In politics, as in football, the real key is the straight-ahead application of brute force.
Oh, sure, there’s a certain amount of finesse involved in both pursuits. Quarterbacks aim to drop in a perfect pass and running backs can always juke their way into the open field. But in football, the bigger, rougher team tends to win. Note, for example, that even with Barry Sanders’ elusive running, his Lions didn’t win many games.
For politicians, playing tough means being willing to say or do whatever is necessary to win. And, sadly, in the political realm, liberals tend to be much more aggressive than conservatives.
All too often, right-wingers try to build consensus. We want to “extend an olive branch across the aisle” and work with “our liberal friends.” It’s fine to do that as long as we’re not compromising our principles. If liberal lawmakers want to vote for smaller government, support our military in Iraq or slash unnecessary farm subsidies, that’s wonderful. Let’s make a bipartisan deal to accomplish those worthy goals.
Sadly, that’s not how it works. Usually, when conservatives decide to work with liberals, we end up advancing liberal ideals. During the debate over the immigration bill, for example, Republican Sen. Trent Lott went out of his way to praise the liberal lion from Massachusetts.
"Senator Kennedy, I appreciate the legislative leadership you have been providing. I know it is not easy, you know, and your own colleagues and those of us over here have been beating you up,” Lott said on the Senate floor. “Good luck, senator from Massachusetts.”
Predictably (since Lott was working to do what Ted Kennedy wanted him to do by supporting an amnesty bill), Kennedy was kind. “I thank my friend from Mississippi, and I commend him for a constructive and a positive attitude,” he responded.
Well, isn’t that nice. It’s good that we can all agree to get along when Kennedy’s pushing for a bill that’s so bad even Lott admitted, “I don’t like a lot of what is in the bill.” But the fact is that Kennedy doesn’t always play so well with others.
Recall that less than an hour after Ronald Reagan nominated a conservative for the Supreme Court in 1987, Kennedy took to the floor of the Senate. “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government,” he thundered.