Winning Is the Only Thing

November 3rd, 2010

By Tom Carter

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”  That famous quotation from American football legend has been attributed to Vince Lombardi, but it probably came first from UCLA coach Red Sanders.  Whoever said it first, it applies to politics even more precisely than to football or other sports.

Why is winning the only thing in politics?  Because if you don’t win, you have no chance to do any of the things you wanted to do in office.  You can’t come back next week and play again, hoping to improve your win-loss record.  Losing in politics means you probably have to wait several years to try again, and you carry the “loser” reputation for a long time, further diminishing you chances of winning in the future.

The Tea Party movement, the engine of the current conservative resurgence, would do well to remember this simple wisdom.  There’s no denying the broad success of the conservative movement in yesterday’s election.  There were losses, however, that were completely unnecessary.

Harry Reid should have been the most important target for conservatives.  He was the face of the Senate, the most powerful Democrat in the nation after Nancy Pelosi.  And he was beatable.  He was (and is) deeply unpopular in Nevada, and any reasonable Republican candidate could almost certainly have beaten him.  Taking him down would have been the biggest coup of the election.  But no — the Republicans nominated Sharron Angle, a brain-dead extremist candidate with Tea Party backing.  Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory, and Harry Reid will continue to be the Senate Majority Leader.

In Delaware, Chris Coons cleaned the floor with Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party candidate for the Senate.  She got the Republican nomination by defeating Representative and former Delaware governor Mike Castle.  Coons, fairly or unfairly known as “the Bearded Marxist,” was widely thought to be very vulnerable.  Castle had a good chance of beating him.  O’Donnell, a true goofball with a room-temp IQ, was never even in the game.

I don’t believe the Tea Party, as a movement, is racist or extremist, even though it’s a natural home for the few conservatives who are.  It does, however, espouse a strong strain of conservatism of the kind that can result in sacrificing success on the altar of ideological purity.  That resulted in the survival of Harry Reid and promotion of “the Bearded Marxist” to the lofty status of United States Senator.

Republicans, including those who ally themselves with the Tea Party movement, have to do some serious thinking between now and the 2012 election.  That will really be the Super Bowl, when not only Congress but the presidency itself will be at stake.  If the Republicans succumb to the siren call of ideological purity and nominate someone like Sarah Palin, Barack Obama will beat her handily unless he a) decides not to run or b) wears Muslim garb for the State of the Union speech.

How many Tea Party conservatives have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Angle and O’Donnell in the cold light of this morning?  Those who do ought to get out of politics because they’ve forgotten, or never knew, that winning is the only thing.


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29 Responses to “Winning Is the Only Thing”



  1. Lisa |

    It will be interesting to see how the voice of the Tea Party movement is affected by election results. Of course it is contingent upon what kind of appeals can be made to Obamacare and other issues.

    I do not know a lot about the Tea Party movement but think it is a splintered group of people of ALL political parties who are concerned about the increasing size of government, government spending and the current president’s policies which stand in the way of job growth and economic recovery. I think many people are feeling rather fiscally conservative these days and are becoming educated on its benefits. After all, Obamacare which was intended to be a social entitlement program is projecting to become a fiscal nightmare.

    It is the economy!!!! No one really is interested in focusing on social issues right now. Who knows what the pulse of the American people will be during the 2012 campaign? If the economy shows no indication of improvement and there is a continuing trend toward socialism in this country, I think the Tea party will continue to speak loudly.

    Good bye Pelosi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  2. Tom Carter |

    I agree, Lisa — it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out over the next couple of years.

    This conservative resurgence, which is what’s really happening, is kind of wrapped around the tea party movement (and concept) right now. As time goes on, the Republican Party, the only leadership organization of any significance on the right, is going to have to rationalize and focus the movement. If that doesn’t happen, the conservative force that’s moving right now may begin to fizzle out.

    The same kind of thing has been going on with the left for longer. The leftists (and their extremists) don’t have a fancy name like “Tea Party,” but the larger Democratic Party has not been able to deal with them very effectively.

    Kind of like two one-legged guys in a butt-kicking contest, hopping around each other and doing a lot of yelling but not much else….


