OK all you amateur athletes, weekend warriors and those who participate with the remote and a comfy chair. You may be familiar with what I describe here. Have you ever been in a game or seen a game where one team has a big lead and then tries to hang onto that by changing their game into a much more conservative game designed to keep the other team or player from scoring?
The cliches in the sports world refer to this tactic as “taking the air out of the ball” or perhaps “taking some time off the clock.” In the cliche ridden world of sports broadcasting there are many cliches set aside for deliberately changing the style of game near the end of the game in order to sit on a lead built up over the game through aggressive play.
What often happens when a coach chooses this tactic is that the team can’t shift gears that easily. Instead of playing like a functioning unit with parts that mesh well we get individuals seemingly moving at different paces. Instead of driving for the goal we get strange plays not designed to score, but designed to waste time. And the team (or individual) starts making errors because this is not what they are designed to do. They are designed to be aggressive and are now expected to be more passive. Thus it often happens that hanging on to a lead becomes an adventure which sometimes ends in losses.
As an illustration I always go back to a basketball game between Iowa coached by Lute Olson and Illinois coached by Lou Henson. To say the least Henson and Olson did not like each other much. It was an era in college basketball prior to the shot clock and at the height of the use of Dean Smith’s “four corner offense” – an offense designed to eat up clock.
Iowa used their usual up-tempo offense that evening and ran Illinois silly. With about ten minutes to go, Iowa was ahead by 20 or more. Olson decided it was time to try to sit on the lead so he told his team to run their four corner offense. Slowly the lead dwindled to the point where Illinois finally took the lead with about 4 minutes left. Since Iowa had spent much of the game focusing on running out time and not scoring, it was hard for them to shift gears back again and once more play aggressive basketball. Illinois ended up winning that night.
This was the first time Iowa lost using this strategy. However they had come close to losing on several other occasions. Olson continued to employ that strategy throughout the rest of the season and the Hawks continued to struggle.
Now for the tie in to politics. QUIT PLAYING NOT TO LOSE, DEMOCRATS! As Hayden Fry always used to say, “dance with the lady what brung ya.” To be very clear about what I mean, Democrats have adopted a strategy of playing to a supposed middle. The media has defined the center way to the right of the actual middle and Democrats, in an effort not to lose have played to that media defined center. Thus they have conceded much of what they should be aggressive about.
Democrats should be campaigning loudly and proudly on their accomplishments. Not only the accomplishments of FDR and JFK and LBJ but those of the first Obama congress when despite the hardest opposition ever thrown, the Democratic led Congress passed health care reform, the Dodd-Frank bill for financial industry reform and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These are some of the biggest steps forward in history. Democrats should be out on the campaign trail proudly say:
“Democrats passed these and if you elect me and enough of my colleagues we will do that again and more. We will strengthen the ACA. We will strengthen Dodd-Frank. We will strengthen Social Security and Medicare and set them up so they can’t be screwed with. We will set minimum wage at a living wage and index it to inflation so hard working people never again lose to inflation. Never forget that the Democratic Party has been the party of the worker and the middle class. We will continue to be the party that represents real Americans. We will also rebuild America and prepare America for a future of multiple power sources and much lower pollution. We will put America in the drivers seat of internet commerce. We will make America the standard for education in the world.”
Enough of the four corner offense.Enough of the playing not to lose. Dance with the lady that brung you, Democrats. Dance with the social safety net programs that keep folks from starving when things get bad. Dance with the programs that lift people out of poverty. Dance with the reshaping of
America for the 21st century commerce. Dance with the programs that allow Americans to live out their lives in dignity. Dance with programs that create jobs with decent pay and with dignity.
In short dance with the policies that Americans prefer overwhelmingly when asked about them by themselves. Democrats don’t beat yourselves. Run as Democrats!