Progressive Mindset Part III: The Dichotomy between Passion and Policy

And why Progressives always lose.

In 1991, I was stationed at The North Island Naval Base in San Diego. Coming from Chicago, I wasn’t a fan of the oversized suburban feel of San Diego and its lackluster nightlife. One Friday night I was sitting around with a couple of buddies when one of them mentioned driving to Los Angeles to hit a club called The Red Onion. We discussed it for a few minutes and within 40 minutes of the start of that conversation, we had closed packed in the trunk and were fighting on I-5. After a pit stop at a McDonald’s restaurant and we were good to go.

This was something that happened on a regular basis. We would talk about something for a few minutes and the next thing you know, we were on the road. At the end of my stint in San Diego I was sitting around with nothing to do. A friend that was transferring to Memphis came to me and asked if I wanted to go home with him to Philadelphia before I made my way back to Chicago. I had nothing to do, so three days later I packed my Buick Century and went Philadelphia. I wound up staying almost a year then one day I decided I wanted to go home and the following week I was back in Chicago.

There was a certain thrill that came with being young and spontaneous. There is nothing like and unplanned road trip to heighten the senses. Having not planned anything out other than the destination made is riskier. It’s like playing a high stakes game of black jack. There isn’t much adrenaline playing the dollar table. No, the people with a passion for the game have the means to sit at the $100 minimum bid table.

The same goes for politics. It is this reason why a Progressive will never win the White House. Progressives focus on policies and are very pragmatic about it. We don’t get caught up in hot-button issues. The flexibility in that pragmatism makes it hard for us to connect with voters. Conservatives and Liberals have an “Ideological Certainty” (the belief that one’s political or religious philosophy is the absolute truth thereby entitling them to govern from that philosophical paradigm) that Progressives lack. It is the IC that drives passion, and passion drives votes.

We can see how the dichotomy between IC and Progressive Mindset (PM) with a fictional road trip to Las Vegas.

IC: I’m bored. If we want to have fun, we need to go to Las Vegas and win some money.
PM: OK, but where are we staying. We need to reserve a room and check the car out before we put it on the road. What about Los Angeles? That’s a lot closer.

The IC has already determined that Las Vegas is the only option and has defined what he considers fun while the PM thinks of minute details and options while not providing an alternative to the fun of winning money in Las Vegas.

IC: It’s Las Vegas. There are plenty of rooms. Lets Go.
PM: All right. How much money are you going to gamble?
IC: The question is: How much money is Las Vegas getting ready to put in my pocket?
PM: Don’t spend all of your money. How much are you going to gamble?
IC: I’m not going to gamble – I’m going to win.

It may make sense to go to Las Vegas with a budget. However, note the optimism. It is the optimism that drives the passion. What Conservative and Liberals are good at (especially Conservatives) is driving the passion within its constituents with hot-button issues: Same-sex marriage, Tax Cuts and the War on Terror are issues driven by passion to the advantage of Conservatives.

Arriving in Las Vegas

IC: (sitting a $100 minimum bid black jack table) All right, let’s play.
PM: Don’t you think you should start out at a smaller table.
IC: We came to win money. You can’t win money playing with peanuts.
PM: But you could lose your money a lot faster here.
IC: But I can win a lot more. Go somewhere. This game is for the big boys.

The IC always plays for high stakes. The adrenaline rush is not at the nickel slot machines. It is when big dollars or on the table and when something is at stake. If same-sex marriage passes, it will destroy the fabric of our society. Abortion perpetuates a culture of death. Saddam is an imminent threat to American Security. All represent a high stakes rhetorical game – and it drives passion.

The PM counters with: Gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. A woman should have a right to choose. We can contain Saddam. Nice statements but even if you truly believe them, they do not generate the level of passion as seen with the IC’s statements.

The trip home

PM: Man, I won $2000 on the nickel slot machine.
IC: Dude, I sat next to this guy that was up $50,000. We were going back and forth all night. At one point I was up six grand. I had four aces and I bet $3000 and wouldn’t you know this fool had a Royal Flush. Damn. I walked away with two grand though. This waitress kept feeding my Martini’s. I think she thought I was one of those high rollers. I told her I was with a Venture Capitol company looking for new investments. I got her number. Man, this was the best trip ever.
IC: This old lady next to me kept trying to take my machine. It was an ok trip.

Now, both the IC and the PM won the same amount money but the ultimate goal was to have fun. I will submit to you that the IC had a lot more fun that the PM, therefore, he won. And the IC will always win because he will always have passion on his side.

People vote when they are passionate about something and when they think that there is something at stake. Creating hot-button issues is one way of driving both and the results are more people to the polls. Progressives, at best, can mount an opposition but that is never enough to swell any increase in a pro-issue movement. It is the reason Gore lost in 2000 and Kerry lost in 2004. Besides war, there is only so much passion that can be manufactured to move people against something.

Which is precisely why at this critical junction it is important for Progressives to move. It was an Ideological Certainty that propelled this country into Iraq. When those times arise where the IC loses at its high stakes game, it loses badly. Terry Schiavo, the response to Hurricane Katrina, government spending and the Iraq War represent high stakes failures that Progressives can use to build momentum going into the 2006 election cycle. After the burning at the crap table we call Iraq, maybe people are willing to play the nickel slot machine. As many people know, Las Vegas is never as fun after a sober recollection the next morning.


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