John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Tug of War

Posted on December 22, 2009

Tug of War

Politics is a game of tug of war.

According to Wikipedia, the rules of Tug of War are the following: “Two teams of eight, whose total mass must not exceed a maximum weight determined for the class, align themselves at the end of a rope (approximately 10 centimetres in circumference). The rope is marked with a "centre line" and two markings four meters either side of the centre line. The teams start with the rope's centre line directly above a line marked on the ground, and once the contest (the "pull") has commenced, attempt to pull the other team such that the marking on the rope closest to their opponent crosses the centre line, or the opponents commit a foul (such as a team member sitting or falling down). A contest may feature a moat in a neutral zone, usually of mud or softened ground, which eliminates players who cross the zone or fall into it.”

In the political tug of war, the two sides desperately try to bring the “center line”, over to their side, so they can have majorities with which to win their legislative battles.

You can’t win a majority without the center.  Reclassifying what the center actually stands for is an essential part of the process of political tug of war.

Political tug of war is different from the playground game in another sense.  In the playground game, the sides are evenly matched, and it is only the brawn of the two sides that really makes a difference.  In the political game, the numbers are not evenly matched, and it is not just about brawn, but about brains that carries the day.

Ideas matter in political tug of war than they do in playground tug of war.

The Democrats think they are winning the political game of tug of war, because they were able to use their brawn and the treasure of the American taxpayer to break enough arms and buy enough votes to pass a health care bill through the Senate.

But one key defection today put a lie to that theory.  Parker Griffith, a Democrat from Alabama, said adios to the majority party and switched to become a Republican, just as the Senate was readying plans to give its final approval to a controversial health care bill.

Griffith is switching parties, despite the fact that his seat has been in Democratic hands for as long as anyone can remember.  He is also leaving a Democratic Majority that has a solid hold on power.  This is no cynical move by a political opportunist.  This is an act of sheer frustration done by a man who has lost his patience with a group of Democratic leaders who are clearly out of touch with the concerns of most Americans.

This guy, who has been pulling the rope for the majority party decided he wasn’t going to sacrificed into the mushy muck of the center line, only to be trampled on by his colleagues in an election that it surely going to be tough for the tax and spenders.

He switched sides, because ideas matter more than brawn and bribery.

He is doing what other Democratic centrists were thinking of doing, but who just decided to pack it in before the going gets real tough.  You think that John Tanner and Bart Gordon left the Congress because they wanted to spend more time fishing?  Hell no.  They left because they knew that they were going to get beat.

The Democrats have been tugging at the health care rope, but in the wider game of political Tug of War, it is the Republicans who have the upper hand.  Parker Griffith understands that, and that is why he is switching sides.

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