You know the old joke, right?
The only thing a prevent defense does is prevent your team from winning.
OK, quick run-down. A “prevent defense” is a term usually applied to football or basketball, in which a team with a big lead late in the game plays as conservatively as possible, reasoning that all they have to do is preserve their lead while running out the clock. So the team sacrifices offense for ball security and defense.
Ironically, as the joke points out, prevent defense often doesn’t work. In a prevent defense, the team with the lead begins to assume a different personality–the players start to look indecisive, slow, bumbling, lackadaisical–what was once confident strategy and aggression becomes timidity and weakness. Soon enough things begin to break down, and the other team, playing full tilt with nothing to lose, makes a comeback. And as hindsight is 20/20 following such a collapse, the local media and fan-base commiserate, ruing the prevent defense in conception or execution–wondering why in the hell their team didn’t just play the game that got them the lead in the first place?
On Wednesday, November 9th, 2016, Democrats and their base may find themselves in such a pickle. Because right now, the Dems are playing prevent defense.
Interesting isn’t it: how the Republicans have already had two highly publicized debates and the Democrats haven’t had any? Why is that?
Prevent defense. In this case, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who will henceforth be referred to as DWS), head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has mandated that there be six debates, and six debates only. Furthermore, if any of the Democratic candidates for president debate in any forum not sanctioned by the DNC, they can’t participate in any of the six that are.
Worse, it appears the debate schedule’s been tailored to make sure no one’s watching. Sure, the first one is on Tuesday, Oct. 13th, which is great. But after that: Saturday, Nov. 14th; Saturday, Dec. 19th; Sunday, January 17th; and last two yet to be scheduled in Feb./March, after many primaries have already taken place. Do DWS and the DNC really think people are going to watch those debates over football or other things they could do with their weekends? No, of course not–but it’s all by design to benefit…
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee–the team with the lead. See, for DWS, the DNC, and other Washington insiders, this race is over. They just need to preserve the lead and run out the clock. It’s Hillary’s turn, and they wouldn’t want her looking stiff and awkward at too many prime time debates while passionate, energized candidates like Bernie Sanders thunder away at many of the same people who’re donating to Clinton’s campaign.
Because let’s face it: though Hillary is very good on many issues and would probably be a fine President (certainly better than any of the ass clowns on the other side of the aisle), she isn’t a natural leader or someone most people can identify with. For starters, she lives in the rarefied air of the top .1%, raising most of her campaign money from Wall Street and other exceedingly rich people. Her speeches fall flat, her interviews feel forced, her laugh sounds fake. And say what you will, but only someone with a gun to their head would use words like “inspiring” or “visionary” to describe her candidacy.
Yet, according to Washington insiders like DWS, Clinton’s the best shot Democrats have–by their logic, no one will elect a self-described “socialist” like Bernie, because they still think big, corporate money and the mythical centrist-independent are the keys to victory.
They aren’t. And thinking they are will eventually become a case study in how Democrats lose winnable elections: witness 2010 and 2014. Both were years of incredibly low voter participation–and why? Because Democrats were playing it safe. Playing to the centrists–to the “independents.”
It was classic prevent defense. Like, oh man, can you believe how ridiculous the Republicans are with their anti-woman, anti-Latino, anti-worker, anti-black positions… all we have to do is sit back and sound reasonable while remaining vague on our positions.
Of course, as we all know, it didn’t work. Democrats lost those midterm elections badly, because instead of putting out a unified platform with a positive, progressive message about what the United States could be if we weren’t always catering to the rich and powerful, they all ran individual, hem-Dem campaigns.
For the record, a hem-Dem is a well-meaning, intellectual Democrat who thinks politics is a matter of taking calculated positions, spending money at the right time, compromising on certain issues to appeal to corporate donors or single issue voters, and being wary of too much media exposure/saying too much, lest their opponent use it against them. In other words, a person who hems and haws and waffles and waivers… or more directly, a huge fucking pussy. (Note: the term “pussy” does not derive its meaning from what many think–the vagina. That would be ill-fitting anyway, because the vagina is an unbelievably powerful and lovely body part–not to mention brave for obvious reasons. Rather, the term “pussy” comes from pussy-cat.)
The problem is, no one wants to vote for such a person. Politicians that hedge their bets, take pre-planned positions, and either don’t know or are afraid to say what they really believe are antithetical to voter participation. And yet, turnout matters. Because while conservative voters show up to the polls no matter what (zealously driven by fear and hate and the pretty idiots on Fox News to elect politicians that don’t give a damn about them), liberals don’t. It goes back to something Harry Truman said, which is that if you give people a choice between a Democrat who sounds like a Republican and a Republican, they’ll choose the Republican every time.
It’s not so much that liberal voters are apathetic: it’s that many won’t vote for someone that’s pathetic (again, unlike conservatives–how else can one explain Lindsey Graham). Why? Because what’s the point, right? If a liberal voter’s choice is between a cowardly ninny like blue-dog Democrat Kurt Schrader and some horrifying gasbag Republican, why vote? The point of showing up to the polls is to elect leaders who value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Why vote if everyone running for office cares more about their political career, privilege, and rubbing elbows with the rich and powerful than they do about ordinary Americans?
And yet, here’s the Democratic Party playing prevent defense–again–seemingly pre-selecting an uninspiring nominee in Hillary Clinton; a candidate who has no business lecturing anyone on the evils of Wall St., corporate greed, or even bad trade deals (think Bill). Worse, a candidate who sounds like she’s always parsing her words and whose campaign will be run by hem-Dems.
But that’s who the DNC, DWS, and other Democratic insiders want, and that’s why we’re having only six debates. Hillary’s their gal, and if she gets the nomination, you can expect more of the same: a campaign that views winning as a matter of complex day-to-day, old-fashioned, middle of the road, mealy-mouthed politics vs. what actually wins: inspiring voter turnout.
Now of course, if Hillary is our nominee, I’ll support her wholeheartedly: she’s a capable leader and a brilliant stateswoman. I have no doubt she’d be a fine President.
But she’d be a hell of a lot more inspiring if she actually had to earn the nomination.
And God help us if she wins playing prevent defense.
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