Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Tour de France

I have been sucked in to the Tour de France lately (blame my husband) and have been struck with its similarity to how things get done on Capitol Hill. I'm not talking just about the scandals (although both have certainly had their share). It's just interesting that it's such a strategic race -- as much about physical stamina as it is about smarts. Following are just a few interesting correlations:
  • You don't have to win a stage to win the whole thing -- it seems counter-intuitive that you could come in second or third or fifth EVERY DAY and still win the overall race. Yet that's the case with the Tour de France and it's often the case in trying to get legislative initiatives through the Congress. You don't have to get your initiative through every single step (from subcommittee to the House and Senate floor and conference committees), rather, you just have to get it in at key points and keep it there.
  • It doesn't matter that people are ahead of you -- what matters is WHO is ahead of you and where they are in relation to your time -- Floyd Landis (the current leader) isn't going to get concerned if some yahoo who is 28 minutes back in the overall classification gets 6 minutes ahead. He knows that he'll still keep the yellow jersey and will also keep some of his strength for assaults on subsequent days if he doesn't chase. But when someone who is closer to him in time gets ahead, that's a problem. And he's prepared to put the hammer down at that point.
  • Even if you don't win the whole race there are other prizes along the way -- the dizzying array of jerseys (white, green and, umm, polka dot?) make it possible for riders to specialize in sprinting or riding mountains or just being a good young rider (I wish I could specialize in being young). Likewise, in dealing with legislation, it is important to look for those "alternative victories" along the way -- especially since overall success is so difficult.
I'll be exploring these and other similarities between the tour and the advocacy process in my next newsletter. Stay tuned.

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