Neither Sport Nor War

This year’s Super Bowl is the 56th. The game was created as part of a 1966 merger agreement between the National Football League and the rival American Football League to have their best teams compete for a championship. It’s pretty exciting, even for people who aren’t normally football fans!

Many people – including us – have used sports competition as a metaphor for political competition. It’s an easy, useful way to point out the benefits of fair play in a contest for the best teams of the year.

The sports metaphor can only take us so far. There is a big difference between a contest for the best team and a contest for the right to decide policy choices that affect everyone in a state or the entire country. When the stakes are raised like that, the risks of polarized factions become far greater than the rowdiness between the fans of two teams. That leads us to another metaphor.

War is another metaphor commonly employed by people caught up in a political fight. Each side of a fight over ideology or policy will have organized themselves into camps with campaigns to persuade or even intimidate the other side.

Real wars rarely settle disputes. Instead, many people die, lots of property is destroyed, and many survivors have PTSD. Worse, wars rarely settle disputes. Often, they create new resentments that fuel still more bloodshed.

So, if we disagree and distrust each other, how could we ever hope to achieve anything together?

That’s where the benefits of American liberal republicanism come in. Our Constitution, and its amendments, set up a system capable of channeling distrustful political contests into a series of competitions for the best leaders who can make the best compromises and occasional collaborations. (You can read more about how that can happen and some of the hitches along the way in our short course here.)

It’s up to us whether that productive channeling actually happens. If we send warriors to Congress, then we will get political warfare. Each side will do what they can to obstruct or even sabotage the other.

If, instead, we choose to send problem-solvers to Congress from all parties, then we will get some of our problems solved. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?

Primary elections are coming up in many states. Here is the schedule.

As a revolutionary act, you could vote in the appropriate primary in your state and vote for the problem-solver – not warrior – on the ballot. Or, if there is no problem-solver, then consider finding and putting one there. It may not be too late to do so in some states.

Image: Super Bowl 50. Arnie Papp, CC 2.0.

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