Inside the Capitol

Monday, March 03, 2008

Politics Is Just A Game But...

FRI, 3-07-08

SANTA FE - A few years ago I wrote a column contending that people shouldn't let politics get them down, or their blood pressure up, because it's just a game.
The column received some positive responses, including a note from PBS journalist Bill Moyers, in which he proclaimed it "should be read in every classroom, from every pulpit, and by every newspaper editor, blogger and talk show host before cranking up for war every morning. It's the best that's crossed my desk in years."
Moyers did issue a caveat, however, that "while politics is a game, it has real-life consequences for the winners and losers." He attached his latest book chronicling the tribulations he endured when Republican government officials canceled his television program because it was too liberal.
Recently, the issue arose again when Sen. Hillary Clinton emotionally made the point during her New Hampshire primary campaign that politics is vitally important because it deeply affects people's lives. Her voice quivered twice with emotion and her eyes welled up a bit. There were no tears.
She made her point well. But reactions to the incident made my point even better. Some detractors made a case that Clinton turned on the tears in order to manipulate the coffee klatch crowd. Others insinuated that her tears meant that she is a weak woman who can't handle tough situations.
Clinton supporters maintained that the emotion she showed proved her humanity and disproved claims that every move she makes is coldly calculated. They may have been correct because Clinton scored an impressive and unexpected primary victory a few days later.
But the point Clinton made to her audience was completely ignored and forgotten. I may not have remembered the substance of her comment had it not involved one of my deeply held opinions.
Both Clinton supporters and detractors spun the situation to suit their purposes. Substance was ignored but the game was on to use whatever tactics necessary to take maximum advantage of the situation and of every other occurrence.
The politics game also could be seen in decisions of Clinton's $5-million-a-month advisers. Their tactics changed on a daily basis while they searched to determine what would work. And their decisions didn't involve substance, although substance can be as changeable as tactics.
There is nothing sacred about party philosophy or a candidate's philosophy. All that matters is what works. Both parties merely talk about policy. They have platforms they don't follow. And neither do their candidates.
Some minor parties do stick with a consistent political philosophy. And they demand it of their candidates. Libertarians and Greens come to mind but they also make my point. They never win and hence they never will be major political parties.
The candidate who appears to have the most consistent message and strategy at this point is Sen. Barack Obama. Maybe voters notice and like it. Sen. John McCain's straight-talk express had it for a while but now he is struggling as he attempts to please all his constituencies.
I shouldn't ignore former Gov. Mike Huckabee. He is the most consistent of all, along with being the most likable. But his consistent message is not one that most of the nation can buy. Our founders came to this New World to worship as they pleased without the government determining their relationship with their God. In order for him to become electable, he would have to adopt as changeable a philosophy as everyone else.
And talk about changeability, how about the so-called Kamikaze Republicans - led by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck and James Dobson - who say they'll vote for the Democratic nominee if the GOP nominates John McCain? Where's the ideological consistency there?
Anyway, it was fun for this obscure state columnist to come to the attention of someone on the national stage. One wonders how that happens. The contact from Moyers was through the Santa Fe New Mexican to me. So maybe he read it in the New Mexican.

Don't get caught with egg on your face. Play chicktionary!


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