Sunday, December 23, 2007

Politics: if you're "fighting," you're doing it wrong.

Perhaps it's a sign of decreasing civility, an increased interest in popularism, or perhaps it's compensation for the fact that once in office, lobbyists and SIGs will really dictate the agenda, but the "fighting" metaphor has become widespread among all political parties.

I'm tired of political candidates who boast how much they're going to "fight" for me - are you? I appreciate the intent of the metaphor, but think that in general "fighting" candidates are showing that they will be wholly ineffective as a leader as their fighting demeanor will eliminate opportunities to advance via compromise. Pols who use the fighting metaphor just don't get it.

(I, and many Virginians may be ahead of the curve on being sick of the 'fighting' metaphor, as the most recent Senate campaign was won by the candidate with the slogan "Born Fighting.")

The truth is, good politics has very little to do with fighting. As indicated by the politicians with the greatest longevity, the best politicians on both sides of the aisle are persuaders and compromisers, not fighters. Think of Daniel Moynihan, John Warner, Newt Gingrich or Robert Byrd. These guys - while principled - are distinguished by their effectiveness, not their combativeness.

Leaving aside his political agenda for a moment, consider Newt Gingrich's leadership of the House, earned via the Contract With America. If change is the best measure of effectiveness, Newt and his party were the most effective group in Congress in my lifetime, and their route to power had less to do with "fighting" Clinton, and much more to do with selling a positive, specific agenda.

In contrast, I'd say that the "fighting" metaphor generally indicates a lack of new ideas on behalf of the candidate, and a critical lack of understanding of how things get done. I also think that "fighters" aren't constructive, positive, or likely effective. I may be taking this point a bit far, but whenever I hear that a candidate wants to fight for me, I have the additional reaction of wondering why the candidate thinks I am so helpless that I need my Senator or President to 'fight' for me. Simply put, if you're 'fighting," you're doing it wrong.

While all of this year's candidates are guilty of wearing out the fighting metaphor, the worst offender is John Edwards. In one article (linked above), Edwards or his p.r. person made 28 different fighting references, from being a candidate who will "fight and stand up to these corporate interests," to the fact that his his "fighting attitude would allow him to better take on health care interests than his competitors." He's also wrapping himself in the 'fight' metaphor in his online campaign videos

C'mon, John, drop the fighting metaphor, and instead promote a specific, positive agenda.

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
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Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous