I want to focus on something very specific that was part of Ann Laurie’s earlier post about Senator Harris’s and some of the other 2020 Democratic contenders’ campaigns. This is the question about Democrats, the center left to the left of center, and liberals to progressives fighting with each other over raising money to finance campaigns only in small amounts or accepting money in both small and large donations. A lot has been written, from 2015 to today, and will continue to be written, about the need to do one or the other, whether doing the latter is somehow politically impure or a bad thing or a necessity. This discussion, like a lot of the discussions between and among the campaigns, are about idealism in what the Democratic Party is, who it represents, and what should be done if a Democrat wins the 2020 election. Idealism is important. It motivates people. It provides purpose. It is inspiring. It is necessary, but it is not sufficient to win.
As I’ve written about here before, the 2020 campaign is, essentially, occurring at the same time as a largely non-violent, non-lethal, and non-kinetic domestic rebellion and insurgency against the late 19th and almost all of the 20th centuries, as well as the ever more diverse emerging American demographic majority. Though the spikes in violence and lethality have increased recently and I expect they’ll continue to do so. As such, realism is both necessary and sufficient to temper the idealism.
In order to win in 2020, Democrats must fight to win on the terrain that actually exists. And that terrain includes large donations being legal. While we might all agree that in an ideal America, large donations, large corporate donors, dark money networks, and a whole host of other campaign financing that is currently legal would be replaced with something that doesn’t just equate the ability to spend money with protected speech under the 1st Amendment. But that is not the America we currently live in. Nor is it the America in which the 2020 elections will be taking place. If you want to change the system to more closely resemble your ideal campaign finance and election system, you must first mount a successful, winning campaign within the system we currently have. This is simply recognizing reality. And candidates failing to avail themselves of all legal means to win are not dealing with reality. They are also making it harder for themselves to actually win. Part of securing the peace after winning is remaking the system so it is closer to the ideal one you want. The battlefields of the 2020 campaign and election exist in reality as it is, not in the ideal future we would like to get to0. For the Democrats, winning in 2020 means that they must win the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote outcome, retake the majority in the Senate, hold the majority in the House, hold all the state houses and legislatures that Democrats currently have, and flip as many as possible of those they don’t before the next round of redistricting. Anything and everything else is a waste of resources. Nothing anyone wants done on any issue from campaign finance reform to healthcare reform, from the most moderate to the most progressive and idealistic approach to any domestic or foreign policy concern will occur if these battles aren’t won.