“Blood Sport: The Art of Political Campaigning”
What is your favorite sport? Is there a team you are passionate for, that you root on until the end, no matter how terrible they may actually be? Do you sit, in a secular church, and watch these games with a fascination so intense that any interference may lead to violence? What about actually attending the game? Seeing it live. You are surrounded by people every bit as passionate as yourself, screaming for the blood of your rivals. You refer to your favorite team as ‘us,’ as if you were actually with them accomplishing something. You look to your team like your family, and would not mind seeing your enemies die agonizing deaths.
What is your favorite sport? Mine? Election season.
Make no mistake: politics has grown into perhaps the most vicious of blood sports. When I was much younger I used to belong to the Police Athletic League’s youth boxing program. I loved it. I wasn’t any good, but, if nothing else, it taught me how to take a punch. This is one of the qualities lacking today in most political campaigns. They are all so petty and personal and filled with lies and misrepresentations about both opponents and yourself. These campaigns are about nothing–certainly not about the issues that are important to the future of civilization. They are merely simple, small-minded attacks, attempts to humiliate or undermine a competitor so deeply that they either resign in shame or lash back with similar cruelty, further debasing the world. It becomes a battle of strength and endurance, and the one with the most money usually wins.
But let us take a step back for a moment. Right now (as is usual) the 2018 election is being referred to by many partisans as ‘the most important election of our lifetime.’ This is an often repeated statement, every two years with the political party out of power trying to rally their followers with a cry of desperation. This is a bipartisan tactic, those in power often using fear tactics to terrify (root: ‘terrorism’) the world, coming to the edge of proclaiming apocalypse if we should shift from the status quo. This is every election. This is every candidate. This is every political party. Democracy is a spoiled egg, the seed once planted no longer in fertile ground. It has spread its rot so deeply into the soil of citizenry (and this is not just about America) that we have all become paranoid, sullen, and angry, wracked with a terminal victim complex.
As an example I would like to quote two political ads that I recently viewed, back to back, for a local election in the town where I live I will not use the names of the candidates, nor say which party is claiming what (it should be obvious anyway, or maybe not, the tenor having shifted so much to the negative). I believe these ads exemplify the choices that remain to us and of who it is we look to for leadership. And remember: these politicians are playing directly to their bases of true believers.
- “S—– H—— says that (s/he) favor America, but (her/his) voting record proves otherwise. (S/he) claims to be in favor of justice, yet wants illegal immigrants to steal your jobs. (S/he) says that it is okay to rob and rape your children because these criminals are only seeking a better life in America. And with S—– H——‘s own criminal allegations, it should surprise no one that they favor radical social anarchy and mob violence. Is this the sort of politics we need in dangerous times? S—– H——-: Soft on crime, in favor of higher taxes, in favor of rape. This is a threat we cannot risk. Vote A— D——–. It may be your life that is at risk.”
2. “A— D——- claims to be fair and balanced, but s/he used to attend Nazi rallies (and here there is a vague picture of some protest, unknown in its purpose with nothing even remotely resembling Nazism. All we can see are angry people shouting and holding signs we cannot read. A young A— D——- can be seen in the center shouting with a wide-open mouth). S/he once called African-Americans (now an unsourced quote is put on the screen with the shouting youngster in the background, faded) ‘All crime starts with the black man. N—— need to be put back in their place!’ If you care about America, if you care about our children, we can’t afford A— D——–.”
Both of these ads were not paid for by the opposing campaigns, but by outside special interest groups, both right and left wing. I have little doubt that 95% of these claims are bullshit. It even seems to be the same snarling voice delivering these dire messages, the voice actor clearly very good at their job. Each ad also has some variation on the same dystopian music, more like a John Carpenter minimalist horror score than anything to rally anyone behind a hopeful future.
This is the state of modern politics on election day, and on nearly every other day out of the year. There are no more campaigns for nobility because nobility cannot win. There is no desire for public service because government is not a calling but a well-paying job with the opportunity for an even great paycheck once the person is out of office and on TV or writing a best-seller about things that did not happen the way they are being reported.
And I watch these ads–we all do, even those of us who claim not to–and feel an acidic burn in my gut and try to choke back the tears with cynical laughter. We find it very hard to believe in something or to support anything. Our politics have become what we stand against instead of what we believe in. The whole concept of morality has become a past-tense phenomenon that was even a disgrace in our common histories. It has become all lies, all legends, myths, fairy tales that we tell ourselves to think that once upon a time there was such a thing as the good old days.
But politics is a blood sport and election season is more like the NCAA Basketball tournament than the Super Bowl, where one game really does decide it all. No, we narrow it down, discard the also-rans and then bet the rest of our paychecks on our favorite. And every time, with every election, most of us wind up losing.