Can’t score if you don’t have the ball

How many times have we all seen football teams build a lead over the course of a game, only to squander it at the end after switching to a “prevent defense” and allowing an opponent to march down the field for a late score? John Madden once famously quipped that “the only thing the prevent defense does is prevent you from winning.”

All of the coaches who use it must be Democrats.

The Democratic Party has been playing the political equivalent of prevent defense for a very long time now. And on issue after issue, the Republicans have been marching down the field and reaching pay dirt.

Today’s Democrats don’t seem to grasp that it’s hard to score when you don’t play offense. And it’s hard to win when the game’s rules overwhelmingly favor your opponent.

Both major parties have made their peace with the money game in politics. Both have accepted the modern-day fallacy that there is only one political currency that matters, namely money. Both are playing the game zealously. Republicans just play it far better, both nationally and at the state level here in Wisconsin. The nature of the game in this post-Citizens United world guarantees this outcome.

This is not the only way Democrats willingly play against steep odds. For decades now, they’ve let Republicans dictate how the issues of the day are discussed. It’s hard to win an argument when your opponent gets to choose the topic and how you talk about it.

For a very long time the essential political debate on just about every subject has been framed along these lines….

Democrats: Government good.

Republicans: Government bad.

Argued that way, Republicans win hands down and will keep winning.

The truth is both major parties have shown themselves to be quite fond of government and both have worked to enlarge it and extend its reach, albeit in different ways. The real question is whether government should work for a privileged few or for the whole of society. A sad truth is that both major parties have been working for a few at the expense of the many. Under that condition, the public has good reason to be sour on government. Yet the Democrats tell people that they should still support government programs, while Republicans tell them government is the problem not the solution. The Republican argument naturally wins.

When the debate is shifted to focus on political privilege, when the argument is about how to make government work for the many instead of a few, then and only then will Republican dominance start to be challenged. Instead of an argument over who is pro-government and who is anti-government, we need to talk about repurposing government so it serves the many and not just a privileged few. Then and only then will the game be played under rules that give our society’s commoners a chance at competing with the royals.

Mike McCabe