the playbook

The most successful teams have the best playbook. The most successful teams stick to their playbook, as it gives them time to boost profit and maximize outcome. According to Accenture, the largest consulting firm in the world, “A playbook reflects a plan — an approach or strategy defining predetermined responses worked out ahead of time.” The “play,” so to speak, equates to a workflow shaped by cultural values prompting a consistent response. Note the consistent response from America’s foremost political “teams”:

  • “This has the potential to be the beginning of a serious political problem and devastating legal one.”
  • “The danger persists. The risk is real. Our democracy is at peril.”
  • “It is a political revenge tour that lacks any factual or constitutional basis.”
  • “The American people expect us to do the right thing for the right reasons. It should never be a political issue where you try to taint a political candidate.”
  • “This is an assault on America.”
  • “Today’s announcement is a pretty transparent attempt to distract people from the fact that Congress[persons] have done absolutely nothing to address the issues Americans care about.” 
  • “This is the culmination of three years of [their] stated goal: to impeach and remove this president from office.” 
  • “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”
  • “What a disgrace. Americans deserve better.”
  • “But you know what they have done? They have cheapened the impeachment process.”

Note that the aforementioned collective, consistent response reflects equal numbers of statements from Team Biden and Team Trump, in response to being a target of impeachment.

Bear with me; take a deep breath. Withhold any preconditioned prompt to (semi-)respectfully pounce. Let us insert an immediate caveat. Today’s post is not an admonition nor abutment of either so-called team nor their questionable QB; today is an examination of the playbook, and why a watching world reacts the way we do. For as much as we may passionately like/dislike one or another (think Yankees/Red Sox, Army/Navy, or Ohio State/Michigan — go Bucks), there is no denying the existence of a playbook… and in this case, how eerily similar they are.   

In the current situation, the back of the book’s vocab section references the following: “weak,” “absurd,” “illegitimate,” “baseless,” “political theater,” a “hoax,” a “witch hunt,” “a joke,” “a pathetic political mission,” “a scam,” “plain old payback,” a “nakedly partisan investigation,” “facially and substantively flawed,” “unconstitutional,” “the fleeting politics of the moment,” and “pure political cowardice.” (Or from one non-actual-team member, even a “kerfuffle” — thank you, former British prime minister, Boris Johnson).

Without a doubt, as Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig wrote 4 years ago, “Impeachment is a profoundly disruptive event”… “When Republicans impeached Andrew Johnson for obstructing Reconstruction in 1868, there was no broadcasting. There was no polling, at least not in the scientific sense of today. ‘Media’ in America meant newspapers, which were largely partisan, but whose effect on the public was hard for politicians to gauge. The trial of Johnson was thus conducted by a relatively small political elite that, because they focused on the crisis, at least understood the facts.

The impeachment of Richard Nixon a century later was critically different, in part, at least, because the technology of culture had become importantly different. Democracy had become what [Princeton professor] Markus Prior calls ‘broadcast democracy,’ with an astonishing 85 percent of Americans tuning into at least part of the impeachment hearings via the three major broadcast networks and PBS. And the public had become persistently polled, meaning that politicians in Washington knew what voters were thinking. As the Watergate hearings progressed, Americans weren’t just focused on the story: They were focused on the same story.”

That’s not the case in current day America. We’re not focused on the same story. Both parties — as evidenced above — believe the pursuit of impeachment of the other is politically motivated. Look at the identical playbooks.

It was recently said here — granted, a little in jest — that I think “the two primary established political parties currently take turns being totally whacked.” I actually believe each gets some things right. And wrong. But as evidenced by the immediate refutes, Teflon denials, and yes, eeriness of parallel playbooks, neither team is all healthy, good nor looking out for us all. It’s too partisan. Too divisive. Especially when they know we aren’t focused on the same story.

Impeachment of Biden and impeachment of Trump are not clear cut. I am not suggesting either did nothing wrong; I’m instead acknowledging the profound national disruption. And it is sadly true that neither of the accusing teams are beyond reproach. That’s scary. As one congressperson said (again with their party affiliation interchangeable),”We know how this partisan process will end… but what happens tomorrow?”

In other words, how will they react next? Who will justify the next potentially politically motivated action? And who will attempt to tell us that their actions are lawful and pure while the other is wholly not?

That’s the scary part. We can’t tell. And it’s right there in the playbook.