Skip to comments.Kerry Ain't No Joe Gibbs
Posted on 09/13/2004 6:09:54 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
How did the Republicans win control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2002 midterm elections? They won by playing politics the Joe Gibbs way. And they look all set to retain the presidency this November with exactly the same strategy.
Gibbs is the legendary American football coach who has returned to run his old Washington Redskins team with which he won three Super Bowls. He has the best winning percentage of any coach in the National Football League.
Gibbs won -- and probably will continue to win -- so often because he took as few chances as possible and stuck to the fundamentals of the game. He had his players run the football cautiously instead of risking a lot of long, thrilling passes. And most of all, he trained well-drilled, effective defensive teams that tore into their opponents and took them apart with spectacular plays.
That is also how the Republicans have maintained their long dominance of U.S. national politics into the 21st century. They are weak on economic policies. But this does not matter so long as economic conditions remain reasonably stable, because the opposition Democrats remain woefully weak on alternatives -- or on criticizing them. In other words, the Democrats have no offense worth the name.
And although the Democrats may have a larger support base in theory, and it may even be growing faster, the Republicans have so far negated that by playing consistently good defense. Their defensive teams mobilize all their supporters to maximum effectiveness and get their support base out. And they excel in sacking the quarterback of the opposing team, in this case Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
No sooner was Kerry formally anointed as the Democrats' standard-bearer in Boston at the end of July than the Republicans went after his impressive Vietnam combat and heroism record -- and his controversial outspoken opposition later to the Vietnam War as well. Kerry reacted the way so many quarterbacks pulverized by Gibbs defensive teams did over the years: He lost his rhythm and went to pieces.
The Republican record on domestic issues is extremely weak, given the anemic job-recovery figures, the soaring federal deficit and gasoline prices still hovering around the $40-a-barrel mark. But the Republican tactical game plan in obscuring that weakness and focusing on simple and far more potent issues has been masterly, just as it was in 2002.
Most of all, the Republicans won in 2002 because they mobilized their traditional support base and got out the vote. And they look set to do the same thing this November.
In the 2002 midterms, Evangelical Christians -- the old "Moral Majority" -- showed their political clout in a way not seen at least since 1988. And they continue to enjoy more real political power in the current administration and congressional leadership than in all the past quarter century of their activism on behalf of Republican conservative candidates. President George W. Bush himself and new House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also from Texas, are strongly sympathetic to their cause.
The Republicans won in 2002 and look likely to repeat the trick this year not because they significantly extended their national base, but because they made the most of their existing one. And in 2004, as in 2002, they are successfully demoralizing, confusing and generating complacent and/or indecisive apathy in the theoretically larger support base of their opponents.
In these columns, we tracked this development in the weeks before the 2002 congressional elections. And we also pointed out, on the basis of it, that the complacent Democratic confidence that they were putting together a new majority national coalition was fundamentally flawed.
John Judis and Ruy Texeira argued that such a collation was clearly already emerging in their book, "The Emerging Democratic Majority." But we pointed out that a theoretical majority of sympathizers on paper is very different from a motivated activist support base who will actually take the trouble to go out and vote for their candidates on Election Day. Even if the Democrats already have the first -- which looks increasingly unlikely -- they certainly do not yet have the second.
What do the Democrats need to win back the presidency in 2004? Or even in 2008? Where can they find "The Right Stuff" to end their decade-long exile from effective power in the House of Representatives, the supreme fiscal-controlling body in the United States?
They need three things: new defense polices, new economic policies and new leaders. They actually have the economic policies. They even have quite sensible defense ones. But their continuing leadership deficit means they still have not begun to take advantage of these things.
And even on defense, the Democrats showed themselves utterly spineless and bankrupt in the debate over potential war with Iraq. Their opposition was limited to just pleading for a congressional debate on the issue. And when they finally got it, they did not know what to do with it.
On defense, the curse of Vietnam and the McGovernization of their party in the 1970s still hang heavy over the Dems. They remain a traumatized, fearful insecure party to whom confident, independent stands on defense-policy issues are taboo. Kerry's dithering on this, despite his own truly impressive service record, is all too typical of the party he leads.
This allowed Bush and his political master-strategist Karl Rove to neutralized their own miserable record of economic stewardship and the disastrous record of corporate scandals and major company meltdowns over the past year by making a single argument: the Republicans could protect the United States and the Democrats couldn't.
Every effort by the Democrats to put the economy on the table, to warn of the negative consequences of more tax cuts for the rich or of privatizing Social Security, has been trumped by that single, devastating card.
It explains why so far Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards has failed to catch fire with his "politics of hope" and emphasis on economic distress, even in Heartland areas that are suffering the most from Bush's policies or the lack of them.
It explains why the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows the president pulling well ahead of Kerry in crucial Ohio and Missouri, where job losses have been so high and recovery so anemic.
Even if the economy tanks dramatically before the election or the war with Iraq gets even worse, voters will not just fall into the lap of passive, complacent Democrats like ripe fruit falling off a tree. Kerry needs to present himself to the American public as a confident, decisive and dynamic leader. And he needs to demolish Bush's personal credibility as effectively as Bush and Rove have savaged his own. So far, he hasn't taken a decent step towards either goal.
Unlike coach Joe Gibbs, Kerry doesn't have an offense worth the name, and his defense against the GOP's attacks last month was non-existent. You can never win in American football playing that way -- or in U.S. politics, either.
MARTIN SIEFF is Senior News Analyst for UPI, a sister news agency of Insight.
No, it couldn't possibly be the disaster they call the Democrat party candidate.
Joe Gibbs, rules!
Considering the disastrous war in IRaq, it must be the horridness of the Dem candidate.
Kerry is an incredibly bad candidate.
The fact that he's from Massachusetts is reason enough to make him a bad candidate.
At that price I'll buy all the gasoline he can sell me.
Gibbs certainly has the Midas touch. It's an amazing feat to achieve success in one sport (football) but Gibbs has done it in two sports.
What a lot of nonsense. Republicans do, indeed, win because of better strategy. But they are not weak on economics. And they certainly were not responsible for the swift boat attacks on Kerry--whose war record was far from being as superb as this writer claims, and whose post-war record was actually treasonous. The truth is, the Democrats--like the old media which supports them--have grown corrupt after almost a century of having it their own way. Their first instinct is to demagogue issues--which betrays an elitist contempt for the American public generally.
He believes that the Democrats are as strong on national security and defense as the Republican party, which is ridiculous on its face.
He also believes that the Democrats have a superior economic agenda to the Republicans, which is the statement of a raving lunatic.
His thesis is that Republicans have achieved electoral ascendancy purely through strategic deftness despite an unattractive message. The reality is almost exactly the reverse.
The characterization of Gibbs' football is a little inaccurate. It's true he liked to run the football, but he also threw long passes when the opponents were focussed on stopping the run. Watch what happened after Theisman's leg was broken in the Giants game, or the Dougie Williams Superbowl win to see how it really went.
All of which is something a dem could never do.
If I were to try and sum up this column in a line or two, it would be: "Democrats will continue to fail to win back power in Washington unless they really start getting out their message." It's the same refrain we've heard after every election they've lost since 2000.
A new belief structure, perhaps?
As a once again proud Redskins fan - Joe Gibbs for President!!!! (after 4 more years of Bush of course)
Wonder who Joe will vote for in November? Any guesses?
Coach Gibbs won his first game back yesterday and the Redskins 500th Victory!
My voice is still recovering from the game.
Joe Gibbs is a winner. Won in NASCAR and won in the NFL. He is also born again I think.
I'd venture a guess Joe and his entire family will be placing a vote for our President.