Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The LeBron-ization of Politics

In 2010, the sporting world spent months in anticipation of the decision that its brightest start, LeBron James, would make regarding free agency.  Would he stay home, in Cleveland, or would he risk it all and take his talents elsewhere in search of the elusive championship and greater glory he craved?  The anticipation of his decision led to a one hour extravaganza on ESPN, creatively named The Decision.  His announcement came in the first 5 minutes of the program, leaving the previously rabid viewers with 55 minutes of boredom to fill by surfing for what else (anything else) might be on television that night. 
The initial aftermath of The Decision was ugly for LeBron.  He was harassed by jilted supporters for leaving them behind.  He had to woo his new fans for moral support and lucrative endorsement deals.   The buildup to the decision was more exciting than the actual decision, and news cycle callously moved to something else more titillating within minutes.  After The Decision, it was time for hard work, practicing his moves, meshing with new teammates, and reclaiming his now tarnished image.  The monotony of every day work is not made for TV. 
The machinations of our current GOP political class remind me of LeBron’s The Decision.  The entire primary season thus far has been one, long dull foreplay before he or she deems the electorate worthy of The Decision: Will he/she run?  Some have made an announcement that they have scheduled a date for an announcement of their intentions to make a future announcement.  I can’t blame these White House hopefuls for employing the LeBron strategy of creating buzz around nothing.  It keeps their names in the papers and in the blogs without having to answer any challenging questions about how their decision will translate into a personal championship (aka, the Presidency) within the next 20 months.

“______ is running for President.  Now, what else is on until next October?”

Several candidates have decided not to take their careers and their legacy “to the next level”.  Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Donald Trump (so far), Chris Christie (so far), Jeb Bush (so far) have re-signed with their current teams, and will remain on the bench.  Rick Santorum has scheduled his “The Decision” episode for the first week of June, and Mitt Romneycare is still negotiating the rights for his announcement program.  Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are still talking with their agents and publicists, and teasing party leaders with tweets and red meat primary speeches for a vegetarian general electorate.  Free agency is on hold for those two.  Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich are going for the gold.  Those four have already told the public, “I’m Takin’ My Talents to…Des Moines?”, and they are suffering the post-decision gotcha questions, just like our 6’10” global icon did last year.

“Can you win?”

Like LeBron, it isn’t all about the individual.  He couldn’t win alone.  Championships are made by surrounding yourself with talent.  I’m not sure if Team GOP has enough talent on its roster to surround their nominee with a winning team.  The Republican offensive game plan is filled with gimmick plays (i.e. birth certificate conspiracies and guilt-by-association innuendoes), and it takes a strong defense to win this championship.  Today, Obama has the better defense on his side (Bush only kept America safe from January 2001 until early September 2001 – Obama has kept America safe for 2 ½ years, and he has that big OBL trophy over his fireplace).  Of course, all this could change in a matter of hours in our microwave culture.

Like LeBron, money is a huge factor in the decision.  As Miami Heat ownership will tell you, it takes money to win.  Can the candidate raise enough to compete through the entire primary season?  We all know LeBron can…

In between The Decision and the Iowa caucus, it’s the political regular season, and as we all know, no one cares about the regular season.  For our political players, it’s a seemingly endless parade of strange hotels, stranger cities, and venues half-filled with adoring fans and nutty hecklers looking to get their faces on TV (or YouTube).  No one watches the regular season in politics…except diehards like me.

Once The Decision is made by these pols to run or not to run, the early thrill is gone.  Primary voters may run to their TV sets and laptops to see what else is on…at least until the Iowa caucus.  All these candidates and potential candidates vying to be the next ‘global icon’ are better milking The Decision timeline for as long as possible.  Right now, it is the only exciting part.

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