The Ripon Forum

Volume 44, No. 1

Winter 2010 Issue

The Archie Manning of American politics

By on October 23, 2014

To young Americans today, Archie Manning is best known as the father of Peyton and Eli. But to those who grew up watching the game of football in the 1970s and 1980s, he is perhaps better known as one of the finest quarterbacks never to win the Super Bowl.

A two-time pro bowler and NFC offensive player of the year, Archie spent most of his career playing for the New Orleans Saints. Long before Katrina devastated the Crescent City, the Saints were known as the biggest disaster on the Gulf Coast. During Archie’s tenure as quarterback, the Saints compiled a record of 41-96.

But no one ever blamed him for the losses. In the words of sportswriter John Fennelly, the fans viewed Archie as “a terrifically talented QB,” but also knew that “the teams he played for were hapless to say the least.”

One year into his young administration, President Barack Obama is viewed as different things to different people. To some Republicans he is a socialist, while to some Democrats he is a saint. To some on the left he is a savior, while to some on the right he is a threat.

Now, with polls showing that the president is hemorrhaging support among independents and those in the political center, another view is beginning to take hold — namely, that Barack Obama is the Archie Manning of American politics, the one shining star on an otherwise hapless team.

Now, with polls showing that the president is hemorrhaging support among independents and those in the political center, another view is beginning to take hold — namely, that Barack Obama is the Archie Manning of American politics, the one shining star on an otherwise hapless team.

On issue after issue this past year, Obama has called a play only to have others on the field let him down.

On the economic stimulus package, the president called for legislation that didn’t just “throw money at our problems.”

Then he handed the ball off to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who proceeded to do just that by including the biggest spending increase since World War II in the 1,071-page bill.

On the climate change measure, the president called for legislation in which special interests didn’t overshadow “common sense.”

Then he handed the ball off to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, who proceeded to defy common sense by including the largest tax increase in history in the 1,427-page bill.

And in the health care reform debate, the president called for legislation that would not put “government in charge of your health insurance.”

Then he handed the ball off to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who proceeded to give government a massive new role in health care by including 111 new federal bureaucracies in the 1,990-page bill.

On each of these issues, Obama took the snap from the center, then watched as his teammates took the handoff and ran to the left. The result is that independent voters are now leaving him in droves.

The numbers speak for themselves. In the spring, numerous polls showed the president had an approval rating of over 60 percent among those in the political center. By the end of the year, that number had dropped to below 45 percent.

As Democratic pollster Doug Schoen noted in the New York Daily News: “That erosion can only be called a cratering of support. The single biggest reason independents are breaking away from Democrats is that they feel he is spending too much money, increasing the deficit and not addressing the nation’s problems in a bipartisan way.”

Of course, it should also be noted that Obama himself remains very popular. In fact, a recent poll by John Zogby found that 52 percent of Americans are proud to have him as their president. But then, Archie Manning was popular, too. And the people of New Orleans were certainly proud to have him as their quarterback.

The difference, though, is when fans were unhappy with Archie’s team, they would sit in the stands wearing brown paper bags over their heads with the word “Aints” written across the front.

But they would still come to the games. For Obama and his teammates, the problem is much worse. If independents are unhappy with the Democrats in the midterm elections this November, they will either stay at home or switch their allegiance to the other side.

That is exactly what happened this January in Massachusetts, where Scott Brown won 65 percent of independent voters in his upset victory for Ted Kennedy’s seat in the United States Senate. And it’s what happened last fall in Virginia, where Bob McDonnell won 62 percent of independents in his successful campaign to become the commonwealth’s next governor.

The Brown/McDonnell blueprint for victory represents not just the best hope for Republicans in 2010, but the worst nightmare for Democrats. It is a blueprint that stresses issues over ideology and value over values.

It is also a blueprint very similar to the one Obama based his campaign on last year — one that seeks to govern from the center, and one that, unfortunately, Obama’s teammates have now chosen to ignore.

Nearly 25 years after Archie Manning retired from football, the Saints are in the Super Bowl. In large measure, their victories have come because they have found another great quarterback in Drew Brees.

More than anything though, the success of the Saints is due to the fact that their great quarterback is finally surrounded by good talent and the team is all on the same page.

If only Obama were so lucky.

Lou Zickar is the editor of The Ripon Forum.

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