Sound trite? I suppose it might, but it really isn't. Yglesias is writing against something that seems to have much more appeal, but is unfortunately entirely phony: the magic of a third party. I could add more: the magic of the perfect presidential candidate, or the magic of finding the perfect argument that will convince (or silence) your political opponents, or, and this one is of course more for self-described moderates, the magic of the grand bargain that solves issues for good.
The point he makes, which is absolutely correct, is that winning in this way is hard. It's incremental. It's not, usually, particularly heroic. It requires supporting the lesser of two evils most of the time. It requires, sometimes, skipping the fight that would feel good because there's another fight that rational analysis says would do more good. And it requires motivating oneself and others without the promise that if only we work a few more hours, if only we give a little more, if only we win this time then finally all will be right with the world.
Well, let me back up a bit...I said it was not heroic. It's not heroic in the sense that, if one accepts that political gains are incremental and usually temporary, it's harder to feel that what one is doing is on the grand scale, which is, for the most part, how many like to envision themselves, certainly in politics, if not generally. However, there is something heroic about it, precisely because believing in magic is a form of contempt for the democratic process. And why do we support democracy? In my view, it's not because of the illusion that if only democracy worked properly that our side would win. It's because it's worth believing in democracy for it's own sake -- because there's something great about the idea that humans should have collective control over their own world. Believing in that means accepting that some people really differ with what you want, for good and bad reasons; and since they are human too, it means accepting that they get a say, also. And to me there's something a bit heroic about that, albeit not, perhaps, the kind of heroic that gets people to walk precincts in unfortunate weather conditions.
So hard, yes, and dull, yes. But heroic nonetheless.