Sunday, March 15, 2015

The GOP and A Good Tennis Swing

This article is titled The Myth of Follow-Through. It's a short 'debunking' of common beliefs that non-pro tennis players apparently have about how the movement of the racquet after striking the ball impacts the shot itself. Apparently a lot of players believe that, for example, good follow-through technique can 'carry the ball on the strings' for a little bit and improve aim--or maybe that with the right follow-through, the continued movement of the racquet with the ball on it (even if just for a second!) can impart a good "top-spin."

From the article:
In actuality, the ball is against (not "on") the strings for only three-to-six milliseconds . What is a "millisecond?" As a reference, once the ball hits the strings, it takes you 30-to-40 milliseconds to hear that sound or feel the shock! 
The ball is gone and off the strings almost at the instant of contact, and the racquet cannot catch up. As you continue your follow through, the ball has been long gone.
In other words: follow-through, while important to your technique, is not important because of how your stroke performs during the actual hitting of the ball.

Key takeaway: a lot of people believe it does--erroneously.

Which gets us to the Republican's foreign-policy initiative(s).

The Republican Foreign Policy Front
You may remember a few long days ago (before the Great Clintonian Email Epoch) when some guy running for office in Israel came and gave a speech before Congress (he was invited, even! By congress!) without any coordination with the Oval Office. There was a time of Great Outrage. Mighty Think-Pieces were launched--and Strum und Drang (whatever that means--The Omnivore thinks it has something to do with guitars and that blue stuff you pour in your sink when it's backed up) was had.

The (thus-far) net effects?
Mind The Drop-Off On Mar 03 . . .
That was The House. Then we get The Senate's 47 Ronin Senators and their "Constitutional primer" letter to Iran. The Federalist--a hard core, hard right publication responds with 4 reasons it was stupid:
  1. C'mon: Iran understands our system of government and pretending different is just, well, stupid.
  2. We should not be sending letters of any sort to Iran and legitimizing their government.
  3. This is naked opportunistic (they don't use that word) politics. It's not like we should care about any deal with Iran as they will lie. Get ready for that eventuality.
The article--it kinda has a point.

Independents tilt mildly towards “inappropriate” but the real action here is in the unusual partisan asymmetry. Democrats split 11/71 but Republicans split just 53/10. How come?
The author (HotAir's Allahpundit) floats that maybe Republican voters like the idea of a strong executive in theory even if they don't like / trust Obama--or maybe they are just war-weary in general and the hawkish-angle isn't playing? The article touches on the fact that (uh, obviously) although sent to Iran (kinda) the letter was really aimed at The White House (which, had they actually done that and addressed the letter to Obama, despite this article's title, would have been far more 'precedented' then letters to the Mullahs.)

No, it seems that these 'Foreign (policy) Adventures' don't play well at home--in much the same way that airing one's family's dirty laundry in public doesn't play well with the household. Also: just as, uhm . . .  erm . . . shockingly?

To whom did this seem like a good idea?

This brings us back to tennis.

The Art of Political Follow-Through
You can't make too much of metaphors in general--but keep with The Omnivore on this one (even though The Omnivore knows nothing from tennis). In the political realm people who can look "10 moves" (or '11 dimensions') ahead are kidding themselves. There are so many variables about how things play out that moves like "Let's knock-down our World Trade Center towers so that we have a really bad excuse to  invade Iraq--it'll be :: sing-songy :: Awe-some!!" would just be idiotic suicide if people really entertained them ("We'll need 100's of people for this--but trust me, guys, none of them will ever talk!!" and "Crud--did we use the Saudi Arabia covers instead of the Iraq ones? Oh, hell, no one'll ever notice!").

So people don't. That's why your massive, high-risk conspiracy theory never happened.

But what about looking ahead oh, three-to-six milliseconds? That's just the average seek-time of a hard-drive: It doesn't sound too hard does it? No--it does not. Having a view of the immediate aftermath and a plan to deal with said aftermath should be part of the initial plan itself (kinda like having a plan to rebuild Iraq after we invade it? No--no, don't think too much about that one).

