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December 14, 2013

On Outside Pressure Groups And Political Influence

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One thing a lot of people seem to be missing is that this past week's new, stubborn determination on the part of elected Republicans in the House to follow their own strategy calculation and to not cave in to outside pressure groups is a direct result of the disastrous experience House Republicans had the last time they caved into pressure from these groups in the effort to shutdown the government in order to fail at defunding Obamacare.

Leadership knew there was no chance that effort would succeed. It didn't take much smarts to game that out. But a sufficient number of members were intimidated by a small number of outside groups and felt they had no choice but to go down that road and crash into that wall.

Predictably the effort failed, not for lack of principles or courage, but because of obvious political reality that anyone with any sense already knew ahead of time. Elected members got burned by caving in to unwise and flawed strategic pressure from the outside groups.

The strategic mistake here was a small number of outside groups taking a predictably flawed strategic position and then intimidating elected officials into following that flawed strategy. It was a mistake, and the repercussion is that their influence going forward is diminished.

Those who attempt to lead are responsible for where they lead people. If you lead people into a dead end, an ambush, or especially into a battle there was no chance of winning, you're responsible for what happens. That's why positioning yourself as a thought leader or strategic leader carries with it responsibility.

The merits or demerits of the Ryan budget plan is actually a completely separate issue.

Even worse, it's possible that House leadership would have been more open to influence from outside groups on the details of the Ryan budget deal if the groups had not so badly overplayed their hand and pressured House Republicans into a badly flawed strategy in October. As it is now, they've totally lost their ability to influence and persuade. Now they can only oppose and attempt to intimidate, which is not the best tool outside groups have.

We are at our most influential when we persuade, not when we try to intimidate.

Dr. Merrill Matthews and I recorded a podcast Thursday afternoon that touches on a lot of this.

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