesive agenda, making simple, explicit promises, and writing all the bills to be submitted, and making them available for inspection.
then they stood up, signed it, and promised, if elected, to run this exact playbook.
it was lightning in a bottle. it was a plan where one was needed. it was inspiring. it was credible. and it worked.
it took the house and the senate for the GOP for the first time since 1952. they picked up 8 senate seats and 54 in the house.
it took the 2 failing years of “billary” and turned them into a boom. it led to balanced budgets for the first time in decades and the stalwarts who advanced this backed the president down and ground the whole of the federal government to a halt (then unthinkable, now pedestrian) by failing to fund it until they got their agenda through.
and this could happen again.
and people would follow it. this is the path back from “gormless opposition” to “actual effective defender of people and rights.”
(ascends soap box)
how, in the post covid world, this opportunity to stand up for balanced budgets, personal freedom, liberty not lockdown, and school choice not “schools choose what’s best for you” went begging simply baffles me.
it was all there.
and this is a ticket. it’s a top down movement that has coattails.
it’s a dream to buy into and a solution that works and it can be laid out in simple acts and actions.
this is how you effect the state change of one straight ticket to another.
this is how you convince people to leave their tribe and come join yours: by creating a big, plausible thing worth joining, a team of vision and of promise.
so, seriously, what the hell guys?
how was this most low hanging of fruit left ignored upon the tree?
where was the unity of mission of ideals of freedom? the vision? the courage?
if in the aftermath of all that has gone on the last 3 years the GOP cannot figure this out and find a compelling way to stand as a party of leadership to liberty and against the technocratic/collectivist visions of intrusion from team donkey, well, maybe they shouldn’t be a party. they deserve to fail.
if their leadership is this useless, then new leaders are needed.
i am no huge fan of either side of the bi-annual US hostage negotiation, but the dems seemed locked into plan and process, so the only hope lies with the elephants and they, at least, have a few leaders who might fit the bill on liberty loving bureaucracy dismantlers and government shrinkers.
it’s not that hard. even if you tell people “some of this is going to suck” they will get on board with a real plan.
but there must be something compelling on offer backed by leaders of courage and character.
and if you cannot provide that, what right have you to ask for office anyhow?
i am just deathly tired of hearing why this cannot be done.
get to work or get lost and make way for those who will.