  3. Mike |

    I don’t think the social issues can be ignored though. I think the republicans should drop their social conservatism. Something tells me they will not learn the lesson once again.


  4. Tom Carter |

    Mike, if I take your meaning, you’re saying that conservatives should stop believing that government should enforce what conservatives see as social values. That would include, I assume, such things as banning abortion, teaching anti-science to children (e.g., creationism), prohibiting same-sex marriage, preserving DADT, permitting the recognition (and even teaching) of one particular form of religion in public schools, etc.

    I agree with you, but conservatives are no more likely to stop thinking that government should force us to accept their beliefs and practices than liberals are to stop thinking that government should force us to accept their beliefs and practices.

    Personally, I’d like to see the government start doing its basic jobs and stop telling us what to think, say, and do in our private lives.


  5. Mike |

    yes that is exactly what I meant (although the issue with public education is the government monopoly on it which I don’t support but thats for another time.)


  6. Lisa |

    At least the Republicans have not told us what we should be eating!


  7. Tom Carter |

    Lisa, that’s true, thankfully. That and the many other aspects of personal behavior that the ultra-liberal nannies try to regulate for my own good are offensive, not to mention inconvenient. Truth is, though, liberals and conservatives alike are only too ready to limit individual freedom in order to enforce their own prejudices and preferences.


  8. Brian |

    I think the republicans should drop their social conservatism.

    There’s already a political party that’s taken this position. People think we’re kooks.


  9. Tom Carter |

    Brian, you’re referring to the Libertarian Party, I assume. For any who may be interested, read the Libertarian Party platform. Most people will find that Libertarians are for and against many things they agree with and oppose.

    It’s hard to fault the basic principle, which can be summed up as being left alone to lead our lives without interference from the government. Sounds great, until you begin reading the details and thinking about the modern world. Once you filter out the possible from the impossible and select the party positions you agree with, you’re pretty much back to being a Democrat or a Republican. Give it a try; it’s an interesting exercise.

    Libertarianism would be wonderful if we were living in the Kentucky backwoods 200 years ago. Problem is, we aren’t.


  10. Brian |

    If we were to follow your line of thinking to its logical end, then one day, society will be so advanced that we will have no freedom at all.

    FWIW, I obviously can’t get inside your head, but I think you’re confusing libertarianism with anarchism. They’re not the same thing.


  11. Tom Carter |

    I suppose it could be that if social, political, and technical development continued in a linear fashion without modification and adjustment, then that might be true. But that’s not the way things happen.

    The difference between libertarianism and anarchism is clear. Reading the platform linked above is very instructive, and those who haven’t studied or read about libertarianism in the past will find in enlightening. I’ve always been sympathetic to the aims of libertarianism, but the problem is it’s strong on ideals and very weak in terms of practical application. It really does yearn for a time in the past, partly real and partly imagined, when things were a lot simpler and people were far less closely connected.


  12. Clarissa |

    “Harry Reid should have been the most important target for conservatives. He was the face of the Senate, the most powerful Democrat in the nation after Nancy Pelosi. And he was beatable. He was (and is) deeply unpopular in Nevada,”

    -As much as I dislike Harry Reid, his opponent was too insane to accept by anybody except the most extreme conservatives. I celebrated his win (or most importantly her loss) with a standing ovation.

    “In Delaware, Chris Coons cleaned the floor with Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party candidate for the Senate.”

    -It would sound the death knoll to this country’s intelligence if it were otherwise.

    ” conservatives should stop believing that government should enforce what conservatives see as social values. That would include, I assume, such things as banning abortion, teaching anti-science to children (e.g., creationism), prohibiting same-sex marriage, preserving DADT, permitting the recognition (and even teaching) of one particular form of religion in public schools, etc. I agree with you, but conservatives are no more likely to stop thinking that government should force us to accept their beliefs and practices than liberals are to stop thinking that government should force us to accept their beliefs and practices.”

    -I’m sorry, Tom, but this doesn’t stand up to any logical scrutiny. Conservatives claim to be opposed to the governmental interference of any kind. Why, then, are they so much in favor of a governmental ban on abortions?

