Let’s start with the reaffirmation that I am old, jaded, and have worked too long within the political system to feel much enthusiasm for the current state of politics.
But, my 9.600 mile, “Rediscovering America” cross-country tour has reminded me about something I have often considered when going to a Duck Football Game at Autzen Stadium.
This may sound like a strange metaphor for how to look at the current climate of divisiveness in our country. But hear me out, no matter what colors you wear on “game day.”
What I have long known about politics, is that “winning” an election comes down to identifying the divisible quadrants of the electorate (also known as the voters…or “the People” in the Constitution).
For decades, we have seen the same hot-button topics used to “divide the room,” when searching for a way to identify and motivate a segment of voters. “We the Sheeple” are alarmingly easy to herd when they (pollsters, Congress, political parties and the media) use a prod that touches a knee-jerk reaction of shared or perceived-to-be-shared values.
You know them. They are the “four horsemen” of politics, and each of the riders knows their target.
1. Gay Marriage (which has also morphed into LGBTQ rights). This one has been around as long as the Reagan years, and even though the Supreme Court has already ruled on this, you would be alarmed at the number of “slippery slope” Evangelicals that are easily moved by someone who will promise to overturn the ruling, on the fear that we will all soon be marrying goats and dogs.
2. Abortion Laws, which again have been settled by the Supreme Court, yet every four years is trotted out as a chance for the Democrats to wave as a flag for the reason that we must protect a “woman’s right to choose” and the Republicans who want to “protect the sacred rights of the unborn.”
3. 2nd Amendment Gun Rights have never been a hotter topic, not even after Reagan was shot, the Brady Bill was passed, and we have witnessed so many mass shootings with semi-automatic weapons, that the victims, locations and shooters all start to run together. And yet, the “slippery slope” crowd would have us believe that government wants to take away ALL guns. Which in reality, is about as likely as deporting every illegal immigrant or “winning” the war on drugs.
4. The Beast that shall be “unnamed” except by its actual function- “Current Events Fear Mongering.” This is a “Frankenstein’s Monster” catch-all and is malleable in form, depending on which “swing state” is being polidicked (yes…I made that word up…but if fits). It is only during an election year that “Jobs for a failing economy due to horrible trade agreements brought about by lax immigration laws which open us up to Terrorist ATTACK!!” actually make sense to a faction of the electorate. After all…it’s a slippery slope, right?
Go ahead. Read each one slowly, and then put on your team’s jersey for the Big Game!
This is where the Autzen reference starts to come into focus.
So…let’s go to a sold-out football game, and take a look at the makeup of the crowd. 60,000 strong are there, supporting the right to watch their team take on “the enemy.” It is the “American Way” at its best.
You think that New York or Los Angeles are the center of a unified voice for the Democrats? Well…forgetting that Trump is a product of New York…if you want to see some serious division, ask a Yankees fan what they think of the Mets, and vice-versa.
But, using our Autzen analogy, let’s make the game the annual “Civil War.” Now you have some serious division…automatically…and at least some parity in the initial split of fans. Orange and Black stand out in a sea of Yellow…or Green…or whatever hue the University has deemed to be “the color” for the home team crowd. But, you get the picture. We KNOW who is who. And we are pretty damn sure how you think!!
I actually have good friends from either school’s loyal fan-base who give me immediate disrespect for wearing “the wrong colors” at a sporting event. I always give the same answer, “I have paid tuitions at both schools, so I have the right to root for who I choose.” With 3 Ducks and 2 Beaver tuitions (actually 3-3 if you count Deb’s grad degrees) I am the Koch Brothers of equal opportunity parental spending.
Both sides can, and do, argue vehemently about the values, benefits, and advantages of their “favorite team,” some going so far as to let the arguments elevate to long-standing feuds, based on slights of the past. Disrespect and close-mindedness is the order of the day. WE ARE DUCKS/BEAVERS DAMMIT!!!!!
The worst of the very worst of this sort of “fan” are those who actually root against the “rival” team, when one or another breaks into national playoffs. They forget that “what is good for any Oregon team is also good for the Pac 12 conference,” especially when battling for some level of national media validation over the SEC.
Yes. As a Pac 12 fan, I am tired of being disrespected by the SEC sycophants in the media, like the “Game Day” twits who would likely marry Nick Saban if the laws on polygamy and gay marriage were changed.
See how easy it is to go down the “slippery slope?”
But now…make everyone take off their team colors, and talk about something other than sports…like their families, or their honest opinion about congress, or their retirement plans, or if you want “limitations on entitlements” but “don’t touch my Social Security,” or what their favorite place to visit during vacation is…and guess what? You will start to find that we are a heck of a lot more like-minded than the latest political polls would have us believe.
I know…I was just in 24 of our 48 contiguous states. And almost without exception, once you started talking to people, and asked questions about their lives, and their home towns, and what made them proud of being an American, you would be shocked at how quickly you both became civil and pragmatic about the solutions.
This would even happen at a Civil War game at Autzen stadium…as long as we took off our jerseys, and simply interacted as people.
