Editor’s note: This column comes from somebody I spoke to when I was at the Heartland Climate Conference, ICCC-10—1, 2, 3—and who wishes to remain anonymous. It came at a perfect time because I am today heading up to Ithaca to teach for two weeks.
Since the election of John F. Kennedy, the Democrats have been the cool kids, with a couple of exceptions (Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton). They are the ones with confidence, and a laid-back attitude. If they were not smoking pot behind the portables, they were smoking it somewhere else. They are popular, and they always have plans for Saturday night beyond a shoe-polishing party with dad.
Republicans, even the ones born to wealth, are earnest strivers. They are the ones who wear pressed pants to school, and are always seen in a collared shirt. They might not get the best grades, but they are the hardest workers.
Since the beginning of time, the cools kids have had a way with the not-so-cool kids. Say one of the nerds has something that a cool kid wants (a piece of gum, a Twinkie, a sharp pencil). The cool kid has three options to separate the wanted item from its rightful owner: charm, steal, or mug.
Using charm is the most preferable method because it leaves the nerdy kid the mistaken sense in that he (or she) has caught the attention of one of the demi-gods and that that piece of gum may be the key to entrance into the inner circle.
Stealing also works, and if done on the sly, the fledgling Republican will never know who actually took the Twinkie, but they have their suspicions (and likely a list).
Outright mugging—that is, full-on theft, where the thief and victim see each other during the transaction, is the least desirable method, but it works in a pinch. The downside is that it leaves the muggee with an enduring distaste for the mugger.
President Obama is the undisputed cool kid. All the newspapers and news outlets tell us so. While the GOP has the majority in the Senate, the casual observer would never know it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that Obama has done an “excellent job” of pushing the trade deal. Wait, there’s more. The speaker also said that working on the trade pact closely with the White House “has been almost an out-of-body experience.” Sounds like the president got a lot more than a stick of gum.
Not-cool presidents want to be cool, too. Since its emergence as a health threat, AIDS has been an acknowledged pet cause of the left. George W. Bush increased AIDS funding dramatically, with impressive results. But, his actions won him no love from the progressive wing, and in fact, they doubled-down against him. A case in point is the Iraq war, which had wide bipartisan support at the outset. It wasn’t long before the president was thanked with the “Bush Lied People Died” campaign. Bush tried to get an in with the cool crowd by supporting one of their key issues, and it didn’t work.
What grown-up politicians should have learned in seventh grade is that the cool kids want to be friends with other cool kids.
Sure, as a not-cool kid, the cool kid may find some use for you. You might get invited to the party, and you might get a note passed to you in class. But you’re not coming to the family dinner, and you’re not going to have late-night phone calls with your new bestie. The sooner the GOP leaders (and certain members of the Supreme Court) learn this, the better.
Poor McConnell is expecting Obama to make good on his promise of a bourbon summit. If past is prologue, he will be waiting a long time.