Political momentum, on the national stage, is like the tides, coming and going and constantly changing.
It often brings in flotsam and rarely takes any of the detritus away. Almost weekly you can hear the pundits claiming the tides have shifted in favor of — insert political party here — only until the next scandal erupts. Too frequently the flow of daily conversation gets sidetracked by natural or manmade disasters, which then occupy all of the talking space.
We lament that nothing ever seems to get fixed, and yet our attention span lasts about as long as an eighth-grade boy playing a video game while doing his homework. But by listening to the pundits, we always know who has the “momentum,” because in the end that always seems to be what matters most — which party has taken the lead in the race.
Last week, according to the pundits, Republicans had all but demolished their brand — losing everything in their quest to defund Obamacare by supposedly shutting down government. I can’t understand how shutting down only 17 percent of anything is a full government shutdown, but I digress.
Last week I watched about a dozen talking-head shows and went to bed knowing for sure that the Democrats had ruined their chances for 2014 by defending the apparent disaster that is the unveiling of Obamacare.
Pundits said the flawed website is only the beginning and that when the real damage is known (actual insurance rates), Democrat office holders will not stand a chance in 2014. At least until another story consumes the pundits’ attention.
In both cases there seemed to be such certainty by the experts. Each party had derailed, the future was bleak and majorities would be changing.
No one ever holds the pundits accountable for their incorrect assumptions. How many times do you listen to this and feel yourself morphing into Howard Beale from the film “Network”, wanting to open your windows and scream, “I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”?
For me it has become almost a daily ritual. But instead of screaming, I usually just change channels and watch sports, where there is always a beginning, a middle and an end. Of course, even in sports we get barraged by the pundits, constantly referencing the tides of “momentum” within each game.
Maybe the real problem is that we have become fixated on “the game”, turning every interaction, issue, social and political problem into a game where there are winners and losers.
In doing this, we have become the real losers. We have gridlock in Congress, an institution seemingly incapable of taking up more than one crisis, even one major issue, at a time.
Two weeks ago it was the shutdown: now it’s the Obamacare rollout. Next week it will be immigration, then something else, and on and on.
But none of them ever really get settled. Policy in Washington has become like The Never Ending Story. Not much gets really fixed, and we continue to have one side that sees government as the first answer to everything, and the other side just picking at the problems rather than offering comprehensive solutions.
We see the polls with more than 50 percent wanting to throw all incumbents out. This is a sad response by the electorate. What would that solve? Nothing.
Instead we will see newbies in each role, staring at the game and doing everything they can to get off the bench so they too can be on TV and seemingly relevant. It is up to the people to demand solutions. We have the ballot, yet increasingly people stay home and do not vote. We can communicate with those who have already been chosen. There are very bright people among us with possible solutions, but whose voices cannot be heard above the din of talking heads.
Perhaps this explains the attraction of the sports on TV. It is less complicated, highly skilled, and with definite beginnings and endings and always with a champion crowned!
Maybe sports are like politics after all. The momentum is transient and there is always an opportunity to wait until next year. But not everything is a game and there doesn’t have to always be winners and losers.
We deserve better. We must demand better.