In case you are thinking The Omnivore means some kind of elite squad of suit-clad Public Relations Gladiators to use sneaky tactics, cinematic movie hacking, and deftly timed news-leaks to in-your-pocket reporters (which you then throw in front of a subway train if they ever turn on you), The Omnivore isn't requiring that.

The Omnivore is talking about having (A) a plan and (B) agreement on it from your group about how to talk about this thing you are about to do. This should not be impossible--or even all that difficult. In fact, The Omnivore will give you, the GOP, a small set of pointers:

The First Key To An Effective Operation Is Doing Something You Can Sell To The Middle
  1. Most Americans have a different gradient of cares than your base (either Left or Right). The fact that they poll as "liking" or "disliking" something isn't a good barometer of how much they like it (at least not by itself). Most Americans like the Keystone-XL Pipeline. They aren't willing to go to war over it. Most Americans like expanded background checks for firearms. They don't vote for that when the chips are down. If you are going to take 'Xtreme Action' look for sweet spots. 
  2. Hawkish foreign policy is not a sweet-spot for Most Americans. It's not even a sweet-spot for the Republican base. Be careful in that arena.
  3. Battling with Obama is not seen as a bonus for Most Americans. If that were true Romney would be president. If you are having a hard time remembering that, put up, like, an Obama 2012 bumper sticker or something.
The Second Key Is This: Spinning Your Message Is Not The Same As Selling Your Message
  1. In order to actually "sell" your policy you must say roughly the same thing to all audiences and certainly cannot say opposite things depending on who you think is listening. Everyone is listening now (just ask any SAE frat-boy). This means you must have a single consistent message that you can 'accessorize' as necessary (by audience). If your party, as a unit, cannot agree on when to take a bathroom break, this is going to be impossible and you need to hold off on your battle-plan until you resolve it.
  2. As a, uhm, random example, if you are taking the Department of Homeland Security hostage to try to repeal an immigration executive order, claiming you're "not taking hostages" and then having Ted Cruz come out and say the plan was doomed because you "Don't take a hostage you aren't prepared to shoot," would be an example of badly spinning your message and strategy.
  3. It's okay to use a dog-whistle once in a while--but if you consistently go over-the-top you will lose credibility. Words like 'tyrant' and 'dictator' actually mean things (explicitly: that people living under one--especially mass-media figures and government officials--cannot use those terms when describing the autocrat). Abusing them with the general public as a signifier to your base ("Look! I am a severe conservative!") is going to taint everything else you try to say. If you constantly accuse someone of an actionable crime without ever bringing charges or producing evidence, eventually you come to look like an asshole. Or . . . worse.
The Third Key: You Can't Look Crazy
  1. It's okay to be upset sometimes--it's even okay to be angry--but you have to understand this: if you are part of a national party you automatically have a national audience. If you aren't quite getting what The Omnivore is saying here, try this: "Second-Amendment Solutions" is your equivalent of "Die cis scum" (if you have no idea what that last means, (a) The Omnivore is envious of you and (b) don't click the link). In case that was too opaque? Talking about overthrowing the government looks crazy. It doesn't look fed-up-and-frustrated. When you are speaking to a group that is heavily armed and cites the explicit purpose of being heavily armed as being ready to overthrow the government when necessary, talking about it from a position of leadership looks insane. It does not look statesman-like (or even States-Rights-Statesmanship-Like). Leave that rhetoric to the 15 guys marching on Washington DC to peacefully demand Obama's resignation.
  2. Similarly, claiming you don't know where Obama was born when you are a civilian makes you look adorably  fruity and, well, maybe a bit racist. Doing it--even snidely--when you are an elected official makes you look like you're also not sure if we faked the moon landing. Who's to say? It was a long time ago--and Kennedy was a Democrat and therefore a liar, right? Could have been done on a Hollywood sound-stage--was that Capricorn movie a documentary? Hard to know. Oh--and you're pretty sure you saw Big Foot on a camping trip a while back. Could've been. . . . Hey, does someone need to look into that whole Holocaust thing? Teach the controversy, eh? Isn't that our tag-line?
  3. Creating an environment where conspiracy and paranoia can flourish is not the sign of a healthy perspective. If major, heavily trafficked sites in your political spectrum feature economic and societal apocalypse as the major thrust of their premier advertising then you should probably take a good hard look at your party's messaging strategy. You are trying to sell yourselves and your ideas--what you are really selling is fear and--and The Omnivore means this literally as a description of fear 'turned up to 11'--possibly even terror. There are probably costs to doing that--costs you morally bear as a leader--don't you think?
The Omnivore isn't sure if the smarter conservative bloggers are seeing the same things The Omnivore is and just ignoring them? Or if they are in some kind of partisan delusional cloud. Do they misunderstand something fundamental about political dynamics the same way novice tennis players do about how a tennis stroke works? It's just unclear. To The Omnivore it is painfully obvious that the Republican party is just in no kind of shape to launch major policy offensives right now. They are unable to make policies that are easily sold to the middle (start with health care, right? Should be easy: one plan, everyone behind it, keep the good O-Care stuff, but no mandate?), organize message discipline around said plan, and then promote it without veering off into tinfoil hat territory. 

