Politics As Sport

A coworker approached me this morning clutching his copy of the NY Post. He was beaming, gloating about Republican Scott Brown beating Democrat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts’ special election for the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy’s death. While he’d never said a word when McCain and the Republicans were trounced in the 2008 elections, he was happy to talk about how the Republican Party was “coming back strong now.”

Interestingly, his manner and way of speaking were identical to office conversations about sports teams. While I’m not a baseball fan, I did enjoy it when the Red Sox beat the Yankees in 2004. Office Yankees fans didn’t have much to say back then, but after that there were times when Yankees successes were followed by similar office trash talk.

I’ve had the feeling for some time now that for at least some people the rivalry between Democrats and Republicans is very much like a sports rivalry – like that between Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Instead of reasoned debate about important issues, we get mindless comments about teams and opponents. Check out these comments on today’s NY Post web site:

Regarding recent Yankees free agent signings –

HEY SON
01/19/2010 9:31 PM
BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAA THE BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL GOT BETTER !
THAT HAS GOT TO KILL YOU SON !
28 IN 20-10 !

Regarding the Massachusetts Senate race –

LEGION57
01/20/2010 5:00 PM
Hey osama obama- prex ZERO, YOU LOSE- ahhhhaaaahahahahahahahaaaaa

Yeah, I’m sure that’s the kind of debate the founding fathers envisioned back in 1776.

It’s not surprising that politics has been imbued with the same emotional fervor – and lack of reason – as sports. After all, that is how politics is now presented by the media. But as Jay Rosen said in his piece back in 2004:

I hope other journalists confronting the political puzzles of 2004 will read James, read Adam Nagourney and Jim VandeHei and hear their defiant cry: Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever! And I hope other journalists will ask themselves: must this go on indefinitely?

Let’s hope not. Meanwhile, I think it would help if the Democrats actually developed some new Big Ideas that would guide them in governing and help voters understand their agenda. And it might be useful to view the events in Massachusetts with some perspective and humor. (As usual, Jon Stewart has been great.)

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About Dave Higgins

I've been interested in current events since at least the mid 1960's, and in ideas from modern science since the early 1990's. My website Quantum Age, which has been online since 1996, presents a basic framework for applying ideas from modern science to today's world. In this blog I discuss current events in the context of that framework.
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