The term “rope-a-dope” is generally attributed to a boxing strategy employed by former heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali in his eight-round victory over George Foreman in their October 30, 1974 title fight in Zaire.
Following the advice if his long-time trainer, Angelo Dundee, Ali spent most of the first seven rounds of the fight with his back against the ropes, covering his face and upper body with his arms and hands. In doing so, he took round after round of brutal punishment at the hands of his opponent. However, by the time the bell rang to begin the eighth round of the fight, Foreman was so fatigued by his unrelenting attack that Ali was able to score an eighth-round knockout.
But “rope-a-dope” as a competitive strategy is not exclusive to the boxing arena. Anyone who has been a keen observer of the American political scene for more than fifteen minutes will understand that Republicans have spent many decades turning the “rope-a-dope” concept into a political artform.
For example, history tells us that, beginning in 1866, following the close of the Civil War, Democrats created a paramilitary auxiliary called the Ku Klux Klan. The sole purpose of the Klan was to intimidate black people into continuing their subservient support of their former slavemasters and to insure that they regularly and unfailingly voted the Democrat ticket. Blacks who demonstrated a bit too much independence of thought and action were dealt with in a most brutal fashion. It is not known how many people were murdered by the Klan in the 17 years between 1865 and 1882 because no official records of the reign of terror were kept. However, according to statistics maintained by the Tuskegee Institute, between 1882 and 1951, KKK Democrats murdered some 4,730 people… substantially more people than were murdered by al Qaeda on 9/11. Of these, 3,437 were blacks and 1,293 were whites… mostly white Republicans.
While Klan membership has been almost exclusively Democratic throughout its history… at times numbering well over one million members… Democrats have been able to identify at least one Republican Klan member… David Duke, of Louisiana. And when the Klan is mentioned in a political context, Democrats are trained to immediately mention Duke’s name as a prime example of Republican racism, causing Republicans to immediately go into “rope-a-dope” mode.
It has been estimated that, if Republicans could consistently win at least 17% of the black vote across the nation, it would be all but impossible for Democrats to ever win a national election. Nevertheless, “rope-a-dope” Republicans have totally ignored the cruelty and the humiliation of Democratic racial atrocities as a campaign issue for fear of retaliation by Democrats. Instead, they prefer to lean against the political ropes and allow Democrats to pummel them mercilessly with charges of racism and social injustice.
Republican cowardice was never more evident than during the Clinton impeachment trial in January and February 1999. The Senate trial began early in the 106th Congress, in which Republicans held 55 Senate seats and the Democrats held 45. Sixty-seven votes were required for conviction, which meant that 12 of the 45 Democrats would have to vote with the 55 Republicans to return a guilty verdict. Yet, every one of the 45 Democrat senators strolled to the well of the Senate, raised their right hands, placed their left hands on the Holy Bible, and swore to do “impartial justice” under the Constitution and laws of the United States, knowing in their hearts that, no matter what evidence was presented against a president of their party, they would not vote to remove him from office.
When House managers methodically presented evidence proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the President of the United States… the man most responsible for upholding and enforcing the laws of the land… had lied under oath in a court of law and had engaged in obstruction of justice, 50 senators voted to convict on the obstruction of justice charge and 45 voted to convict on the perjury charge. All of those voting to convict were Republicans; there was not a single man or woman of honor among the 45 Democratic senators.
If the Framers were convinced that the United States Senate would always be comprised of honorable men and women when they drafted Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, they clearly did not foresee what would become the Democratic Party. It was a shameless disregard for the rule of law, yet “rope-a-dope” Republicans have regularly ignored what could be a powerful weapon in the ever-expanding war between the parties.
In more recent times, since Donald Trump became our president, Democratic duplicity has provided numerous opportunities for Republican political advantage… all of them ignored by “rope-a-dope” Republicans as if they were sexually transmitted diseases.
For example, when questions arise regarding the motivations behind the so-called “Russian collusion,” Democrats invariably assume that, if the Russians did interfere in our 2016 General Election, to the detriment of Hillary Rodham Clinton, they did so in a conscious effort to help elect Donald Trump. Not once have Republicans pointed out that, if Clinton was defeated because of Russian subversion, it does not necessarily follow that it was done to help the Trump campaign. It could just as easily be the case that the Russians were as frightened at the prospect of a Clinton presidency as were millions of American Republicans. Donald Trump was merely the unwitting beneficiary of their dislike and distrust of Hillary Clinton.
Since the 2016 campaign, Democrats have made much of the June 9, 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower, in New York, in which a Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, arranged to meet with Donald Trump, Jr. by promising to deliver information damaging to Hillary Clinton. From the Trump standpoint, the meeting was merely an opportunity to add to their store of opposition research, an activity that all political campaigns engage in on a daily basis.
As the meeting got under way, it soon became evident to Trump campaign officials that Ms. Veselnitskaya had no information on Hillary Clinton that would be useful to them. What they did not know at the time was that the meeting was intended only to be a setup, helping the Clinton campaign create the appearance that the Trump organization was involved in collusion with Russian nationals. When it was subsequently learned that Ms. Veselnitskaya had met with principals at the George Soros-funded Fusion GPS consulting firm in Washington, DC, both before and after the Trump Tower meeting, it should have occurred to Trump and to other GOP leaders that the meeting was a sham, its only purpose being to create the appearance of a nexus between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Since Trump’s magnificent electoral upset in November 2016, we have yet to hear a single “rope-a-dope” Republican make the case that the Trump Tower meeting was arranged only for the “optics” of the gathering.
Republicans missed another perfect opportunity to score points against Democrats in the days and weeks following the one-on-one Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki. When Trump met with Putin behind closed doors, with only their interpreters present, Democrats threw a hissy-fit, insisting that Trump divulge exactly what the two leaders discussed in private. As expected, Republicans immediately fell into their defensive “rope-a-dope” mode, when the perfect response would have been, “We’ve asked the president about that and he tells us they discussed nothing but golf and their grandchildren.”
Finally, Republicans are regularly charged with the unspeakable cruelty of tearing families apart, separating a few dozen children from their parents when the parents illegally cross our southern border and are taken into custody by ICE agents.
When Democrats accuse the Trump administration of being cruel and heartless, Republicans immediately go into “rope-a-dope” mode. What they fail to point out is that our state and federal governments regularly separate large numbers of children from their American citizen parents. For example, Pentagon statistics tell us that more than 1.3 million men and women currently serve in the U.S. military. Of those, some 55 percent are married and 43 percent have children. And when those parents are deployed to overseas war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, which can last from six to nine months, or more, they do not take their families with them. Many of those military parents have been deployed multiple times.
Further, the United States has the world’s largest prison population. At any given time, roughly 2.2 million Americans – approximately one out of every 115 – are in jail or prison, where they are forcibly separated from their families for long periods of time… some for a lifetime. It is estimated that some 2.7 million American children (approximately 1 in 28) currently have a parent behind bars.
Now that liberals and Democrats have dug themselves into a very deep hole during the first twenty months of the Trump administration, and having demonstrated for all to see who and what they are during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. it seems only reasonable that Republican leaders have an obligation to pick up a shovel and fill it in.
When Muhammed Ali met George Foreman in the boxing ring in Zaire, he allowed Foreman to use him as a human punching bag for seven rounds before putting him down. The question now arises, how long will Republicans allow themselves to be political punching bags before they finally figure out what game they’re in and do whatever is necessary to put the opposition flat on their backs. When will they begin to act like men… or are we to assume that Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the only real man in our party?
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.