Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose

or How You Play the Game, but Whether You Compromised with the Person Who Did Lose or Win, Mutatis Mutandis, So That It was a Nonwin-Nonwin Situation for Everybody, Because That's Sportsmanship

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Americans realizing that the Vikings made it first.
Anyone who says it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins this election is even crazier than my cousin Thomas L. Friedman, who is convinced that it does matter, because Trump is not merely more ignorant than a chicken reared in isolation from her peers, but literally proud to be that way, and unable to control the impulses that arise from his total lack of information. Whereas Hillary is merely arguably criminal, not that you should expect me to do the arguing, my specialty being the broad magisterial sweep. In the same way Lester Young was arguably a dick, but had the chops to be the Prez, so does Hillary strike me as presidential material in spite of her well-known and devastatingly arguable ethical issues.
But I'm not even here to talk about the candidates at the moment, though I could conceivably blunder into doing this a couple-three paragraphs down, but about the voters, who are us, and who are possibly even worse than the candidates.
To put it plain and simple, we are all just Sunnis and Shiites now.  
That is to say, our politics has become more and more like that of Iraq, where every time you go outdoors you're in danger of getting blown up, owing to the refusal of the combatants to compromise, for example by agreeing that Prophet Muhammad's father-in-law Abu Bakr and his son-in-law Ali could have formed a management committee and drawn up a sensible succession procedure a millennium and a half ago. Instead they perversely keep insisting that one of them is right and the other one is wrong, which is virtually identical to the belief on the part of Democrats and Republicans respectively that lowering taxes on the very wealthy is a lousy and useless idea and that it's the best idea ever.
Surely you'd think we could come to a common understanding that lowering taxes on the very wealthy is a shitty idea but they should do it anyway, or splitting the difference in some equivalent revenue-neutral way. But we continue to behave as if there were no midway point between these radical extremes.
If you're winning, you're saying to yourself, "I won," so you don't see why you should compromise with the losers, and if you're losing, you're saying to yourself, "I didn't win," so the thought of compromise frightens and disturbs you, which is exactly like the fear of getting blown up every time you leave the house, either way.
Thus Politico reports that Republicans are already plotting ways to prevent President Hillary Clinton from ever getting a legislative victory, while I think Democrats are probably ordering Clinton not to appoint any Republicans to her cabinet, which would equally prevent any legislation from getting passed over the next four years, though I have no actual evidence of this. But if we've learned anything over the last several years of gridlock and mutual distrust, it's that if both sides didn't do it it probably didn't happen, and I'm sick of this situation although I agree that it's permanent and will never change.
Or by the same token Paul Ryan acknowledges that Trump has made vile racist statements but supports him anyway, whereas Democrats perversely deny that Clinton is a criminal in spite of all the evidence I'm declining to discuss, and continue to support her, which only goes to show how fundamentally identical the two parties are.
What can't be denied is that unlike the prevailing style with Olympic athletes, if Hillary Clinton were to accidentally clip Trump in the contest and knock him down, she would probably not go back to help him up, embrace him, and lope together with him to the finish line leaving someone else to finish first, second, and third, as Abbey d'Agostino did with Nikki Hamblin in the women's 5000-meter qualifier, and this is only partly because there's nobody around to finish first, second, and third. It's also the way her deeply partisan spirit makes her feel that his racism and stupidity not only make him unqualified for the presidency, as I've said, but also make him somehow not a nice person, which is so ironic, given that I don't think she's such a nice person either, and yet I would never take sides against her unless she was running against somebody I thought was better. Such are the dangers of partisanship, which I cannot sufficiently condemn.
Because, while I acknowledge that politics is not beanbag, I have to insist that it's not tennis, or golf, or the women's 5000-meter, either. It's more like marriage, where the contestants agree in advance that whoever wins will try his best to do whatever the loser thinks she wants, or conversely, because life isn't about pushing through your program for social justice for all, it's about making your fellow candidates feel good about themselves, and there's no way you can do that if you're all hypercompetitive and dismissive of the other person.
It will be a tragedy if conservatives think the only problem with the Republican Party is Trump, and everything will be fine once he loses and goes away, because it won't, for them. There won't be any Republican Party any more, as we know it. That party's over, and it's time to call it a day. They've burst your pretty balloon and taken the moon away.
But at the same time it will be a tragedy if Clinton misuses an enormous victory to implement her party's platform, because that's exactly the opposite of what her voters expect, which is that she'll implement the Republican platform, but in a nice, caring way. 
Once upon a time Americans were summoned to a race to the moon. But when we bumped into our Soviet rivals and they fell to the ground we gave them a hug and let the Norwegians win. Because that's how we've always rolled. 

See Steve M for some sensible commentary on this idiotic column.

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