MCCULLOUGH: Quitters never win

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

Quitting. It’s a polarizing subject.

Some people quit too soon. We call these people losers, and the term has more than just its literal meaning.

Other people follow the mantra that you never quit, no matter what, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies depicts that perfectly when Luke fights Dragline in the prison yard in "Cool Hand Luke." Crushing blow after crushing blow knocks Luke to the ground, but he keeps getting up. Clearly beaten, Luke keeps getting to his feet. Even after the rest of the prisoners walk away -- unable to watch any more -- he gets up. Even after Dragline, tired of beating on Luke and probably afraid of killing him, tells him "Stay down. You're beat," Luke gets up. Dragline tries to knock him unconscious -- just so he'll stay down. But he gets up. He keeps getting up until finally Dragline just walks away.

It is a scene that is a testament to both courage and futility. Luke loses the fight but gains respect for never quitting while simultaneously garnering a little disdain for not being smart enough to know that he should quit before he gets himself killed.

Which brings me to Iowa.

I've said this before in previous primaries and I'll say it again: If you're going to go to all that trouble to run for president, at least stick it out past Iowa.

Iowa doesn't even have a true primary. It has caucuses in each county that choose delegates to local conventions, and the Iowa "winner" does not always get the nomination.

There are 49 other states. Why would you stay down, just because one state with seven electoral votes and the media tells you that you should?

If you poll at the very bottom, like Jon Huntsman, then maybe -- maybe -- you should go ahead and admit defeat. But instead, he's getting back up, moving on to New Hampshire. And Rick Perry is hanging in there, too, unlike Michelle Bachmann, who went ahead and folded the tent.

I don't get it. If you've been up as high as the front-runner, then don't you owe it to your supporters to keep fighting, at least until New Hampshire if not until Super Tuesday? Isn't there something to be said for getting up again? Doesn't that show leadership or at the very least grit?

Then again, the last thing I want in a president is a quitter, so maybe finding out who is one ahead of time is the best thing anyway. But personally, I'd rather see them all keep going, at least get up once more instead of just lying there defeated after one bad punch.

Later in the same movie, Luke wins a hand of poker by bluffing. Afterward Dragline, now his friend, smirks to the loser, "He beat you with nothing. Just like today, when he kept coming back at me -- with nothing." Luke answers, "Yeah, well, sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand."

In other words, when you've got nothing -- and nothing to lose -- keep trying anyway. You just might get lucky.

And even if you do lose, at least you can say you didn't give up and you can bow out with your head held high. Or in Luke's case, die with a smile on your face.

That's something Bachmann and the other early quitters in elections past will never understand.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.