column: Politics, unlike athletics, a competition based heavily on loyalty rather than skill
Professional football is a game — a deadly serious game. It is a game involving vast sums of money and is physically challenging to its players. It is a game that rewards its victors with a level of fame and glory that is rare from almost any other source. But despite its impact on all the many people that share in its activities, it is still just a game.
But it is not the only game in town. Increasingly obsessive — and very much more consequential — are the games of politics, the games of governance. Such contests as football or downhill ski racing may be wild or satisfying or traumatizing, but the benefits and penalties of political victory or defeat are unmatched by any other sport. Wile the rewards of political games are massive, they often depend more on “loyalty” than on any particular skill, but when that loyalty is to the benefactor rather than the constituent, we have a problem.
Laura Blodgett | For AnnArbor.com
However, over the years, those antiquated goals of the game have been adjusted to include the new and highly sophisticated craftsmanship of the device itself. That exalted accuracy of the single shot has been replaced by instruments that venerate the number of bullets that can be fired before reloading, or the speed with which a round of bullets can be fired, or by its armor-piercing capabilities — all of which are unrelated to its earlier objectives.
Their success is in the exaltation of their unquestioned power — unquestioned, that is, by the opposing team of public officeholders. The fact may well be, however, that the NRA is little more than a paper tiger — a charge made by former Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell. As governor of a state with the nation’s second largest NRA membership, Gov. Rendell, even as a very vocal critic of the NRA, still managed to win his last three elections by very comfortable, mostly double-digit, margins.
A more pertinent local example of their overrated power is the case of Michigan’s former Congressman from the Upper Peninsula, Bart Stupak. As a Democratic congressman in a conservative district of gun-loving hunting enthusiasts, Stupak, himself a long-term NRA member, had been supported by the NRA — until he voted in favor of a minor gun control bill that infuriated them.
In fact, they were so upset that they found an alternative candidate, got him into the race to replace Stupak, then supported him with a massive infusion of funds. But even in this conservative district of gun supporters, the NRA — with all its power and prestige — could not defeat an honest and honorable supporter of some reasonable gun regulations. A paper tiger will not be defeated by paper bullets, but those fearful political players in our Congress might be made a bit more courageous by giving more heed to the power of the people over that of the lobbies.