On Marathons and Politics
We often talk about comparisons between sports and politics. We don’t often compare it to running, but hear me out.
Three years ago I started to run. What started out as me running a 5K just for the sake of getting into better shape and saying I did it has blossomed into a lot more. Now I do crazy things like I did this past weekend in Virginia Beach, running an 8K race on Saturday followed by a full Marathon on Sunday. And in the course of 26.2 miles, you can come to quite a few startling realizations.
Obviously distance running is different from a lot of other sports. You have to constantly be training to run the distance at which you have chosen, whether it be five miles or 50 miles. You have to work on technique, you have to work on your legs, you have to work on cardiovascular endurance. But there is more than just the physical aspect. A lot of the effort in road racing has to be focused on the mental side of the game. Studying your course maps for elevation, terrain, and water stops; planning your strategy as to how you are going to go the distance; having a level of comfort with your the gear you are going to wear during the race; and being mentally prepared to endure 26.2 miles over the course of several hours.
It’s the preparation that, if you don’t take it into consideration, is key. And the biggest aspect of preparation is understanding your strategy and how you are going to attack the course. It makes no sense, for example, to run an 8:00/mile pace on mile 4 when you know you have to run up steep hills on Mile 20 (I know; I’ve done it). Marathon running is not about burning yourself out early, it’s about having a comprehensive strategy to beat the course and hit your goal time.
So as a veteran of three marathons and a long-time political activist, I can see a bit of a connection between the two of them.
One of the things that is important in politics is taking the long view of things. We can’t be looking for instant gratification with each and every political fight that we tee up for. But at the same time, we have to understand that playing strictly to win the game is not necessarily the best course of action either. For example, there was no way that forcing the issue on Obamacare and shutting down the government last October was going to be a political victory for Republicans. But at the same time, continuing to try to defund Obamacare in the house and being consistent with our messaging is, in fact a good strategy.
What people seem to fail to understand is that regardless of which side of the Republican Party you are on, we win as a team and we lose as a team. That’s especially true here at home.
Me and my Red Maryland colleagues have been trying to play the long-game, the marathon view if you will, for a long time in this state. We have been consistent in our desire to have a party that is more fiscally and ideologically conservative while at the same time understanding the need to abide by the Buckley Rule and support electable conservatives. This tends to manifest itself in ways that seem to anger various wings of the party at any given time.
On one side, you have the squabble in Frederick County right now the supporters of Senator David Brinkley and Delegate Michael Hough. We at Red Maryland have been consistent over time of supporting strong conservatives like Delegate Hough because we do not need any more Vichy Republicans in the General Assembly who support tax increases and increasing the size of government. These are the very same things that, sadly, Senator Brinkley has voted for during the O’Malley Administration. As we have mentioned time and time again, when legislative leadership votes for really bad legislation that stands in opposition to the core beliefs of our party and damages the Republican brand, it hurts all Republicans across the state. Republican branding has been one of our consistent pet peeves, and supporting increases in the size of government and increases in taxes and spending does significant damage to the brand. We see that. We understand that. And that is why we support challengers such as Delegate Hough because they improve the Republican brand without putting a legislative seat at risk.
On the other side of the aisle are people who take a short-sighted, myopic view of building the Republican brand. Look, for example, at those folks who are taking victory laps about the end of our relationship with the Baltimore Sun. Why are they so happy? Because somebody was able to imagine a fairy tale that forced the Sun‘s hand. Instead of being angry that the Sun forced reliable and trusted conservative content out of their pages, they instead gleefully celebrated by embracing left-wing smear merchants like Media Matters. There are people who have so much beef with Red Maryland, they would rather conservative ideas and principles get exposed to fewer people and give less exposure to conservative candidates who need the votes of open-minded voters this fall. Instead of continuing to have a “mainstream” media outlet to continue to do exactly what we were doing, exposing Democrats in this state and challenging the status quo, these folks would rather cede the remainder of the Baltimore Sun to more and more leftist voices.
How is that supposed to benefit conservatism in Maryland?
The same can be sad of the ham-handed efforts by Delegate Rick Impallaria on House Bill 1513. Impallaria and the Harford County Delegate took what was, realistically, an intramural party squabble between warring factions of the Harford County Republican Party and blew it up into a massive issue that involved Republicans and Republican leadership from across Maryland at a time in which precious financial and human resources should be focused on November, not the General Assembly. And why? Because Rick Impallaria had a temper tantrum about who might be on the Central Committee come this fall.
How is making the party deal with inside baseball supposed to benefit conservatism in Maryland?
Now I know some of our critics are going to say that Red Maryland does lots of things that don’t benefit conservatism in Maryland. Of course my colleagues and I would beg to differ on that assessment. As we have noted over and over again, we have spent seven years focusing on the trials and tribulations of the O’Malley Administration, the follies in Annapolis, and the ongoing issues with the #WellRunState. But we have never been afraid to stand up for the advancement of conservative principles when somebody within our party challenges them, nor are we afraid to stand up and say that a candidate who is running for a particular office is unqualified or unfit to carry the banner of our party or the banner of the conservative movement. We are always looking forward, not backward, when we make these pronouncements, or decided upon a Red Maryland endorsement. We are always trying to think strategically of the long view of building conservatism in Maryland, because as anybody who has seen the voter registration numbers or has seen election results can tell you, it is most definitely a marathon and not a sprint.
And that, right there, is the biggest problem with the conservatism in Maryland right now. Too many people are looking at it asking what’s in it for them. They are looking to keep “their” seat, trying to expand “their” power base, worrying more about the short term goal of how to keep control of the situation instead of trying to set the course for a generation. Far too many people act like they are of the “take the ball and go home” mindset than they are in working collaboratively for the good of the conservative movement.
We at Red Maryland endorse candidates, and in races we don’t endorse we will have our individual favorites. But again this is a marathon and not a sprint. On June 25th, regardless of who is the nominee for races across the state, we will be one team with one fight come November. You have to be able to stop and see the entire course, and often I wonder if too many people on our side of the aisle can’t.