Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

The Role of Losers

Posted by Adam Graham on November 14, 2004

Alan Keyes has been attacked for losing his campaign in Illinois. However, he was not alone. Across the country, many Republicans lost and by wide margins. Are all of these “losers” failures worthy of disdain?

Politics: A Game and Yet Not A Game

The pragmatists treat politics like it’s a sporting event, with the polls and their own personal judgments being scorecards that determine the action that should be taken. Principled Conservatives reply that politics is not a game but about issues of life and death, and the survival of our Republic.

Actually, it is a game in that order to succeed in politics, you have to win at some point. However, it is far from the simplistic game the pragmatists portray it as. Winning is important, but without those who have the courage to fight a losing battle, victory may never be achieved and if our victors do not stand for what’s right then victory is hollow indeed.

In numerous races across America, there are races that simply can’t be won. For example, no one is going to beat Sen. Tom Carper (D-De.) in 2006, but someone will run against him. The same is true in numerous legislative races across the country, particularly as incumbent protection has become the priority of redistricting.

By leaving these races unopposed or with opposition that’s running merely to have an item for their resume, the Republican Party would never go anywhere or grow their membership.

To effectively give up because you have no chance of victory is to limit yourself to fighting a defensive political war in which you’ll never gain wide support or a broad majority.

For this reason, candidates who run these losing campaigns are keeping hope alive. They’re educating voters and making an effort to bring Conservative ideals out. They may not be the best spokesman but for this yeoman’s work, they’re one of the few, and in many cases, the only ones willing to take on the task.

Losing candidates can get people involved in the political process and give them experience that they might not otherwise be able to get. For example, a large budget campaign will hire professional for all of its various positions, using volunteers as grunts or fundraisers (if they’re well-connected), while a losing campaign will give people the opportunity for on the job training at heavy duty campaign work, thus preparing them for leadership positions in the future.

They also get the party’s message out, which is important, because if a local candidate convinces 30 or 40 people to get out and vote Republican, or a Congressional candidate convinces a few hundred, it can have a major impact on statewide races. In addition, their efforts at outreach over time may bear dividends and turn non-competitive areas into competitive ones.

Losers Are the Future

What comes out of losing campaigns? Quite a bit if you look at history.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater was given a defeat of historic proportions, when LBJ carried 60+% of the vote. However, the Democrats lock on the Solid South was over. More importantly, one of his surrogates caught fire and would change the world. With his “A Time for Choosing Speech” backing Senator Goldwater. Ronald Reagan emerged as a political force and it wouldn’t have happened without Goldwater.

Similarly, George McGovern lost 49 states in 1972 but his Texas coordinator, Bill Clinton would succeed where McGovern had failed. Indeed, many leftists trace their entrance to politics to the McGovern campaign.

Years after their lopsided defeats, Goldwater and McGovern’s impact is being felt on our politics today because unlike safe bet candidates like Bob Dole and Gerald Ford, they actually stood for real ideas.

Joaquin Miller in his great poem, “The Defense of the Alamo” wrote the following stanza after describing utter defeat of the Texans in the Alamo by the Mexican Army:

Shout “Victory, victory, victory ho!”
I say ’tis not always to the hosts that win!

I say that the victory, high or low,
Is given the hero who grapples with sin,

Or legion or single; just asking to know
When duty fronts death in his Alamo.

The Conservative cause will be lost when we no longer have men and women willing to fight for great ideas, preferring the expediency of a Monday Morning Quarterback rather than the vigor of a hard-fought but losing battle.

So those candidates who fought the good, but losing fight for conservative principles from County Commissions to the US Senate deserve our thanks, because in their defeat are the seeds of future victory and the hope of our Republic.

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