Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Team Play

The two party system has all the appearances of a fair and balanced system. It appears to have both sides constantly angling for majority opinion and support in order to move the minority ideas out of the realm of public discourse, while also having the effect of protecting certain minority positions through political wrangling when smart people think they know what'0s best for the majority. While having some success, it doesn't actually address problems in a meaningful and straightforward way. Rather, the two party system results in the movement of public opinion from one side to another, always showing support for the overall goals of society without ever actually trying to reach those goals. Let me use a sports analogy: Football.
You are a Giants fan and I am a Cowboys fan. We work at the same company, live in the same neighborhood, our children go to the same schools, our wives shop at the same stores, we both have Directv & a Sony HDTV, etc. You get the picture. On game day, however, I hate your team and you hate my team. In fact, we might even get in a fist fight over a call in a game every few years. But we always make up by Tuesday and we go on with our lives because football isn't everything and really has no bearing on how successful we are or how much money we make, or whether our kids go to good schools, you know, the important stuff in life.
So lets take a little bit deeper look at why we love football so much and why team loyalty is so important. Each team has its own personality. This fits with its fans and serves to increase fan loyalty (or increase animosity from the other team's fans). We live in a society where competition is placed up with the loftiest of ideals. Competition is on par in America with patriotism, love of family, personal responsibility, and freedom. The hook on competition is that someone wins (getting the spoils) and someone loses (giving up the spoils). We cheer and look up to people who win. Winning is very important because it is the pinnacle of competition. Even if your team makes it to the playoffs, people look up to them because that means they won more often or won the important games. When your team wins, you get this sense of sharing the win, you also vicariously succeed. When your team wins, you become the successful free man who loves his family. So, when the Giants win against the Cowboys, you are a vicarious hero and I am stuck with the personal responsibility of sticking up for my team even though they lost. Notice, however, even if my team loses, I win the right to show my personal responsibility and thus reinforce that I am still part of the important ideals of our country.
Lets look further, though, into who really wins in this scenario. While you and I were rolling around in the backyard because of a bad call, FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN, TBS, etc are arguing about who gets the right to the superbowl broadcast for 2012. The tv network wins no matter what. In the microculture of Dallas fans vs Giants fans, neither one of us cares about the tv coverage, but the bigger culture understands that having the right to show the game in your living room and my living room at the same time is valuable. The NFL wins. The NFL makes money every time you buy a ticket, buy a beer in the ball park, buy a hat, buy a shirt or any official NFL gear. By that standard, too, all the NFL franchises win when you buy schwag from their teams. Nike wins. They sell lots of shoes because of my kids obsession with T Owens. They sell headbands and undershirts. They economy wins because the NFL franchise and the people who are in control of the bigger picture are smart and powerful. If (like in the NHL) the people who control the bigger picture are dumb, then the league goes out of business and we all lose.
So apply this idea to the republicans and the democrats. This two team system is very strong. Although our political system has the option to be flexible and accommodate wide ranging debates on the issues and an infinite number of teams, it does not because the two team system has been properly managed and works to benefit a great number of people. The two team system also plays into the psyche of the wider American culture because of our love of football and our love of baseball and our love of head to head action. If you think about it, Nascar is way more democratic that football. There are
30+ teams in every competition. Anyway I digress. This two team system
30+ is
ingenious and probably grew organically with the times because people who really care about politics are the minority in our country and they needed to figure out a way to get the rest of us involved. Team loyalty applies here too. I still cheer for the Cowboys, even though I know that they are a bunch of drugged up babies who have serious mental problems. Why? Because it makes me happy when my team wins. It also makes me happy to see the look on the other people's faces when there team gets beat by mine. After all it is just entertainment and on Monday, we are all friends again. This team loyalty to the repubs or the demos is very strong and our culture reinforces it everywhere. Again, if managed properly, this system works and everyone prospers. Remember, too, that the campaigns are a microculture of us vs them and there are clear winners, regardless of the outcome of the current game. Although I can tell that there are some clear winners, I have to admit it is not as easy to point out who wins regardless of the election outcome.
This much I do know, though, I never win. Doesn't matter if Repubs win or demos win, I lose. No one shows up at my house with a check or even a thank you. I get almost half of my earnings stolen from me without my consent and put into the hands of people who don't even know me. I get lied to. If a party wins, they never implement the things they promised in their platform. Then I get lied to again when they try to explain why they are not following their platform. At least the Cowboys don't lie to me or steal my paycheck and they always thank their fans for supporting them. I also get extra restrictions put on my life that I don't need or agree with and that I can't do anything about. Why should there be a law against walking around outside nude? That's really kind of insane that one could get arrested and detained against their will for taking off their clothes - and there are thousands of insane laws like that. When people get disappointed in me because I vote none of the above, I understand that they are caught up in the team loyalty stuff. Its like having an avid soccer fan talk to you about soccer. Who cares? And so many Americans are disengaged from politics. If politics wasn't a direct and everlasting drag on my ability to achieve success in this world, I wouldn't pay attention either.
Lets be honest, there will always be a power structure of people who benefit from what the rest of us do. That's why anarchy, atheism, and similar ideas will never take hold because they are born in a contradiction. You can't be anti-establishment or ant- religion without admitting that they exist. So, we need more games like Nascar where many teams compete side by side and there are accumulated points available over time to show who was the best. We should invent one.

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