When Followers Refuse to Follow:

When Followers Refuse to Follow:

When those who should be your legislative or political allies refuse to follow, one of two courses in required. Either rethink your strategy or be prepared to use a political hammer. The latter can be ugly, and can only be done from a supreme position of strength.

Examples of when the latter will work? Lyndon Johnson. He was at the height of his power in 1965. And he was not shy about using his hammer to force blue dog democrats to support his far reaching anti-poverty legislation, his civil rights initiatives, and the vast expansion of the social safety net. I recall one member of Congress, who later became Speaker of the House, telling me that he had dared to oppose Johnson’s housing initiative as a freshman. Summoned to the White House along with 19 others who had supported the bill, Johnson began the meeting by stripping the hide off the young Congressman in front of the entire group, lecturing him on his “disloyalty” to the party, to Johnson, and letting him know that if it happened again there might be political consequences. He quickly fell in to line.

Yesterday Harry Reid announced that the Senate will recess without acting on Obama’s “jobs” bill…that same “jobs” bill that Obama implored the Congress to pass less than a month ago.  Reid is sticking a thumb in the President’s eye, and Obama’s diminished standing with the public precludes the hammer strategy.

When dealing from a weak hand, as Obama is, it is essential that “followers” be included in the legislative or campaign strategy early on, that the plan of action be agreed upon, and the score scripted in advance so the “followers” know what tune to sing…something Obama obviously did not do when he crafted the “jobs” initiative. He has now been left to twist in the wind by the democratic leader of the Senate, which further diminishes the President’s political capital.

There is a lesson in this for all candidates for public office. Unless you have the power of a Lyndon Johnson, your “allies” need to be on board with a campaign strategy and ready to stand with you as you prosecute your plan, lest you be left twisting in the wind looking like a “leader” whose “followers” have jumped off the ship.

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