How to keep losing elections

By advocating compromise first, the Democratic Party has lost the confidence of its base and the sympathy of the people. That's why arguing for just winning elections is not pragmatic, even though the advocates think they are being intensely pragmatic. Moreover, the "elections first" crowd always ends up debating tactics, not strategy; concessions, not convictions; practicality, not principle. That group is never bold or open in its thinking. It is hopeful primarily that the other side stumble, not that it actually win. Perhaps most dangerous, the "elections first" crowd inspires no passion, and has no hope of changing the culture -- which in the end is the goal of all politics.
| Reed Hundt at TPMCafe |

Back in our unreachable archives, our brilliant and influential community of bloggers have argued this point extensively. In those discussions, I have wholeheartedly endorsed Hundt's view. I will certainly argue for it in the future, as well. But now, as the 2006 elections season is just beginning to sap our very souls, I am taking this moment to concede that one cannot completely abandon pragmatism.

In practice, the "pragmatic" and "principled" camps always end up in an uneasy compromise. If I were, say, a Naderite, I would be urging my cohorts to swing a bit towards the tactics-based, pragmatic camp.
I still believe that the Democratic party is currently adrift in a fog of confused pragmatism. A swing towards principles is in order. But there are times where a small concession here and there to consolidate a majority can indeed achieve our political aims.

Here's Hundt again:

I can't think of a single reform movement in history that started with the mantra of "just win, baby," to use Al Davis' phrasing. Every reformer in the history of ideas and politics has sought to define a point of view in debate first, and compromised in order to win elections second. This is, for instance, how the Republican Party got started; same thing with Populism and Progressivism; same thing with the Reagan-Bush version of the Republican neo-con party.

Since he doesn't address any of the issues on which the Democrats are compromising, Hundt is erecting a bit of a straw man. What we need in these parts is a more specifics-based discussion....

(paging Mr. Henderson... come in, Henderson)

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