John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Defensive Coordinator

Posted on January 6, 2021
Mitch McConnell was just named the Defensive Coordinator for the U.S. Senate GOP Conference.


He is also the head coach for the party.  He gave up the title of Offensive Coordinator.


After the November election, McConnell quipped that he was waiting to find out which job he was going to get after the Georgia run-offs.  Now we know.


There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to who lost Georgia.


Both Senate Republicans and President Trump fumbled countless times and threw too many interceptions.  When they had a chance to score late in the game, they inexplicably ran out the clock.


The fact is that President Trump lost the Presidential election and now Republicans have lost the Senate, narrowly.  But a loss is still a loss.


It stings that it was two seats in Georgia that put the Democrats over the top.  But that might be a good thing too, because this needs to be a wakeup call for the Republican Party.


The South is changing quickly.


That can be a good thing for the Republican Party and for the country.   But it will be positive only if Republicans understand what is really happening on the ground and how it must adapt to that change.


For the moment, the Democrats have all the power in Washington.


And if history is any judge, they better enjoy it while they can.  They usually overreach and alienate the voters and lose power during the next election.


Republicans can’t just keep going to the same old playbook, though.


They can’t just rely on the Democrats doing too much stupid stuff, although we know that they will try.


Unlike in 1993 and 2009, the Democrats don’t have a huge mandate for change.  They lost seats in the House, they tied in the Senate, and their President barely won.  And while they might continue to do stupid stuff like erasing the use of all gender terms in the House, ending a House prayer with Awomen, and making Bernie Sanders the Chairman of the Budget Committee, legislatively, they are going to have to trim their sails to get their moderates on board.


Now, I know that there aren’t really any Senate Democrats who are really moderate anymore, but Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema and Jon Tester can’t afford to go full AOC socialist, as much as many of their donors might inexplicably be supportive of her.


Joe Biden claims to be fully woke, but he seems to be barely awake, so it is not certain how active he will be in charting an aggressively left-wing path for the nation.  And many of his staff seem to share his centrist tendencies.


So, for Republicans who just assume that they will back into power in 2022, I have one caution.  Remember 2002.   Republicans kept the House and regained control of the Senate, against all historic odds. Now, much of that electoral success was caused by a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, when the country unified to fight a common enemy.  But the Republicans were able to successfully attack the Democrats for being obstructionist and stopping more good things getting done for the American people.


For Mitch McConnell, he has to do the job of defensive coordinator with subtlety, creativity, and sobriety, along with fortified steel in his spine.   Knowing when to hold on to his cards and when to fold them, knowing when to cut a deal and when to let the Democrats go their own way, knowing when to let his Members do their own thing and knowing when to bring them together as a team, those are decisions that will dominate the McConnell decision-making tree.


It’s hard to predict what will happen to Donald Trump and his hold on the Republican Party.  It’s not clear if his biggest supporters will continue to support him or if they will tire of endless act of self-reverence.  For McConnell, who is ready to take back control of the party from the soon-to-be-former President, Trump is an annoyance that can’t exit the stage quickly enough.  But that doesn’t seem to be likely.


So as McConnell works to keep bad stuff from happening, he must also remember that the American people aren’t moved by simple obstruction.  He must remember that as much as he dislikes Trump, most Republican voters still love him.  And he must understand that the country is changing, especially in the South.  The old campaigns tactics don’t work anymore.


The Republican Party, to be successful, must expand its base to include working class workers of all races and creeds.  These folks want help, especially in this Covid era.  They want help paying the bills, they want help taking care of their families, they want help getting government off their backs, they want help getting their kids back into schools.  They want free stuff, not just freedom.


So, the Leader has his hands full.  He will be an excellent defensive coordinator.  Let’s hope it’s enough to help the Republicans get back on offense.




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