    The liberals are in favor of a much stronger government, so their insistence on govermental control of these issues is logical and coherent.

    I’d love to hear a logical and reasonable explanation of why the US conservatives claim to be against governmental instrusion on everything except control of sexuality. I want to remind you that Stalin was very opposed to abortion and homosexuality, which was codofied in the legislation of the USSR. How are the US conservatives any different in their insistence on these issues as opposed to Stalin?


  13. Brianna |

    “I’m sorry, Tom, but this doesn’t stand up to any logical scrutiny. Conservatives claim to be opposed to the governmental interference of any kind. Why, then, are they so much in favor of a governmental ban on abortions?”

    The basic premise behind the pro-life movement is that life begins at conception. If this were true, then the conclusion of the pro-life movement that abortion is murder and should be treated as such would be correct. Grant the premise that a fetus is a full individual being with full individual rights, and it logically follows that government should protect those rights by outlawing abortion and punishing those who engage in it. Fortunately for me, I do not think it is true, or I wouldn’t logically be able to be pro-choice. But just because I do not share the premises of the opposing side doesn’t mean I don’t understand them.


  14. Michael |

    I agree with Brianna. Life begins at conception(the intrinsic view of life) therefore abortion at any stage would be murder and so you’re a baby killer. Consequently the fetus has rights and the government must protect them. of course this position muddles the whole notion of rights. however the pro-choice movement also shares some of the blame. their arguments against the other side are often pragmatic


  15. Brian |

    Clarissa, Leonard Peikoff makes an unassailable case in The Ominous Parallels that liberalism/progressivism uses the same philosophical underpinnings as NAZI-ism. While you’re busy examining the problems with conservatism, you’d be wise to understand what’s wrong with your own political philosophy.


  16. Tom Carter |

    Clarissa, liberals and conservatives are both guilty of wanting to enforce their preferences, values, and ideology through law. Whether one or the other outlawed thing or activity is reasonable depends on your point of view. For example, San Francisco just banned the Happy Meal. I say a pox on both their houses — leave me alone, get out of my face, and I’ll eat Happy Meals or transfats (whatever that is) if I please. And if I don’t want a Happy Meal, you might and you should be able to eat one. And get the prize, too. Pick a subject, serious like abortion or laughable like the Happy Meal ban, and some group of ideologues somewhere wants to impose their preferences on all of us.

    Clarissa and Brian, pick a political group or a policy and somehow, by one kind of tortured logic or another, you can manage to equate it to nazism, communism, fascism, or whatever your favored bogeyman is. That’s almost always ahistorical and illogical, and it doesn’t advance an argument.

    Michael, maybe you should read Brianna’s comment again….


  17. Michael |

    Clarissa and Brian, pick a political group or a policy and somehow, by one kind of tortured logic or another, you can manage to equate it to nazism, communism, fascism, or whatever your favored bogeyman is. That’s almost always ahistorical and illogical, and it doesn’t advance an argument.

    It’s one thing to call someone a Nazi regardless of the facts, another entirely to equate their ideas with Nazism because it is the next logical step


  18. Brian |

    Tom, I didn’t say that liberals are NAZIs. All I’m saying is that today’s liberals hew to the same philosophy that made NAZIism, fascism, and communism possible – principally the philosophy of Kant and Plato.

    In stark contrast, it is the philosophy of Aristotle, of Thomas Aquinas, of Locke, of Bastiat, of Baron de Montesquieue that made our freedom and greatness possible – the belief in the supremacy of the individual and that the state serves the individual, not the individual serving the state.

    If you doubt this, examine any progressive policy – with few exceptions, progressive policy/philosophy promotes the needs of society over the needs of the individual, universal health care being just one example.


  19. Tom Carter |

    Brian, you’re more the philosopher than I am, but I understand and don’t disagree. The thing that gets my hackles up are the quick-and-ready comparisons of American politics and politicians to such abominations as the Nazis. Those comparisons are most often made by people who don’t know much about National Socialism in Germany — for that matter, they often don’t know much about the facts of American politics.

    Michael, aside from a few far-right loons and neo-Nazis who amount to nothing in our system, there is nothing whatsoever in American politics that constitutes a “next logical step” to nazism.


