Thursday, July 17, 2003

Good post by Melissa regarding the similarities between a certain sort of patriotism and being a fan of a sports team. The only thing that I would add is that it explains the nature of most American political "debate." For many people, dissent should remain cabined to the sort of grousing that you hear at a sports bar or on AM radio -- "Geez, when is Bagwell going to learn he doesn't have to swing?" or "I can't believe he ran it up the middle that time." There's a unspoken boundary to that kind of talk, though, and it comes from the idea that at the end of the day we all have to rally 'round the flag.

I particularly remember overhearing a conversation between some Aggie fans that were grousing about A & M's poor record. They were having a good time, and the tone of matters was "Hey, we can all complain because we're all on the same page here" and so on. But then one of them said that R.C. Slocum should be fired, and it was as if someone had hosed them all down with cold water. The very suggestion created the grave concern that this guy wasn't a real fan, and the conversation turned nasty. And yet, five minutes earlier, they were all talking about how the team was stagnating under Slocum.

I see that going on with American politics. Sure, we can grouse about how the economy is stalling, and we can grouse about how things suck in Iraq. But when we start talking about firing the coach, it is as if we had betrayed our implicit contract with the team.

And all of this brings me to George McGovern's editorial in today's Houston Chronicle. McGovern's thesis is that the Democratic candidates for President should not heed the growing warning "Don't be another McGovern." That is, he flatly says that it was better for him to call Nixon a liar who was mired in Vietnam than to have a decent chance at winning: "Give me a presidential candidate who speaks the truth as he sees it and I'll show you a candidate whose campaign, win or lose, will be good for the nation." And here's the sentence that really makes you stand up and take notice: "The point I'm making is that we should not evaluate a presidential campaign entirely by who gets the most votes." Of course, Karl Rove hears that and he laughs so hard that the buttons pop off his Brooks Brothers shirt. Karl is right and George is wrong, because Karl is in the White House and George is writing op-ed pieces that try to justify his political flameout thirty years ago. McGovern's theory is no different than the "sports fan" theory -- that some things are more important than winning, such as loyalty to the old guard or an ideal of what the "team" stands for. It's just the Democratic version of the same baloney.

If you agree with McGovern, Howard Dean is your man. He is currently supported by the wing of the Democratic party that loved McGovern back in '72, and his form of "straight talk" is just the sort of thing that gets many headlines and no electoral college votes. And frankly, I really like him and I believe in everything that he says. But supporting Dean is different from supporting Nader only in degree, not in kind. It would unequivocally have been better for the Greens to support Gore, because we are living in an America where black clouds are gathering. America doesn't need a noble loss; it needs a victory.

 9:20 AM

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