Friday, November 10, 2006

Political Football

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Football and Democrat politicians make strange bedfellows.

I love football and politics, possibly because they are similar. Both involve a team selected and trained to do a mission. Coaches and fans select the members of football teams. Key individuals and voters select the politicians.

This analogy, of course, is not perfect. Football coaches have much more power over selection and training than fans, key individuals, and voters. Unless they work for Al Davis and the Raiders.

Another sign the analogy is not perfect is that for a long time the Democrats were successful, even though, as Will Rogers remarked, “I’m not a member of an organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”

However, since nothing in this world, and possibly in the next, is perfect, I’ll get on with it.

Football teams do best when they play as a team. Star players can be great on a team, when they play as part of the team. The 49ers were lucky. In their glory years they had consummate team player stars like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott. Or did I just get this all backwards? Maybe what I meant to say was the 49ers had their glory years because their star players were consummate team players.

The New England Patriots with Tom Brady, and the Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning, both have present-day stars who are team players.

The Republicans haven’t had much luck having their stars stick to the game plan. John McCain and a coalition of other middle-of –the-road Republicans and Democrats agreed among themselves not to filibuster President Bush’s judicial appointments, as long as they were the kind of justices a liberal Democrat would nominate.

Makes you wonder why we Republicans thought it was so great having a Republican in the White House to make judicial appointments, doesn’t it?

The Dallas Cowboys have Terrell Owens, and the Oakland Raiders have Randy Moss, and about now both teams probably feel about their star players like President Bush does about John McCain.

Again, this is not a perfect analogy. The Cowboys and the Raiders both sought after Owens and Moss. President Bush didn’t go looking for John McCain. If President Bush could wheel and deal like a football coach, he would have traded John McCain for Zell Miller years ago. And thrown in Arlen Specter for an option on Joe Lieberman.

In politics, as in football, everyone can’t be a star. Most of your players need to be reliable and dependable hard workers. That doesn’t mean they just blindly follow orders. The best ideas and deepest insight usually come from the guys in the trenches; in football, it’s the linemen, in politics it’s the members of the House of Representatives, because with reelection coming every two years, they’re in the fight everyday.

Senators are the most out of touch, with reelection every six years. Senators spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on their importance, which is probably why the American voting public in their infinite wisdom doesn’t elect senators President. Et tu, Hillary?

In football, the team that wins the Super Bowl has a very hard time repeating because of the corrosive effect success has on teamwork and effort. The players on the winning team forget how hard they worked to get to the top, they let personal goals get in the way of teamwork, plus their hunger to win is diminished.

Republicans in Congress avoided defeat for a long time after they won in 1994 because they had been out of power for so long that for many years they were still hungry. Republicans also kept their edge because Bill Clinton was President, and Republican majorities were never large.

When President Bush took office, Republicans continued their winning ways. In fact, Republicans increased their majority in the House by eight in 2002, whereas in the 1994 mid-term election after Bill Clinton became President, the Democrats lost 54 seats.

After Republicans won everything in 2004 and were the strongest they had been as a party in almost a century, they started falling apart as the Democrats had before them. But where it took the Democrats a long time to fall from the lofty heights they held for decades, the Republicans started playing “every man for himself” while the Democrats were rigorously enforcing party discipline, and soon Republican leaders looked disorganized and ineffectual.

Republicans had mistaken their 2004 mandate as an invitation to act like politicians with no fear of not being reelected, instead of working hard on Republican principles such as reform of Social Security and Medicare.

If Republicans had paid attention to the lessons of football, they would have known that when a team is having problems, the most popular player on the team is the back-up quarterback. The fans don't give credit to the reasons that the back-up isn't the starter, or to the fact that the starter is struggling because the team has forgotten about teamwork.

Again, not a perfect analogy, because in politics the back-up is the other party. However, the Democrats only looked good compared to Republicans because the Republicans forgot what they told the voters they would accomplish. All the Democrats did was help the Republicans flounder. The Democrats, with the eager assistance of the main stream media, actively undermined United States efforts in Iraq and in the war against terrorism.

Where the Republicans succeeded, the Democrats, again with media assistance, ignored the booming economy and low unemployment. Each economic positive was scrutinized to find the insignificant negative among the good news, and that became the headline.

Among the “Shortest Books” category, right next to “Tips for Faithful Husbands” by Bill Clinton, “Quarterbacks I Respect” by Terrell Owens, and “Modern French Military Heroes,” will go “Great Legislative Accomplishments of Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist.”

As a final thought, football teams and political parties do the same thing when they are in trouble. They are forced to punt, and the other side goes on offense.

The Democrats have the ball now, and they got it by attacking President Bush and disrupting Republican legislative efforts. Apparently Democrat voters followed Michael Kinsley’s advice in Slate. Mr. Kinsley, who will never be mistaken for a conservative, suggested Democrats read their party's position paper, but only after they voted. That way, they would only suffer "after-the-vote" embarrassment, not "why vote?" apathy. (Hat tip to Captain's Quarters)

When or how will the Republicans get back in the game? I suggest they try to remember what worked for them from 1994 through 2004, and get back to it. The Democrats didn’t come up with a winning team, they just let Republicans put together a losing one.

Less than a month ago the Oakland Raiders won against the Super Bowl champion Pittsburg Steelers 20-13 with only 92 yards of total offense. The Raiders did nothing except get out of the way while the Steelers beat themselves. The Raiders took the same approach in the Seahawks game and were stomped 16-0.

The Democrats and Raiders have a lot in common. They can win as long as their opponent is determined to beat themselves.

I think the Democrats have just woken up to the realization that they can beat themselves now, as indicated in this Guardian article, like the Republicans just did.

Hopefully the Republicans noticed that they have met the enemy and it is them.

Republicans still have nothing to fear but themselves.

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