Part of the problem with our instant gratification society is that we forget that politics is a game for the long-distance runner.
That means you have to be prepared to be tackled and have the wind knocked out of you a few times before you get to the Super Bowl. The old pros used to know this. They’d say, you run once to get known, and once to get elected. Personally, I don’t think you can ever tell what a politician is made of until he or she gets her butt royally kicked.
A few years ago, an idealistic young liberal came to ask my advice. He had decided to run against an aging Republican congressman. The district was Republican, but not hopelessly so. The congressman was aging, had gotten a little lazy, and was a little out of touch and a little more conservative than his base.
“I think there is a good chance you can beat him,” I told the young guy, “if you plan to run twice.” He looked at me like I was the man in the moon. “You can’t beat him the first time, but you can lay a foundation. If you do well enough, you may even scare him into retirement.” “Look, I am going to win this thing, this year,” he told me. I didn’t argue. After all, I have been married for a long time. To make a long story short, he blew all his money, lost, got disgusted, and moved out of state. Years later, the old congressman is still there.
Every politician I know who is worth his free parking place suffered a defeat like that, took his licking, popped back up and kept on ticking. George W. Bush lost a congressional race a long time ago. His daddy got badly beaten twice for the senate. Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton all lost before they won.
Bouncing back is a little harder now because running for office costs so much. But I still think you often learn more through adversity than through success. Which brings us to Mike Bouchard, who I think is an appealing candidate on a number of levels. He has a good shot at winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat this year.
But while anything can happen, the odds also indicate he’ll probably lose in November. If that happens, both Bouchard and the voters needn’t conclude that he needs to be banished forever from the lists of our future leaders. After all, it was only a dozen years ago that a young woman from Lansing lost a tough primary for governor. Later that year, she ran for lieutenant governor, and lost by nearly a million votes.
You may have heard of her. Today, she is United States Senator Debbie Stabenow.