I did this on our trip repeatedly. And in situation after situation, I found out that once we stopped looking at one another as “different,” without labels, or pre-conceived notions about how they are voting, we got along fine, and found far more in common than we expected.
A nice “Bama” couple I met at the RV Museum in Amarillo, Texas…that agreed that the media is biased toward the SEC.
I know this sounds like a “Kumbaya Moment,” but I was genuinely encouraged by “The People” in our journey, finding that if you asked questions and listened, more than you ran your own mouth, and kept a smile on your face, we are got along great.
Which brings me back to the Autzen analogy.
Now, imagine that you had all been getting along swell, all 60,000 of you, until “those in charge” (the political party system and the media that thrives on divisiveness) started asking questions, based on the “Four Horsemen” that I mentioned before. And in each case, your response earned you a credit toward an upgrade in your seating.
Gays Right to Marriage or even the recent rulings on LGBTQ bathroom use in North Carolina? If you actually have a strong opinion, YOU GET AN UPGRADE.
Feel that your religious beliefs are being marginalized and that abortion is “murder”, or your “battle for women’s rights” move you to “fight for the protection of a women to control her own body?” YOU GET AN UPGRADE!
If you are one of those who doesn’t side with the more than 65% of people who believe that gun laws need revision, and would prefer to have everyone “armed and carrying” to protect us from other people with guns. BOOM!!! Go right to Sky Box!
And, just in case you are think your chances for an upgrade are dashed, you still have the chance to be segmented from the “general population” with a question about Jobs, International Trade, Immigration, or the ongoing threat of being killed by a radical terrorist from ISIS. This is the “Wild Card” upgrade…the one based on wild, mostly unsubstantiated fears.
Now…take a look at our stadium, as would a Political Pollster/Congressperson/Media-Wonk.
The two “Sky Boxes” on either side of the stadium…filled to the brim with rabid, “super- fans” who believe what they believe, in spite of the facts, or rulings, or actual outcomes, or even basic common sense. The pollsters call them “True Believers,” or “The Base,” or in this sports analogy, Cleveland Browns fans.
OK. That last one was just mean…and I actually admit that I wanted to write, “Beaver Fans.” But that is a personal bias born from being antagonized at high school and family reunions.
But, HERE’S THE WAKEUP CALL to all of you up in the Sky Boxes- especially those of you with “gold cards” who have earned the right to be called Super Fans. Take a look down below…the REAL party is down there.
When you ask most people about a handful of political topics, you may be surprised to hear the answer.
Almost NOBODY I talked to is happy with the choices we have for President. There is a good reason that the“Disapproval Rating” for BOTH candidates is well above the 50% mark in their own parties!
I heard countless times, including some “Sky Box” holders, that “if you had put up a decent candidate, I’d have voted Democrat the first time in my life.”
And even in Texas, which by most standards set by “Liberals” across the nation as one of the most crack-brained, Conservative strongholds, I found agreement on basic, common-sense, suggestions for compromise on capital punishment, gun rights, abortion, and immigration.
You may be shocked to know that a vast majority of “Red States” who derive their primary income from agriculture, think Trump’s “Wall” concept would decimate the number of workers needed to harvest the crops. destroy the industry, and raise the price of basic foods to unheard of prices. And of course, they are right.
You may be surprised to find out that the trade bills that have decimated the manufacturing that once propped up Middle America, were passed by BOTH parties, and that those who have lost their main streets and town squares to Walmart, are happy to see employment rebound during the “Obama Presidency” from a high of 9.6% in the first year he became President (and inherited the financial fustercluck from the Bush administration), to 4.7% in June of 2016. And THIS from a guy who isn’t even a U.S. Citizen!!! (according to great Orange One running to replace him).
You may be shocked to know that the largest concentration of “Radicalized Sky Box Whack Jobs” come from the states that will most likely decide this, and every other national election, and that the rest of the nation feels marginalized by the attention given to them by Politicians and Pollsters alike. (I’ll do another post on “the Big Eleven at a later date).
And, you may be shocked to know that I strongly believe that “The Numbers” are far less hardened in this election, with more than 60% of the people holding their nose to make the “lesser of two weasels” choice in November.
But here’s the most important thing to remember…YOU CHOOSE to be herded and separated and divided when you become a “Sheeple.” When you become lazy, or biased against someone you most likely haven’t taken the time to get to know, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!!
When you start a conversation with, “Your side is nuts!” you aren’t going to get very far along in finding a good solution that requires compromise from both sides. And that is exactly what the big issues in this world are going to require. Compromise.
And that my friends, is where you will find MOST people…down on the field…getting to know one another…having a blast finding out that we share far more in common than the media would have us believe.
But, we are unified in one respect. We ALL think that the assclowns in the skyboxes are ridiculous.
The real “enemies” are those who would divide us, and weaken us, by pushing us away from one another. Take off your jerseys. We are ALL on the same team.
When we stop listening to one another (and you can’t hear the conversation on the field from the Skybox) we all lose.
It’s all a big game. It comes down to how you decide to play it.