The thing about leadership is that, inherently, you must be a leader. Unfortunately, the poll-hacks think there is a magic formula of stances that equals victory. Total horse-shit.
To lead requires standing up for beliefs, not backing down…running and hiding.
Polls don’t tell us what issues to choose, they tell us how well we are doing in the fight for each issue. If an issue Democrats care about polls poorly, it means our leaders aren’t leading enough -- we aren’t doing a good enough job. Leaders drive polls, they don’t follow.
But, before a voter looks at any issue, they will decide whether or not they respect the politician. Poll-driven candidates appear shallow. People respect action, people respect leaders who stand-up and fight for their values. Even if people disagree, they will still respect the politician. Cowards are the doormats of post-modern politics.
When we have lost, when we have failed, it's because we didn't go far enough, not because we went too far. It's because we backed down, we let ourselves be talked out of something, we feared asking too much of others and especially of ourselves. We underestimated. We decided, in advance, how far we could go, and when confronted with the reality that the road stretched out for miles beyond that point, we closed our eyes to it and said, "This I know, we stop here." We made our fears into roadblocks and our worries into walls, and we closed ourselves in and we sat very still so nobody would hear us inside. We looked around, and all we saw was a prison. And we wondered how we got there, as if the marks of our trade weren't evident in every brick.
There's a great moment in Miracle, which I've written about before in the context of politics: Herb Brooks is showing his overmatched college kid players the unbelievable awesomeness of the Russian offense, how they swoop in like great stickhandling birds, fast and deadly, and you're lucky if you can just move fast enough to get out of the way. And the kids are stunned into silence, and can't believe what they're up against. It's insurmountable, we are fucking mortals, what the fuck? How do you defend against that? And Brooks says, you don't. You attack it.
You don't hold your ground. You don't pick your line and stand there not letting anything cross it; they'll run you right over, because you're standing still. I failed physics badly in high school but this I know: Facing the impossible, you go forward. You don't accept less than you want. You demand more. You don't do this viciously stupid calculus in your head where you figure out how much you think you can get away with before anyone notices, and then ask politely for only that much hoping you can get it but prepared to accept less. You stop making the standard what you think you can get and you start thinking in terms of what you want.
Not, to bring this back from the rink to the land of politics, what would be a good compromise or what would be a sensible solution or what you think your constituents would accept or what would play well in the campaign, but what you know in your miserable heart and soul is right. What you envision, in the dark, in the cold, when thinking about what home should be like, what this country should enclose. You start from there, and go onward.
And when they try to run you over, you don't stand your ground. You fucking move.