#94 – Dick Bernard: A challenge to the Progressives

This is the second of three posts on this topic.  The others are Sep 26 and 29, 2009.
In #93, Saturday, September 26, I commented on an impressive gathering I had just attended.  In the room there was great energy and interest.
I’ve been to such meetings in the past.  People are all charged up, ready to go.  Unfortunately, the meeting ends, life goes on, energy dissipates, individuals get disappointed or disenchanted or disinterested and the collective energy sputters and ultimately fails.
This is an exploitable reality.  The existing power structure (whatever that structure happens to be) knows how to wait out the challengers.  It wins by simply appearing to ignore the ones out of power.  The tactic works, and the status quo and the power of inertia wins once again.  Savvy politicians know this well.  It is a challenge.
At the meeting, each candidate was given three minutes to answer a specific question which had been carefully prepared by the organizers.  Each person got the same question, and each heard the others responses.  The specific question is irrelevant.
I don’t know how the organizers chose the order of speakers, but in such a setting, the first speaker is at something of a disadvantage since it is he or she who needs to be the “pioneer” as it were.  He or she is plowing the new ground of gauging the energy of the audience, and trying out his or her arguments.
It seems, in this particular situation, that the speakers were called in the alphabetical order of their last name.  If I’m correct, what might be seen as an advantage – highest on the alphabet – might actually be a disadvantage.    It’s just how it is.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Saturday’s event was impeccably organized.  If nothing else, the prospective candidate can look at the organizing group as one to be watched and courted as the torturous route to election 2010 proceeds.  In politics, you need organized help.
After the session, in our small groups, we were asked to assess the politicians statements to us.  Each group had the same identical question to discuss, which is also irrelevant to this discussion.
The tendency in such discussions is to reflect primarily ones own personal reactions to the politicians statement: “did he or she say what I wanted to hear?” Among the 11 candidates, who spoke to ME, BEST.
Of course, the politicians know that the electoral reality is far different than simply speaking to me.  There will not be eleven candidates from one party running for Governor in November, 2010.  If past is prelude, there will be three candidates: one Republican, one Democrat, one of some other variety who can’t win but whose main impact will be as a spoiler for the Republican or the Democrat.
In my state, Minnesota, there are 67 Senate districts, each with a more or less equal share of our current population of about 5,000,000.  Each of these Senate districts is divided into two House districts.
What this means is that each candidate for statewide office ultimately has to speak to the interests of a majority of 5,000,000 “special interests”, a large majority of whom can potentially vote.  Each state Senator has a constituency of nearly 75,000 people; each member of the House of Representatives a group of over 37,000. What’s more, these constituents are of many very different minds, and ultimately getting over half of the actual voters to cast a ballot to vote for you is by no means a simple task.  In fact, it is brutal and expensive work.
So, it is one thing to sit, as I did on Saturday, in a large group, and note which candidate most resonated with my own personal vision for the state of Minnesota.
It is something entirely different for that same candidate to attempt to resonate with a majority of the people who will vote in the next election, and, worse, raise the necessary money to marshall an effective campaign.
Campaigning is hard, hard work.
Balancing ideals with political reality is difficult, but essential.  It is as important for the focused cause-oriented activists, as it is for the candidates themselves.
I felt some really good positive energy in that high school on Saturday.
I hope it continues.