  20. Brianna |

    Michael – to claim that a fetus has full rights is to deny the existence of the rights of the mother; namely the right to choose whether or not she will have a child. I believe that life begins at birth, though I would be partial to an argument that life begins when thought begins, if someone somewhere could make an argument as to when that is and back it up with scientific facts. That said, I doubt that ANYONE could argue that a fetus becomes a thinking being anytime before 3 months, so I certainly do not think there should ever be any restrictions on abortion during that timeframe.

    I have no problem with those who seek to minimize the necessity for abortions through the promotion of personal responsibility (there are certainly plenty of rational reasons not to engage in promiscuous sex without going into faith-based ones), because although I believe a fetus is only a potential life, to me even a potential life is not something to snuff out lightly. But the fact remains that accidents happen to even responsible people, which is why I believe abortion should be a valid and accessible option when necessary.


  21. Brianna |

    “I’d love to hear a logical and reasonable explanation of why the US conservatives claim to be against governmental instrusion on everything except control of sexuality. I want to remind you that Stalin was very opposed to abortion and homosexuality, which was codofied in the legislation of the USSR. How are the US conservatives any different in their insistence on these issues as opposed to Stalin?”

    Well, not all conservatives want to control sexuality. For example, I am starting to see more and more people identify themselves as “conservative libertarian,” a position which basically means that while they do hold conservative social values, they believe people should follow those values voluntarily and not because they have been legislated from the bench. The one exception is abortion, because of reasons I have already described above. I know of many fewer liberals however, who do not believe that their values of altruism, charity, and “we are our brothers’ keepers” should be followed out of voluntary choice and not because they have been legislated by the bench.


  22. Dan Miller |

    Brianna,

    I agree that “life,” whatever that may be, does not begin at conception. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, as amplified and explained in subsequent decisions, seems to have said that during the first trimester the states can intervene only to protect the mother-to-be (or not-to-be) — against coat hanger abortions, abortions by unlicensed people, etc. Thereafter, the state interest in fetal rights increases to the point that after the second trimester a state can prohibit all abortions other than to protect the health of the mother.

    Although I can find no legitimate state interests other than those articulated in Roe v. Wade and later cases, I do feel that the federal government should decline funding for abortions. It is a highly contentious issue, and the federal government should not meddle. I wrote here about that and about a new state law taking cognizance of the ability of a fetus to experience pain; that seems a reasonable approach to me.

    As to the broader issues of individual rights, I have long thought that the government should stay out of individual human affairs to the greatest extent possible and to the extent consistent with nearly universally (in the United States) held views of morality. There have to be laws against, for example, murder and burglary; it is commonly accepted that murderers and burglars violate improperly the rights of their victims. There is no similar common acceptance of the notion that a fetus during the first trimester has such rights. The implications for intestate succession and the like should also be considered. Should some portion of the assets of a father who dies with no will be inherited by a fetus? I don’t think so.

    Tom said in the article,

    I don’t believe the Tea Party, as a movement, is racist or extremist, even though it’s a natural home for the few conservatives who are. It does, however, espouse a strong strain of conservatism of the kind that can result in sacrificing success on the altar of ideological purity. That resulted in the survival of Harry Reid and promotion of “the Bearded Marxist” to the lofty status of United States Senator.

    I would suggest that there is ideological “purity” all over the place and that “racism” and extremism are hardly confined to the T.E.A. groups or the Republican Party. As I seem to recall, Jessee Jackson, Al Sharpton et al are Democrats and I consider them egregiously racist — in ways quite harmful to their fellows and future generations, far more of whom that would otherwise be the case remain in a perpetual state of servitude and dependence upon governmental “entitlements.”

    Tom and I seem to disagree a bit as to Governor Palin and Ms. O’Donnell. In my view, the pictures of them which emerged were largely based on extraneous factors — Tina Fey comedy skits and a teenage “dabbling” in witchcraft, for example. Once that sort of stuff becomes common currency, it masks reality. Do they have actual problems which should be considered? Of course they do, but I don’t think those were major political factors. Governor Palin had significantly more executive experience relevant to the office of Vice President than had Senator Obama to the office of President. It has occurred to me that any reasonably young and attractive female is likely to have far more difficulty getting elected to national office than a reasonably young and handsome male. That strikes me as unfortunate.


