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Who Wants It More?

In sports, one often hears a player or coach say, “They wanted it more,’ after a loss. They believe that it wasn’t because of less talent that they lost, it was because the other team played harder, “refused to lose.”

Now, these after the fact explanations or rationalizations are not necessarily right. People do look for causes to explain effects. But it is true that even a fan can see situations in which one team just played harder, and with more focus. And in college sports particularly, there seem to be some programs which have inculcated a culture of winning, which doesn’t mean that they win all the games, but that they know how to win, expect to win, and keep fighting, not getting distracted or downhearted if things go against them.

These things are relevant to any form of competition, whether it is chess or poker or trial court. It is now particularly relevant to politics and governance. We have only two parties, Democrats and Republicans. We know the origins and the history of those parties. But just focusing on these last few crucial decades in history, how much of their relative success or failure, is due to which party and its leaders and voters “want it more”?

The very unfortunate fact is that it seems that Republicans have wanted it more for most of the last fifty years or so. I remember reading an article a few decades ago in “The New Republic” which told of how the Evangelicals were determinedly working to take over power, starting at the very local level. I didn’t make too much of it then, but we have seen it continue, to where Evangelicals control many states in the South and Border regions, and are encroaching on the Midwest as well.

The appeal to them of their view of the world can be discussed at length. But we cannot doubt that most of them are utterly fixated on getting their agenda passed, and become dominant and unassailable. The Republican Party is not just made up of Evangelicals, but there seems to be a consistent connection among Republican voters, who want to win above all. I heard on TV the other day that they were trying to take over Education Boards. They know that winning at the lower levels helps them control the higher levels. Too many people did not realize this, to our chagrin.

Of course, there are these Republican strategy tanks which seem to spend all of their waking hours finding flaws or chinks in the Constitution or state laws, so that they can actually use them to rule from a minority popular position. In Michigan, Democrats took over the governorship, secretary of state, attorney general positions in 2018. Both of their senators are Democrats. But Republicans still control the state legislature, and they are actually managing to use a ‘loophole’ in election laws, to try to pass draconian voters suppression right past the Democratic state leaders. They live for this. They have learned, or been taught, to use any possible lever they hold, to try to subvert the whole system.

Democrats do not do that. Virtually every blue state has made provision for a nonpartisan body to do the congressional and state legislature redistricting. Republicans have no interest in that. This means that states like California are fairly districted, while the red states are relentlessly gerrymandered in Republicans’ favor. You have all seen the Wisconsin statistics where the Democrats get more statewide votes, but the Republicans get something like 60% of the legislative seats. That is because of targeted gerrymandering. This is not to say that Democrats have not gerrymandered in the past, but they mostly have tried to do it the fair way now, with nonpartisan election boards, while Republicans cheat in every way possible.

So “wanting it more’ has more than one meaning. I think it is fair to say that in most of the 2000’s, Republicans have simply outworked the Democrats on the ground. Of course there are many admirable Democrats who have devoted many hours to organizing, knocking on doors, and everything that goes with grass roots politics. But there haven’t often been enough of them. And of course Democrats do not have the immense funds which the ultra-wealthy Republican donor class spends to keep themselves in control.

After the Trump election in 2016, there was a real sense of panic and urgency among Democrats, and that led to more fervor at the local levels, and great wins in 2018. Even so, and even with the 8 million or so popular margin victory for Biden in 2020, the voters seemed inclined to leave Republicans in charge of state offices, which is proving disastrous, as they are passing one repressing voting bill after another. They now are adding provisions which allow the legislature to overturn the popular vote results, based on some meaningless language which actually means, “If Democrats win, we can overturn the results and hand it to the Republicans.’

Where Democrats really got “shellacked'”was in 2010 and 2014. The “Obama Coalition’ decided that it was not necessary to vote in the midterms. Republicans only got 1% of so more of the popular vote in 2010 and 2014, but that, combined with the gerrymandering, allowed Republicans to gain around 92 Congressional seats in those elections, and take over virtually every state house.

How did that happen? Did far too many people only care about electing Obama, and did not have any interest in the Democratic Party as a political force? Did they not care enough? Did Republicans just want it more? Is it more of a blood sport to them? Is it that they have a definite political agenda, and want to take over the entire country, while Democrats care about a few issues, but are not fanatical about them, and have various factions which will not vote unless they think the candidate directly affects or enhances them? There certainly have to be reasons for all of this, many overlapping.

We can generalize, and say that “liberals” have other interests besides playing the game of politics. They are often interested in the arts, relationships, spending leisure time. Republicans seem more fanatical, and many of them appear to have no other interests besides winning elections. The billionaires who run things like to take trips and buy fancy things, but their employees, the strategists, are devoted to their cause; and their “base” has become radicalized and fanatical. They never sleep, never relent, never concede any point or any election. They either win, or try to overturn those they lose. It becomes wearisome and enervating to keep combating them, but what is the alternative?

I could obviously write much more about this. How over decades, Republicans systematically plotted to take over the Supreme Court. How the awful Electoral College, and Republican hypocrisy and single-minded unyieldingness has led to a situation in which the Democratic presidential candidate has won the popular vote in four straight elections, and yet the Far Right has a 6-3 Supreme Court majority. This is virtually unthinkable in the abstract, but we have seen it happen before our eyes.

Politics is mostly a dirty game, and too many Democrats shrink from playing it, but Republicans have no such reservations. Sometimes i think it is like Athens vs. Sparta, or even like Eloi and Morlocks. Are Democrats by their nature, ultimately doomed to be conquered by the fascistic, militaristic, win-at-any-cost Republicans? We cannot have that, obviously. But ‘winning’ also has to do with “wanting it more,” however that is interpreted. That means Democrats going out to vote en masse, despite the unconstitutional (but the stacked Supreme Court won’t see it that way, that was the plan} restrictions put in their way. It means voting against every single Republican on the ballot, because they ultimately all funnel into the same corrupt party.

We all would like to focus on family, and loved ones, and pets and nice days at the park or a concert or play. And we should, except that we have a force on the other side which is working every second to turn the democracy into a totalitarian state. It is not an inevitable outcome, but it is going to depend a great deal on whether our side “wants to win” as much as they do. And that does not just involve voting, and helping to organize, or sending money, as possible, it also means being able to overcome and ignore the inevitable torrent of propagandizing and false issues thrown up by the other side, all intended to either keep people from voting, or to give up on the whole matter of saving our American Democracy.