Why ask for what we don't want?
I was talking politically with someone recently who advised me to back off on my desires and especially my expectations of what policies people will go for, and that raises a pretty fundamental question of advocacy.
Is it better to ask for what you want, or for what you think you can get?
I’m sure community and issue organizers have explored the question exhaustively. that they have concluded that no answer is always correct, and that they know when to zig and when to zag.
But I ain’t them.
My first reference is the NRA, whose scorched-earth policy sure seems to work for them. They are absolutists, absolutely, even if their 2d Amendment basis is sullied by that “effective militia” thing. And it’s true, the Supreme Court has ruled that the first part of the sentence doesn’t modify the second. They don’t give an inch, on anything, no matter how ... indefensible it might seem to those not in their (armed) camp.
I’d ascribe the same or similar stance to Republicans in general, or at least those exemplified by Mitch McConnell, who said the first goal had to be to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term president. When making the other side fail as your first priority is not a definition of progress.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who advocate for what they think they can get, rather than what they want. In my arena, for example, we’d want, say, a total ban on marketing junk food to children, which is completely justified by science that shows children under 8 are not capable of distinguishing between truth and puffery. Everyone spouts platitudes about “protecting the kids,” but let corporations bombard children with incessant commercial blather clothed in clown garb and crusaders’ capes.
But is such a ban our bottom line? No. We nibble around the edges – such as seeking menu labeling or banning toys from inclusion in kids’ meals — hoping that if that works, it’ll show that further restrictions might also be good. No progress so far, but even if there had been, how long before that gets us where we want to be now — where we ought to be, where we would be if not for ruthlessness of the unspeakably wealthy opposition, funded by what we spend in the checkout line?
It appears clear to me that this plays into the snidely brutal force evinced by liars who call themselves the “Center for Consumer Freedom,” “New Yorkers for Beverage Choice,” and other fake fronts for corporations. We propose pale versions of what we want, expend substantial emotional and economic capital to win them (when we do), and then the opposition can say we got what we wanted, but that only a pale outcome resulted.
I have to say: I want my views, but I want their tactics. I’m tired of asking for less than I wanted, and then having to defend why it didn’t do as much as I’d hoped.