Friday, March 30, 2012

Beyond the games and power plays

We all know that politics is a contact sport where power is too often the only end game. And while I would take issue with some of the things Nathan Fletcher (who is a California assemblyman running for Mayor of San Diego) said in this announcement about leaving the Republican Party, it struck me powerfully on many levels.

In today's political environment you're expected to play the game...I could care less about playing games. Because I don't believe this is a game. If you're a small business owner who's struggling to barely make payroll, you don't think its a game. If you're a teacher at one of the schools I visited where I've seen 38 kids crammed into a classroom, you don't think its a game. If you've lost your home, your health insurance, your hours have been cut or your jobs gone completely, you definitely don't think its a game.

Ezra Klein strikes the same note about the health care reform debate.

As the thinking goes, if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act and then Medicaid gets cut by a third, that’s bad for President Obama and the Democrats and good for Republicans.

That’s true, so far as it goes. But if health-care reform gets overturned, that’s primarily bad for the uninsured. Obama and the Democrats might be disappointed, but odds are they and their families will continue to enjoy health-insurance coverage. They’ll likely even continue to enjoy political success. It’s very easy to imagine health-care reform getting overturned in June and Obama and most incumbent Democrats getting reelected in November. It’s very hard to imagine health-care reform getting overturned and the 30 million people it’s expected to cover getting insured.

Getting sucked into the games and power plays is addicting when it comes to politics. I've felt myself do it in conversations on blogs. It becomes more about winning and/or taking down your opponent than it is about conversation...much less what might actually improve a situation. Based on that experience, I can only imagine the pulls and pressure elected officials feel to engage in the game for the game's sake.

I think that's why - after over 3 years - President Obama continues to end his day by reading letters from every day Americans.


I also think its why he tends to shun the glad-handing in DC and prefers to spend time either with his family or everyday Americans. He's not only trying to keep his focus on his North Star...

So, my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there, what is helping people live out their lives; what is giving them more opportunity; what is growing the economy; what is making us more competitive. At any given juncture there are going to be times that my preferred option, what I am absolutely, positively sure is right, I can’t get done. And so then, my question is, does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or that way because I am keeping my eye on the long-term and the long fight. Not my day-to-day news cycle, but where am I going over the long-term.

...he's also trying to preserve his soul - as Alice Walker reminded him right after his election.

Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.


  1. Ah, SD. The good stuff: parks, fish tacos, and relatively good surf for the continental US. Bad: I have a hometown with fantastically corrupt local politics, where nasty GOP types dominate through a compliant press, gerrymandering, and low turnout. I would like that to change, because there are a lot of people here who deserve and need better.

    Good for Fletcher, and though he likely will not win the race--and he understimates Filner, the Democrat--he may shave a few points off the nasty GOP candidate, DeMaio.

    I imagine--this is likely on topic for the actual tenor of the post--he is an outlying example of as you suggest the President's influence. It is not a moderating influence, because however one might parse the policy the President's clear focus on running the government well is a radical departure from recent precedent, and I'd likely include Clinton in that who was not apparently too concerned with the implications of the policies he triangulated when his re-election was assured.

    Fletcher made the right call, though. Anyone interested in policy has no place in the California GOP. That said, were I a betting man--need some dispensible cash to be one--I'd bet on DeMaio. San Diego is not there yet, politically.

    1. In this age of total cynicism (probably for good reason) one of my reactions to the video was to wonder how much Fletcher was playing the game by talking about not playing the game.

      But then I thought about your conclusion - it probably ensures that he'll lose - and realized there's not much payoff for him other than a clearer conscience.

    2. No, I don't think it ensures that he will lose at all. He was trailing already. He wasn't corrupt and plugged in locally for the GOP nod, and wasn't the one Democrat who, as the only one in the race, gets more or less the entire left of center SD vote. Fletcher has been accused of cynicism but I don't buy that. I very easily take him at his word. He has, however, nothing left to lose in this race, and that can bring a person to clarity. In my own life it certainly did me, and though it may not have been brave it was honest.

  2. "I also think its why he tends to shun the glad-handing in DC and prefers to spend time either with his family or everyday Americans."

    Given what a pack of rancorous moronic jackals the DC press corps is, what sane and intelligent person would want to spend any time with them?

    1. Anyone that hangs out with those types do so because they want something. What can they give the President?