Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gridiron Gridlock Strategies

While we've said many times over the years that politics is not sports, and it should not be considered sports, forgive us if we break that cardinal rule today in our thorough evaluation of President Obama's 2014 State Of The Union address.

Chalk it up to our personal connections with football, or the relatively close nature of the words "gridlock" and "gridiron." You could even chalk it up to the Super Bowl happening this weekend, if that makes you feel better. The fact remains, as we evaluated the President's address from Tuesday night, and the GOP reactions to it over the last day or so, we began to see some similarities that looked an awful lot like football strategies.

With the kinds of thugs and bullies like GOP Rep. Michael Grimm from New York on their "team," you might think Congressional Republicans had an edge in this mythical "Stupid Bowl". After all, for a team that's rigged the "game" of politics from Richard Nixon through the 2000 presidential election right through the gerrymandering of 2010, Republicans have a long and well-known history of trick plays, illegal formations, and roughing up anyone who might get in their way - including the referees, the American voters.

When it comes to the pastime of actually governing, though, we think the strategies President Obama outlined in this year's State Of The Union are the kinds of head down, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust philosophies that the American people would much rather see carried out.

Even while lamenting the non-traditional nature of the strategy, Ryan Cooper of The Plum Line seemed to agree with our analysis of President Obama's multi-faceted strategy. That is, that Obama might be able to break the gridlockracy that's had Washington politics more impassable than Atlanta's highways.

We also agreed with William Saletan's strategy breakdown that pointed out how Obama's new approach also has an added benefit: Highlighting how America's current economic rules are actually failing to reward honest hard work.

President Obama even seems to have avoided the kind of over-exuberance displayed by Richard Sherman two weeks ago, by not tweaking Republicans too hard in the State Of The Union. That lack of smack-talk and refusal to bring up certain subjects initially frustrated many of Obama's supporters Tuesday night. As Jonathan Bernstein noted though, no matter what Americans say, they actually care more about substance and results - and President Obama's 'do what he can without Congress' strategy looks like he may be able to really get some serious results this year, on his own.

As for Republicans and their fractured responses, the only real strategy we can see coming from their actions is an old strategy known as the "prevent defense" - a method of preventing your opponent from scoring points that only works in situations where the team on offense must go for the big play. As anyone familiar with team sports strategies knows, the prevent defense - even if it's successful - can only work for so long.

In the "game" of politics at the national level, we think President Obama's new strategies could really win out for him this year.

For the Republicans, we think it's clear their playbook is empty - and their time may very well be running out.