To Forgive, Divine

Mahablog has a great post today that questions Dems’ insistence on relegating our losing presidential candidates to obscurity, which—as those of you who have been around awhile (especially since just after the election) already know—is one of my particular bailiwicks and a favorite topic to engage, in no small part because it’s important that we stop doing it.

The aforementioned post says, in part:
I'm not sure when it became expected for the loser of a presidential contest to fade into the woodwork. Nixon, after all, lost to Kennedy in 1960 but won against Humphrey in 1968. Adlai Stevenson remained a leader of the Democrats after he lost to Eisenhower in 1952, and people still respected him after he lost to Eisenhower again in 1958. More recently, John McCain refused to evaporate after loosing the 2000 nomination to Bush. And there's nothing at all wrong with that.

Seems to me that a person good enough to be a serious contender for the White House must have a lot to contribute to public life even if he loses. We shouldn't just wad him up and toss him into the trash, especially after an election as close as last year's was.
As I’ve addressed before, I will never understand why we abandoned Al Gore like so much rubbish after he committed the horrendous error of winning the popular vote. It drives me fucking nuts.

We often talk about our need to mount an effective opposition, but we immediately turn our noses up at the person who’s in the best place to do it as soon as he fails to deliver the White House back into our desperate little hands. I know there are a great number of people, including people I respect and admire very much, who basically chalk Kerry up as a guy who had his chance and blew it, and I have to disagree. I won’t argue that he was the perfect candidate, but I also can’t abide by the notion that winning is all we want (or should expect) from our presidential candidates. If we believed in him enough to vote for him to lead the country for the next four years, then he ought to be good enough to throw our support behind as an opposition leader for the next four years.

We could really learn from Britain on this one. If our guy loses, we don't need to effectively excommunicate him; we need to stand behind him in what is essentially a shadow administration. Imagine what a different tenor there would have been during the first 4 years if, instead of the dull hum that emanated from the gaping void in leadership, we raised a collective voice as we stood firmly behind Al Gore, who, every time Bush made an egregious error, gave a press conference saying why it was wrong and what he would have done differently, with every Dem available showing up in the media with the same talking points.

We can't just pop our (figure)head up every four years; consistency is what we lack. Part of effective branding is brand awareness, a large part of which is simply keeping in front of people's eyes.

And consistently exiling our "losers"—the people who are most unlikely to make the same mistakes—is just bad investing. You want a candidate who will never make the same mistakes Kerry did? I guarantee ya…Kerry wouldn’t.

My point is not to give Kerry some kind of endorsement; even though I supported him with every ounce of my being during his campaign, and felt no urge to cannibalize him after he lost—he didn’t disappoint me nearly as much as the American electorate did—I am more interested in the larger goal of becoming a cohesive party with a comprehensive opposition rooted in our party identity. Constantly cruising for a liberal messiah like a shark for its next meal has left us as dead in the eyes as the beast in question.

We let ourselves down when we care more for the quick win than our long-term objectives. And more importantly, we lose our voice. Not something we should let go of so lightly when the roar from the other side is deafening.

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