Speaker Boehner

Speaker Boehner

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Friday Night Lights

In an earlier post, I started a discourse about how advancing a socially-conservative legislative agenda as a top priority is not part of the November 2010 Republican mandate. In that post, I discussed how some people equate "Pro Life" with "conservative" and how that dynamic has derailed the fiscal conservative trolley.

I think that the political origin of this phenomenon goes back to the 1988 presidential election. (Bush 41 vs. Dukakis) The book of "Friday Night Lights" contains a beautiful passage that demonstrates how this dynamic worked in 1988, and what it meant.

The "Friday Night Lights" book was most directly about an elite high school football team from the Texas oil patch. The season was 1988. George HW Bush was running for president in an era in which the Texas-Louisiana oil patch was in a severe depression (not recession) because oil was at an all time low, as low as $11 per barrel, due to Republican policies, namely the mutual defense treaty that President Reagan signed with Saudi Arabia in 1982. Still, Bush 41 managed to win the oil patch in a convincing manner. How?

Author H.G. Bissinger was at his most eloquent when he penned the following passage:

"Dukakis forces in Texas thought they could win the state on the basis of the economy. They thought that the issues of gun control and the Pledge of Allegiance were emotional fads that would quickly die out. They never thought that Bush's rhetoric, a kinder, gentler version of the 'Morton Downey Show' would have much lasting effect. . .

Perhaps just once Dukakis should have left the rarfied atmosphere of Boston and Harvard that seemed to entrap him no matter where he was, hopped in a car by himself, and taken a drive down one of those lonely, flat-as-a-pancake roads to the gleaming lights of a Friday night football game. . . . He could have pulled down his tie and unbuttoned his collar. He could have gone to the concession stand to eat a frito pie and a chili dog . . . he could have sat in a corner of the stands to listen to th econversations around him as well as take note of the prayers both before the game and after. . .

There was a heartbeat in those stands that dotted the Friday nights of Texas and Oklahoma and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and all of America like a galaxy of stars, a giant, lurking heartbeat.

Michael Dukakis never heard that sound, and even if he had he probably would have dismissed it as some silly tribal ritual rite practiced in the Amercian boondocks by people who made no difference. But his opponent didn't make the same mistake."

Gifted politicians understand the heartbeat that lives under those Friday night lights. Bill Clinton understood it. Bush 43 understood it. Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and other 2012 hopefuls understands it. They knew how to connect to the people in whom that heart beat, and by connecting on that spiritual level, they can lead and win despite their shortcomings on the issues, or in some cases, their resumes.

If Bush 41 had not connected with those folks, he may have lost Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado and a few other key states. On the basis of the economy in the oil patch, conventional wisdom would tell us that Bush 41 should have lost the oil patch. The Bush campaign was certainly worried that they could lose to Dukakis. In the end, the election was not even close. One of the reasons for that result was that Bush 41 was able to connect on a more personal, spiritual level.

While the GOP won that election, the dependence on social issues as the top priority was the undoing of fiscal conservatism - at least until November 2, 2010.

No comments:

Post a Comment