A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in a waiting room at the car shop when something interesting occurred. The waiting room, which probably held about 25 people, was at about half capacity. There were an assortment of folks from different walks of life seated around this room; a soccer mom over here, a business guy over there. Although a few people were preoccupied with work from the office or random messages on their blackberries, the majority of us chose to pass our time by watching the flat screen TV mounted in the corner of the room which was tuned in to the local news. After about a half an hour or so, in walks a middle-aged Asian guy who casually strolls in, looks at the TV, picks up the remote control and, without consulting anybody else in the room as to whether we were watching the TV, he proceeds to change the channel to Fox News. But he doesn't stop there. As I mentioned the TV was mounted in the corner of the room pointing towards the center of the room at a 45-degree angle, however all of the chairs had their backs placed squarely against one of the four walls like you would expect in a waiting room. This guy, without giving it a moment's thought or the slightest bit of hesitation, takes one of the chairs out away from wall and places it in the middle of the room at a 45-degree angle directly in front of the TV. Mind you, by doing this, he completely blocked the view of the people seated directly behind him who were watching the news prior to his arrival. Nobody else's opinion in the room mattered to this guy. He saw what he wanted, and he took it. It was supposed to be his way. Naturally. Of course the TV should be tuned to Fox News. What else is there? Of course he should have his seat front and center. Why wouldn't he? And that's when it hit me: this guy personified the Republican Swagger.
You have to hand it to the Republicans, their swagger is like no other. This is a group of people who believe deep down in their heart of hearts that this country should do things their way regardless of whether the American public has voted them into office or not. America has just spent the last 2 years witnessing this phenomenon first hand. In November of 2006, and again in November of 2008, the Republicans took a "shellacking" that made the Democrats' recent defeat look like a training exercise. Yet, despite the clear rejection of Republican ideals by the American public over the last 4 years, the Republicans constantly insisted - and apparently quite persuasively - that if the newly elected Democrats were not using Republican policies along every step of the way for every problem facing the country then the Democrats were just flat out doing it wrong. Not doing it "differently" - doing it "wrong." You have to admire a swagger like that.
After all, it's not just anybody who can run a country into the ground, and then convince the surviving victims to give it a second chance. That takes a special kind of swagger that only the Republicans seem to be able to deliver.
When Obama was first appointing his cabinet members, I remember having a conversation with one of my Republican friends about his first few selections - all Democrats. My Republican friend was livid! I asked her what the problem was and she yelled in the most matter-of-fact voice "that was stupid of Obama. He should have appointed [republican guy], [republican guy] and [republican guy] into those positions!!! How stupid is this guy?!!! He's not doing it right!!!" Then I asked a question, "um....didn't you guys lose the election.?" She responded without missing a beat, "AND? What's your point?" I responded "well...I'm just saying, I don't recall the last time a Republican president appointed a group of Democrats to his presidential cabinet after the Democrats lost." Then, in a response so genuine it almost made me think I was crazy, she said "well of course not! Why would they do that?" I just had to shrug my shoulders, "I guess they wouldn't. My bad."
You've heard the old saying "perception is reality" before right? Well in no other area of life is that more true than in Politics. Swagger plays a direct roll here. Simply stated, swagger is directly proportional to perception. The more swagger one possesses, the more likely it is that that person can create a perception to their advantage that will stick. With the right amount of swagger, you can convince 44% of Americans that their own taxes have gone up even though they could easily look at their own pay stubs and see that, in fact, their taxes have gone down; you can make 58% of Americans doubt whether our President is an actual US citizen; and you can also convince 43% of Americans that the Republican approach to solving the recession - having government do nothing - is the right approach as opposed to the Stimulus. All of this, ladies and gentlemen, was made possible by Republican Swagger.
When that guy changed the channel to Fox news and positioned his chair in the middle of the room, he did it in such a matter-of-fact way that you could easily tell that about 1/2 of the room was convinced that he was correct in what he was doing - as if he had the authority to change the channel. They were convinced that he must have worked there or something. If he had stood up and told the room that they needed to clear out of there at that moment, I'm willing to bet about 1/2 of the cats in the room would have actually got their asses up out of their chairs and left. The truth of the matter, however, is that he didn't work there. He had no authority. His ideas about what we should watch on TV weren't any better than anybody else's ideas. He just had Republican Swagger.
The question I'd like to pose to you is this: what would our society look like if the Democrats or Independents had 1/2 as much swagger as the Republicans?