When discussing politics with folks I run into some of the same issues that I do when talking about sports. Growing up near Eugene Oregon I noticed by the third grade how important it was to identify as either a Duck fan or a (traitorous) Beaver fan. The two kids in the class that were Beaver fans may as well have been religious martyrs, when they showed up to class with their Beaver regalia we mocked and ridiculed them until they turned them inside out.
Adult fans aren’t always better. When ‘the team’ loses people have been known to riot, vandalize property, and assault fans of the victorious team. My grandfather is what I would describe as a mild mannered man but when it comes to fandom he has duck stickers all over his Mercedes and is prone to depression during losing seasons just as he is chippier when the Ducks are having a good season.
Tens of millions of sports fans chose to associate their own ego with teams that don’t truly represent them in any meaningful way. Many of the athletes even at college level not to mention professional aren’t even native to the area of the team they are playing for. The team members are more like mercenaries playing for the highest bidder whether you like it or not. When trying to have a rational discussion about sports people can become very emotional as if any perceived attack on their team were a personal attack on them. This has led to less confrontational folks avoiding the topic altogether.
The problem with politics is that people treat their favorite candidate or party as they would their sports team. People usually align with their parents, most don’t follow the news closely but when they do it is grossly biased towards their own team, and any attack on their candidate or their party can be perceived as a personal attack. This environment makes it very difficult to hold politicians accountable because their team will regularly be there to defend them against any attacks; even if they deserve to be attacked.
This is a problem in both parties, many Republicans still admire Bush/Cheney despite the fact that they grew the federal government, doubled the national debt, and lied to get the country into the Iraq war. These men ran on small government, reducing the debt, and a peaceful foreign policy. Without the football mentality republicans and democrats alike would have lynched these men in the street for betraying the American people.
Obama likewise ran in 2007 on the promise to reduce the deficit, end foreign wars, to end illegal NSA spying, close Guantanamo, protect civil liberties, increase transparency, and protect whistleblowers from retaliation. It sounded great so he won but those campaign promises were quickly forgotten or abandoned. To this day we still have troops in Afghanistan, the debt has doubled, the NSA still spies on you illegally with vehement Presidential support, Guantanamo remains open, we have seen civil liberties erode further, the Administration is described by major media outlets such as the NY Times as the least transparent in modern history, and whistleblowers like Snowden are either in hiding or in prison. Strangely Obama ran on the slogan ‘promises kept’ in 2011. Which one?
The good news is that more people are waking up from the football mentality that politicians from both parties use to exploit citizens. There are now more independents than Democrats and Republicans combined. Once ‘loyal’ Democrats have also been abandoning the scandal ridden (can we just say dishonest at best?) Hillary Clinton in favor of Bernie Sanders who seems to be a more ideologically consistent liberal. On the Republican side there is an ever growing anti-cronyism movement that supports candidates like Ron Paul in 2012 or Rand Paul in 2016.
The first step is to be informed by reading many different news sources. The second step to changing is to be open to criticizing and withdrawing support from politicians or parties you have supported when they don’t fulfill promises. When Americans begin holding their elected leaders accountable we will see the beginning of the end of corruption. Unlike football politics will affect your life one way or another so don’t be a fan, be an informed citizen.