The Mess in Congress: How to Succeed at the Short-Term Influence Game While Failing Over the Long-Term

On April 27th, the Washington Post published an op-ed from two very prominent political scientists (Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein) expressing their view that the Republicans are responsible for the current dysfunction in Congress.  Never known for being associated with a particular political party, the two lay out a pretty convincing case, especially when juxtaposed with really, really low Congressional approval ratings (just 17%), and particularly the low approval ratings of the Republicans in Congress.

In looking at this situation through the prism of the Influence Game (all I do these days), it’s pretty clear there’s a big difference between short and long-term success.  The Republicans have been very successful in playing the short-term influence game.  As noted in the article, this all started years ago with Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist, each of whom played an important role in the ascendance of the Republicans.  One of their most successful strategies was to use all the tools at their disposal (see tactic #24), including the electoral process (by finding promising candidates), the legislative process (by capturing the agenda with the “contract with America”) and the media message – in fact, I’ve often said that their use of talk radio was one of the main reasons the Republican party catapulted to success in the 1994 elections.

However, they have failed when it comes to the long-term influence game.  It will be impossible for either party to survive much longer without injecting some civility into the discussion – even if they feel like the other side is saying harsh things (tactic #35). Frankly, I think most of the American people would prefer that one party or the other would take up the “grown-up” mantle.  In fact, I know this is true because when I offer up donkey or elephant stress balls as prizes in my presentations, many people say “no thanks, I’m tired of both.”

In addition, the Republicans have seemed to abandon the tactic of not letting your cause be hijacked by others.  It’s pretty clear to D.C.-insiders that Speaker Boehner has, in many ways, lost control of the party in the House.  It has been hijacked by the far right making it nearly impossible to get anything done.  Successful governance requires some measure of compromise and moderation which may explain why, no matter who you blame, Congress hasn’t been so successful lately.

If you want to know more about how these D.C.-insider strategies can be employed for your own long-term success, please consider pre-ordering The Influence Game.

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