Its existence is fairly well known in Washington — there’s even an Amazon show about it — but this week Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Dick Durbin and Rep. George Miller opened up their D.C. frat house to CNN, and things got weird.
“The whole umbrage routine is now an established political chess move. Politicians and their advisers pray that the other guy will say something offensive, or something that can be characterized or misinterpreted as offensive. Then they take mock offense. Gotcha! Yet by its nature a gaffe is something the speaker didn’t mean to say. It may reflect his or her true belief or it may not. But if it was said unintentionally, there’s no logical reason the speaker should be held to it. Yet the gaffe/umbrage two-step is now the basic move in our politics. It’s ridiculous. This isn’t a game.”—
Politics is a game, though. It’s a game with very serious consequences, sure. But, as I’ve said before, a rational, logical way of determining how to distribute limited resources (which is what politics is, at its heart) would involve people shooting one another in the street, and so we make up the game of politics to resolve conflicts over who gets what without people shooting one another in the street. Politics has been shockingly successful in this regard, all things considered.
The thing that drives me nuts about the way we cover politics (which Halperin and Heilemann’s books perfectly exemplifies) is that we’re supposed to take the game super seriously. Certainly the players in the game are going to take it seriously. That is what game players do, otherwise they would not win. But we are the audience to electoral politics. We can take the game any way we want. And if we recognize that it’s a game, why not take it playfully? Why not recognize that some of these things are ludicrous and lightly mock them while nevertheless recognizing that they have real consequences for the players?
For instance, Kinsey’s review rightfully indicts Double Down for describing as “verbal seppuku” Rick Perry’s statement in favor of “children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own.” Clearly Perry violated a rule: in the subgame of Republican primaries from 2004 to the present, taking a stance in favor of undocumented immigrants will result in you losing points. But Perry made the choice to do so, and to regard it as obviously wrong-headed is to take the rules far too seriously as an observer. Politics is a game in which the rules are always up for debate, and Perry’s move was, in some way, an argument for changing that rule. As a move in the game, it was an unsuccessful one. But that was not necessarily obvious at the time he made it.
Being playful about the game would admit that possibility, and resist the impulse to read the past in terms of the conventional wisdom of the present—since it would recognize that the conventional wisdom is always going to shift. Actually covering politics as a game would involve not seeing it as a fixed and certain thing, but a realm where our consensus about what’s true shifts nearly daily. And that would throw into dispute the sense that political coverage always seeks to convey: that you really can know what’s going on, that you know what’s true and what’s false, that you know who’s winning and who’s losing. While all of this is true in a broad sense (the Democrats are generally winning right now), it’s almost never true in the moment. If we talked about politics as a game, we might be able to see these moment-to-moment moves as displays of players’ skill without any necessary consequence beyond the mere poetry of it all. And that might mean our sense of what is possible in the future would open up.
American politics turn on a now familiar set of categories: red states vs. blue states, rich states vs. poor states, Frostbelt vs. Sunbelt. But these generalizations mask deeper, less visible fissures in our political geography.
The older, denser suburbs outside our central cities have emerged as the major points of political cleavage in America, the places where Presidential elections are won or lost. “The key political fissure in American politics no longer runs across the country’s swing states,” I explained, “but zigzags through the rapidly growing ranks of what I call its ‘distress ‘burbs.’”
What is your opinion on the fix Obama's announced on thursday for cancelled health insurance policies? And, do you think the ACA will be successful or a failure?
Sorry, just caught this, Anonymous. The “fix” is merely an administrative maneuver that insurance companies don’t even have to comply with, to a certain extent. But the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov has no real bearing on the success or failure of the ACA; much of the law has already been implemented and it has widespread support, despite the narrative driven by the GOP and the he-said/she-said lazy political press.
“Because so few serving in politics have worn their country’s uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a ‘cause greater than self,’ and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they’ve turned politics into war.”—
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, suggesting that we need to re-instate the draft because, as a country, we’ve lost our sense of self and sacrifice. “The costs would be huge,” he says. “But so would the benefits: overcoming growing social inequality without redistributing wealth; making future leaders, unlike today’s ‘chicken hawks,’ disinclined to send troops into combat without good reason; putting young Americans to work and giving them job and technology skills; and, above all, giving these young Americans a shared sense of patriotism and service to the country.”
“Americans’ economic perceptions often divide along political lines; supporters of the incumbent president are usually more optimistic about the job market and the health of the economy. But that’s not the case with this new anxiety. Once you control for economic and demographic factors, there is no partisan divide. There’s no racial divide, either, and no gender gap. It also doesn’t matter where you live. What matters in this new anxiety, what unites the people who worry more now than ever, are income and education. Workers who earn less, and workers who didn’t graduate from college, fear losing their already weaker livelihoods more than anyone else.”—Among American workers, poll finds unprecedented anxiety about jobs, economy - The Washington Post
“Already there are fears that the cargo ships bearing the material could become the weapons equivalent of a barge loaded with garbage that left Long Island in 1987 but could not find a place to unload for four months. American law prohibits the importation of chemical weapons for destruction here, and Russia says it is still overwhelmed by the task of destroying its own stockpiles.”—West Faces Challenge in Moving Syrian Chemical Arms Through Battlefields - NYTimes.com
“Egypt is looking to purchase over $2 billion in Russian weapons, including MiG-29 fighter planes, air defense systems, and anti-tank missiles. A Russian official told BuzzFeed that they were looking to verify that Egypt had secured the funds to pay for the military equipment, but “had no problems with this being the start of a close partnership.”—Egypt Turns To Russia For Weapons
“Mothers whom Reuters interviewed said formula was pushed to them in myriad ways: doctors gave them discount cards for infant formula during prenatal checkups; hospital staff strapped identity bands branded by formula companies to their babies’ limbs; formula representatives entered their hospital rooms to distribute samples as they recovered from giving birth.”—Special Report: How Big Formula bought China | Reuters
âHey Brooklyn, do you like to laaaaugh?â Weâd like to think thatâs how weâd start off our set if given the opportunity to take a crack at some local standup, anyway. For some reason, nobody ever asks. Probably because in spite of a much-discus
Damn, I was just waiting in line outside my corner bodega with a few kids on my block and a bunch of plain-clothes officers just came up and frisked one of them for no reason and left. Shit was fucked up.
“New Yorkers have stolen it, painted over it, urinated on it, tagged it, charged for it, venerated it, fought about it, sneered at it, guarded it, sold it to the highest bidder and chased it to corners of the city that they had heretofore never been.”—
Shippers, traders and researchers monitoring global vessel traffic in the past six months might have seen an imaginary U.S. ferry sail to North Korea, a tugboat go from the Mississippi River to a Dallas lake in two minutes and the path of a fake Italian yacht spelling out PWNED — hacker slang for “defeated.”
“Buyers here gaze over showcases offering a rich assortment of marijuana, promising different potencies and different kinds of highs. Cannabis sativa produces a pronounced psychological high, a “head buzz,” while cannabis indica delivers a more relaxed, lethargic effect, a “body buzz.”—Few Problems With Cannabis for California - NYTimes.com
“Wearing Ray Ban Aviator glasses and a black hat typical of Iranian street thugs from the 1970s, Mr. Mohammadi, 21, beamed self-consciously, taking in all the glances and smiles from female drivers and cheers from the guys. His ride? The dorkiest car on the street.”—A Homely Relic on Wheels Awakens Nostalgia in Iran - NYTimes.com
I’m hardpressed to think of an internship that offers more value than this one. If you want to try your hand at journalism with one of the most prestigious English-language publications in the world, you could do worse than to apply. Go for it.