John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Leaders and Followers

Posted on July 2, 2013

At my gym, they put little inspirational quotes up on the wall to get you to work out harder (that’s the theory, at least).

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way,” was last Tuesday’s quote, attributed to the Marine’s handbook, which was a revelation to me.  I always thought that Lee Iacocca was the man who first said that memorable phrase when he was trying to fix Chrysler.

This quote must haunt Congressional Republicans on both sides of the Capitol dome.

In the House, the followers aren’t following the Leaders.  In the Senate, the Leaders aren’t following the followers.

Over 60 Republicans refused to follow the Committee Chairman and the Leadership in voting for a Farm bill in the House two weeks ago.  That didn’t bode well for the eventual passage of the Immigration bill or for a budget deal that would keep the government operating a full capacity.

In the Upper Chamber, not one member of the Senate Republican leadership voted with Marco Rubio and the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill.  Not one.

Earlier this year, not one member of the Senate Republican leadership voted with Pat Toomey in his gun show loophole bill.

In other words, two former Tea Party favorites, who stuck their necks out to get something accomplished, got no back-up from their own leaders and were left hanging.

Now, there might be good reasons why leaders deserted their followers and why the followers deserted their leaders.

For good reason, just about every Senator and House Member is worried about a primary challenge, and some might just disagree on the policies that were involved in one of these pieces of legislation.

But Congressional Republicans will not survive if the Leaders and Followers don’t coordinate better.  They have to have unified message if they want to beat Obama and the Democrats.  They have to agree on a common set of tactics and a bigger strategic vision.  They have to discourage hot-dogging and folks going out on their own.

As Ben Franklin said during the hottest periods of the Revolutionary War, they have to hang together or surely they will hang separately.

I know this sounds easier than it really is to achieve.  I know the vast differences between the House and the Senate, and I know the geographical disparities that sometimes inspire pretty intense differences of opinion within the respective GOP conferences.

But this isn’t supposed to be easy.  It is supposed to be hard.

There may be a method to the madness.  Perhaps letting Toomey go off on his own helps him in Pennsylvania, which is a purple state  (and that is being charitable to the Republicans)

But if Republicans are to beat Obama and the Democrats in the Fall showdown, they have to march together as one team.  They have to perform flawlessly.  They have sing off the same hymnal, beat their drums in proper time, they have to share the same strategic vision and agree on the right tactics.

If they do all of that, they will be successful.

But if the Tea Party continues to go its own way, if the Northeastern Republicans go their own way, if the Appropriators go their own way, or if the leadership goes its own way, the President, despite his apparent lack of interest in actually legislating, will score a smashing victory.

In Congress, not everybody can be a Leader.  The leaders have to lead, the followers have to follow, and everybody else should shut up.