In the beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, the two title characters play a game called Calvinball. This is a game with no established rules. In fact, the rules are made up as they play, and the game can never be played the same way twice. Part of the fun is changing the rules on the fly, doing whatever it takes to keep your opponent from gaining the upper hand, and creating rules that grow more and more outlandish as the game goes on. Sounds like fun, right? Many Republicans would likely think so, because it seems that is exactly what they’re trying to do as they play politics.
It is important to note that American politics is in fact a game, one with incredibly high stakes, though it wasn’t meant to be that way. Politicians were originally civil servants, tasked with creating order in a chaotic world. Over the years, it has been corrupted, with politicians turning from servants to masters, and their grabs for power turned politics into a competition, and then a game. But, unlike Calvinball, the game of politics had firmly established rules, set in place to even the playing field and guarantee that all parties play fairly. Since the moment these rules were established, however, players on both sides have bent the rules as much as possible, often stretching them to the verge of breaking. This has simply become the way the game is played. What has gotten lost in this evolution of politics is that there weren’t supposed to be winners or losers. The true purpose of government and politics was to make life as good as possible for the greatest number of people. But, in a world obsessed with winning, with making everything into a battle between “us” and “them,” sides were chosen. And, while the Democratic side still tries to maintain the illusion of working for the common good, the Republicans pride themselves on the fact that they stand only for themselves, and really only a very select group within the party. And, these two parties are now locked into battle. But, the result of the endless fighting between both sides as they try to beat each other, try to win the game that they have created for themselves, is that we all end up losing.
Because, equally important to remember is that while these politicians are playing games, there are real people suffering because of their shenanigans. The money they are playing with is not Monopoly money, and the pieces are not cars or thimbles, but people, real people who need to eat, have health care, and pay their bills. And, while the Republican Party has mastered the art of political gamesmanship, this is the part they seem to have forgotten. Although, to be honest, neither side is guilt-free on this count. Both parties were formed to protect the interests of their members, but neither one truly does. Now, they mainly fight to protect the interests of the corporations that line their pockets.
The Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited political donations by corporations essentially changed politicians from public servants to corporate slaves. They were now property, paid for and controlled by rich corporations. And, their goal changed from doing what was best for the masses to doing what was best for whoever was giving them the most money. Naturally, average citizens couldn’t hope to compete with these corporations in terms of financial donations, so they were quickly forgotten. And, while the Republicans are notoriously the party of the rich, Democrats have quickly adapted to these new rules. Though there are factions within the Party that call for an end to this practice, most can quickly be silenced with the writing of a check.
But, despite their best efforts to forget about the people of this country, politicians were still dependent on their votes in order to get into office. But, they cared so little about the welfare of the masses that they stopped trying to come up with ways to help them. New ideas to benefit the public were no longer a priority. So, with nothing of value to offer, they instead resorted to winning votes by making the other party look bad. The two sides became polarized and extreme, and united their members by slandering their opponents. Political differences quickly turned to genuine hatred, with shots fired on both sides against each other. But, while Democrats certainly play this game, the Republicans are masters.
And, though most of this is nothing new (the New York Times article I linked to is more than a year old), a few things have happened in the last few weeks that make me believe this political game is nearing its end, and that the Republicans are going to win. It is also painfully clear to me that this means that the rest of us are going to lose.
Republicans have resorted to petty games, from trying to change election rules to keep people likely to vote Democrat away from the voting booth (a topic I wrote about in an earlier post), to altering the way that electoral votes are delegated in Presidential elections, to voting against measures they previously supported, just to make President Obama look bad, and keep him from enjoying even a minor victory.
But, the most petty of all their recent moves was probably Representative Louie Gohmert’s response to Obama’s recent proposed jobs bill. Despite the fact that jobs are probably the most important issue to citizens on both ends of the political spectrum, Republicans continue to play games instead of working to get anything done. Obama has called his plan the American Jobs Act from the time he announced it last week, and has traveled the country promoting it in the days since. But, he has not yet formally introduced his bill to Congress. In a move that can only be called childish, Gohmert introduced a bill of his own, conveniently also called the American Jobs Act. But, unlike Obama’s bill, which is actually an attempt to get the American people back to work, Gohmert’s bill aims to repeal the Corporate Income Tax. I’m sure Gohmert harbors no illusions that his bill would actually make it through both the House and the Senate, but that was not his intention. He wanted nothing more than to be a thorn in Obama’s side. He was hoping that by stealing the name of Obama’s bill, he could also steal whatever positive momentum Obama hoped to gain from the bill, which has actually been shown to be fairly popular with the voting public. So, instead of trying to come up with a plan of his own to help steer America out of the lingering recession it finds itself in, he settled for trying to make the President look foolish.
So, what has actually been achieved through all these games? Nothing. And that is the most important thing of all to remember. Our country is in serious trouble, whether anyone in Washington wants to admit it or not. And, serious trouble calls for a serious response. There may be a time for fun and games, but this is not it. And, as long as the Republicans and Democrats in office spend all their time worrying about who’s winning, America will lose.
- Pennsylvania ponders Electoral College revamp (msnbc.msn.com)
- GOP Rep. swipes Obama’s bill name (cbsnews.com)
- Prankster Congressman Swipes ‘American Jobs Act’ Name from Obama [Polidicks] (gawker.com)