It's not like that should even be hard: it's basic political dialog--you don't have to be perfect, just, you know, decent. With this low bar-to-clear constantly whacking Republicans in the face, it is probably not the time to be organizing geo-political events. Alas, Cassandra-like, no one listens to The Omnivore (except you: so Share This On Your Facebook, you slackers!).
Party Platform


  1. I am so cribbing that Sturm and Drang line.

  2. Good points. Wonder where you think this leads in the near-mid term. Is the current R party tenable as a governing body in a dual-party system? Or is the combo of redistricting + echo chamber + tin foil crowd just too much to overcome for effective governance, as you indicate re: major policy initiatives? What will it take to 'return to the middle' if the extreme right views every presidential defeat as an indication not that they are too extreme but that they are not extreme enough?

    1. I think that the "death of the party" is over-stated (the Whigs demise took a civil war). There's simply no return on investment in voting 3rd party so large numbers of people simply won't do it (there are some strategies that mitigate that--which I've covered here).

      I think what we're in for is Boehner / McConnell passing what they have to with Dems and then hitting back on everything else. In other words the hottest possible cold-war. Now, we may see actual insurrection in the ranks since the incentives for some House Reps are pretty perverse (and people see things like Cotton's letter as a path-to-glory, so we might see some more of that).

      But mostly I think it'll just run along at a low boil.

      I will note that a SCOTUS strike down of ObamaCare could do some real damage to the GOP. If they are literally forced to take action and the only likely action is essentially pro-ObamaCare that might ... leave a mark?

      -The Omnivore

  3. Thanks, good points. Would love to hear your thoughts on the mid-long term political re-alignment that I think is coming (10-20yrs) based on a number of key trends...

    1. Technology: AI, Internet of Things, Cloud everywhere and implications on privacy, rights, etc. Could envision a coming together of libertarians from the right with the far left.

    2. Demographics: rise of the millennials, increasing hispanic participation in politics, etc. and implications to a blue Texas, traditional 'right/left' split, etc. --> could changing demographics (including the aging and dying-off of Fox's demo) lead to a shift of the 'middle' to the left?

    3. Religion & Science --> increasing divisions between R & L on the faith v. fact divide, surfacing in things like climate science, evolution, etc. This could get ugly with the rise of the ultra-fundamentalist movements in all religions - Christianity, Islam, etc., and how they see themselves fitting in v modernity.

    4. Biosphere/Climate - huge implications of rising sea level on national security given likely refugee crises to come, water rights, loss of land mass, etc.

    Likely more vectors, but these are a few that I think may reframe traditional left-right politics and make current arguments look like child's play.

  4. These are worth a follow-up post in its entirety. Possibly more than one.

    -The Omnivore