  23. Tom Carter |

    I agree that racism and extremism aren’t confined to the right, as I’ve said many times elsewhere. The point here, though, was that conservatives sacrificed winning elections to ideological purity in a few cases, and that’s demonstrably true.

    As for the likes of O’Donnell, Angle, and even Palin — well, all I can say is I’ve read and listened to their direct words, without media filtering and character attacks. O’Donnell and Angle are loons, and Palin isn’t far away. Put it in your diary — if the Republicans nominate Palin for president in 2012 and/or 2016, she will lose. Unless, of course, the Democrats nominate someone like John “Lurch” Kerry again, and then it’s anybody’s guess.


  24. Dan Miller |

    Tom, I’ll bet you a fancy dinner with all of the trimmings — here in the highlands of Panama, of course — that Palin will win if nominated in either 2012 or 2016; unless, of course, the Democrats nominate Helen Thomas or Charles Rangel; then all bets are off.


  25. Tom Carter |

    I’ll take the bet, but if you lose the dinner’s here in the Balkans. I’d probably welsh on the bet if I lost because it would mean more body scanners and gropings at airports. Having had a few dinners in your neck of the woods, however, I’d be tempted. And I don’t know…being groped isn’t always so bad.


  26. Dan Miller |

    Tom — I offered the bet and you are not permitted to modify the terms. If Palin runs in 2012 or 2016 our respective attorneys will have to resolve any dispute; should they not be able to do so, I shall take it to the United Nations, should it still be in existence. Otherwise, I shall take it to the Supreme Court of Panama. I am absolutely determined; I may even demand a recount.


  27. Tom Carter |

    Well, take it to the UN if you want to. Maybe by then Barack Obama will be the Big Giant Head of the United Nations (for those who remember Third Rock from the Sun). That might happen as soon as 2013, if he’s in need of a job. His management and leadership skills would fit right in up there on the East River.

    As far as the Supreme Court of Panama is concerned…well, we’ll just have to see who can come up with the most palm grease.


  28. Brianna |

    ” I have long thought that the government should stay out of individual human affairs to the greatest extent possible and to the extent consistent with nearly universally (in the United States) held views of morality.”

    I am writing an article on this right now. It should be up in a couple of days, tops.

    “I do feel that the federal government should decline funding for abortions.”

    I agree, and one of the problems with a large government which feels it needs to take care of people’s needs is who gets to decide what money is spent on whom for what. When these decisions are private, no man is forced to spend money on something he doesn’t believe in. When they become public, it becomes impossible to garner agreement on what “the plan” should be. Fredreich Hayek explained this very, VERY well in Road To Serfdom, and I’d recommend that book to anyone who hasn’t read it.


  29. Dan Miller |

    Brazil had elections in October and Clown Tiririca was elected to Brazil’s lower house of Congress with more than 1.3 million votes; he

    is a television personality known by the nickname of Tiririca, and in last month’s legislative elections he ran for a federal congressional seat for the Party of the Republic and received the most votes of any candidate for a similar post nationwide.

    Actually, he got “nearly twice as many as the next-highest vote-getter in last month’s congressional elections.”

    Alas, questions have arisen unfairly and contrary to established international standards of human rights about his ability to read and write. Under Brazilian law, people who can’t are not permitted to hold public office. On November 11th, Legislator-elect Tiririca had to take a demeaning literacy test to determine whether he can read and write.

    Tiririca was examined by the Regional Electoral Court of Sao Paulo state so that he could have the chance to prove that he is competent to hold public office.

    The president of the court, Walter de Almeida Guilherme, declared that Tiririca took the test, but that it still “cannot be confirmed that he knows how to read and write” since the final verdict will be delivered by Judge Aloizio Silveira, who will be the official charged with evaluating the exam.

    Stupid Brazilians! Our Congresscritters don’t had to prove that they are literate, and they do just fine. Obviously, they have a lot to learn from us.


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