He said:" Got to give it to you Bill, you won...... See you again in 2008!"
My reply to this was something like: "I didn't win anything, the people of our country did."
Now in 2004 on election night, he called me, gloating over Republican victories, bragging about how "He won" and how "more people think like me." Now it is all in relatively good fun, we have gone back and forth over this stuff for the better part of four years now, but notice the context in which he puts these election cycles in. It is always in a "Me vs. You "or an "Us vs. Them" manner.
Recall the other week on MSNBC when Democratic strategist Cliff Schecter was on some program with Republican strategist Brad Blakeman. Schecter is notoriously prickly, but he's whip smart and does not back down about anything. So in the midst of several heated exchanges Blakeman says, and I am paraphrasing," For somebody whose side won you don't seem very happy, Cliff." Notice again, it is all about US vs. THEM. Blakeman looks at this election as if it is a football game or something. YOUR SIDE WON!
Let me tell everybody out there something.
It is not about "winning."
It is about our country. About doing what is right. About getting back to sound domestic and foreign policy. About helping all Americans and not just a few economic elites.
I do not care about "winning." Not for the sake of winning for a certain party. The Democratic Party is not supposed to be a political party for the party, but a political party for the people. I look at electoral politics as a means of public activism. And the three most important parts of public activism are grassroots organization, electoral politics and good policy. The people organize from the bottom up on issues that they care about then set about electing candidates who can then enact good policy. Policy that is fair, just and equitable, working for the people and the issues which are most vital to their interests and well being.
Now if you look at the agenda that House Democrats are looking to enact in their first one hundred hours in office then you get a prime example of the good policy I am talking about. They plan to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, raise the minimum wage and expand funding for Stem Cell research. Those are issues that benefit all Americans. National security, economic fairness and health care. Those are not partisan issues. They do not only help the "base" of one party, they help everyone.
See when the Democratic party wins an election they look to enact legislation that matters to Americans. Granted, they could be much better on these issues, but they are a million times better than Republicans, especially on economic issues. Of course, not all Republicans are so awful on every single issue. The Bush administration pretty much is though. They are a special breed. You cannot find one single issue where the Bush administration actually takes the side of the American people on, over say, Big Business. The problem with Congressional Republicans is long ago they took their party over the American people, choosing to support or enable the disastrous Bush administration at every turn. No fiscal responsibility. No oversight on the three fronts of our Iraq policy, intelligence, war prosecution or on reconstruction efforts. No oversight or accountability on the Katrina fiasco. It has just become a horrible nightmare watching Bush ruin everything without any accountability whatsoever.
That is not good for our country. Regardless of political philosophy. And, to tell you the truth, after these last six damaging years, I do not feel I have anything to gloat over. Oh, so the party I am a proud member of won a midterm election. Big deal. What matters is what the Democratic Party does from here on out. There are a lot of people hurting out there. Scared. Impoverished. Straining to get by. Worried about the war and our security. The worst mistake the Democratic Party can make is to sit back and bask in their newfound power, because they truly have not won anything yet. All they have is an opportunity. An opportunity to serve the people of this country and get our great nation back on track. Winning in politics does not translate to winning policy.
If they lose track of that objective, like the authoritarian Republicans have, well, then we all lose.