I’m going to ignore the deliberately inflammatory language that condescendingly labels those who believe that working to change a broken system by not compromising one’s integrity makes one naïve and foolish. I understand that Frymaster enjoys setting people on fire and then walking away saying he illuminated them. It’s his style.
That said, to say the entire point of electoral politics is to win is an opinion I do not happen to share, The entire point of NFL games is to win. The entire point of the Price is Right is to win. The entire point of prom king and queen is to win. The point of electoral politics is to get a job serving the constituents. If the point of election-based, representative government was just to win, we would simply give the elected official a gold ring and a trip to Disney World. Instead we give them executive or legisltive powers to architect and implement the policies that shape our economy, society, and community.
Now, Polly here, is not naïve enough to believe that this is what happens. I understand that elected authority often leads to a puffed up sense of entitlement when it should result in responsibility. Yet, to condemn those who believe that losing with integrity is something of which to be less proud than winning by ethical corrosion is to akin saying that Congressman John Lewis of GA was a sucker for believing in a non-violent march to Alabama as a means of generating change.
“Hey, John. Sure you lived your truth and upheld your authentic integrity. But you probably wouldn’t have gotten your ass kicked half to death by the cops if you slipped a .38 special in your pocket and popped off a few rounds at the staties.” That may be true. But the code upheld in the face of immediate harm ultimately helped to shift the paradigm of who was the hero and who was the villain in the struggle for civil rights. Perhaps Frymaster would like to take a swing at Congressman Lewis to see if Lefty can take a punch.
The concept of “winners” versus “losers” is an American ideology to which I do not subscribe. In fact, it originated in western, free-market culture and is the ideology of choice of those who daily ask the question favorited Ayn Rand, “who is John Gault?” The philosophy goes something like: if there are winners, it is because they did whatever was necessary to deserve that status. Likewise, if there are losers, they are equally as responsible for their own failure. I’m a bit surprised that Frymaster, the self-proclaimed “dot-commie,” would adopt such a cowboy-capitalist mentality as pertains to our selection of elected officials.
I respect strategy. I believe in the value of hard work. I also, however, believe in Paul Wellstone’s famous quote:
“Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”
Sometimes sacrificing a win for the sake of creating a movement is worth the sacrifice. Sometimes it’s okay to be right and lose. Hell, it worked for Jesus. Right? I admit, his message has been more than a bit twisted by over two millenia of selfish appropriation. But I am fairly certain nowhere in the sermon on the mount does he say, “Blessed are the winners, for they get the entire point.”
Now, Frymaster leaves being right to the churches and that’s fine. And I am certainly not using my new testament analogy to evangelize Christian ethics. Rather, I’m trying to make a point about the power of messaging even in the face of loss. Frymaster pans Pell and his supporters for believing in why as much as what his campaign meant. We ran a campaign that stood for something rather than standing on the backs of others. We lost. But we lost with integrity. We lost knowing that we could sleep at night having not carpet-bombed the reputations of other candidates and their families. And we proved that an effective campaign by a first time candidate could be run without lobbyist contributions or corporate PAC money. Not a winning campaign, this time around. But an effective campaign, nonetheless.
“If we are marked to die, we are enow
to do our country loss and if to live,
the fewer men the greater share of honor …
… That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
let him depart. His passport shall be made
and crowns for convoy put into his purse.
We would not die in that man’s company
that fears his fellowship to die with us.”
– William Shakespeare, Henry V
We lost an election. But we started a movement in Rhode Island politics. That, in my humble, polyanna-ish opinion, is the point of electoral politics. Call me naive for believing that electoral politics is worth more than just winning. Call me a loser for supporting a candidate in whom I believed to be the best, not merely the most popular. Beware, I’ll probably do it again. But, what I will not do is swallow my inspiration and fear my fellowship with those who might not win. Just as I am always willing to make amends for and admit when I am wrong, I will not fold in the face of fear of being right simply because standing up for what I believe in as a left leaning Democrat might result in an electoral loss. This is not the last election. I, too, can take a punch. And, through the courage of my conviction, I can stand, raise my hands, and fight again with honor.