Op-Ed: For the next three weeks, Democrats need to be like LeBron
By Sam Youngman and Adam Parkhomenko
Keep the main thing the main thing.
That’s how NBA superstar and American patriot LeBron James answered when reporters asked him this week how he and his teammates stayed focused enough to win a world championship despite a pandemic, endless racial injustice and unprecedented bubble life.
Three weeks out from an election, free advice for candidates and campaigns is the only thing flying faster than the lies and the bullshit. But this is still worth heeding: For the next three weeks and possibly more, Democrats need to be like LeBron and keep the main thing the main thing.
And for Democrats right now at this moment in time and history, the main thing is beating Republicans.
Yes, it specifically means beating Donald Trump, and if there can be a main thing within the main thing, then that’s it. But we just can’t and won’t forget about the Senate, the House and every down ballot race you can think of. So yeah, we have several main things. What do you want from us? We don’t have four world championship rings or millions of dollars either.
This might sound like obvious advice, especially with more than 214,000 dead Americans from a horribly bungled pandemic response, a dimwitted and cruel president threatening half of America and our entire way of life turned upside down. But so is “don’t eat yellow snow.” It can be obvious and still be good advice.
We’re Democrats, and Democrats have a way of getting distracted. As a people, we have big hearts, and so we move quickly to fight every new injustice and offense that we see. And that’s a good thing. It has sustained our fury and outrage through four years of Trumpism, and it has fueled our fight to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
It’s also how we end up spending all morning fighting and cussing each other about whether we’ve sufficiently gotten our point across on twitter that Sen. Dianne Feintsein is a damn disaster on the Judiciary Committee. It’s how hours can be lost fighting about who is going to serve in Joe Biden’s cabinet. It’s how you can be tempted to spend a whole night on social media talking about how stupid one of our Senate candidates must be to jeopardize everything.
But none of those things are the main thing.
And while what we’re describing is really more of a pundit (and Sam and Adam) problem than a voter problem, it’s still worth remembering. Because when you take your eye off the main thing — even for a second — you risk losing it.
It might look like we’re winning right now. It might feel like we’re winning right now. But the cold hard truth is we haven’t won a damn thing yet. And we remain very much on the cusp of either taking our country back or losing it forever.
Imagine we’re all in a giant school bus. But this bus is like a bus from the Flintstones, and it’s fueled by the occupants of the bus putting their feet through holes in the floorboard and running. So we’re in this bus, and there’s a giant non-Dino dinosaur that wants to eat us. It’s an especially dumb, orange dinosaur with shit breath and truly bizarre hair, but it can still devour us, so we’re running like crazy to speed the bus in the other direction. We’re all pumping our legs furiously, kicking up gravel and other cartoon debris and cussing with cute prehistoric and stone-oriented puns.
But that dirty motherrocker Jurassic Jerry in seat 2B isn’t running! He’s got his feet up, he’s got his Air Pebbles in and he’s in his own world. And Cavewoman Karen isn’t running either! She’s on her cell stone complaining to her sister about Jurassic Jerry. So what should you do?
The answer is keep fucking running. Yeah, Jurassic Jerry and Cavewoman Karen suck, and if we get away from the smelly orange dinosaur, then we can spend some time letting them know just how much they suck. But getting away from the smelly orange dinosaur is the main thing. And if we don’t do that, then we become dinosaur poo and none of the other things are even possible.
Look, we get that this is more serious than ridiculous Flintones jokes. And we know that the main thing is different for many Americans. For some, the main thing is protecting their access to healthcare. For others, it’s about stopping a pandemic that has wrecked families and our economy. Or it’s DACA. Or it’s Russia. Or it’s fighting racism. Or it’s standing up for women. Or the planet. Or the rule of law. And yes some just desperately want to give that smelly orange dinosaur a giant middle finger.
But as long as your main thing moves you to vote, to contribute, to volunteer, to do anything in service of achieving your ultimate goal, then you are doing the damn thing.
And doing the damn thing is a great way to keep the main thing the main thing.
Just ask the guy with four rings.
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