Most people who live and work in the midst of Washington D.C. drama would tell you that the political game is largely played like Poker. One side has all the cards while the other has all the chips, both bluffing their way in and out of public favor.
Of course the money the politicians are using to play their particular brand of Hold ’em happens to belong to the American tax payer. In the end, the bluffs fail giving way to backroom deals and outside pressure from the real pit bosses of this game, the lobbyists.
Perhaps the political machines in Washington and Columbus might operate more efficiently if the players chose not to bluff their way through the governing process but instead use a more precise strategy. In other words, quit playing Poker and start playing Chess.
Poker is a game of chance giving players a different set of options with each deal of the cards and an outcome hinging more on luck than strategy. In chess one is outmatched through a series of thoughtfully calculated moves governed by complex rules and made by a careful opponent.
A random deal of the cards begins each Poker hand while the opening moves on a Chess board begin from a common starting position with each game. It could be argued that the reason for the political Poker games is because the players never know what hand they will be dealt and must simply react rather than strategize.
While it might seem purely reactionary, however, a Poker player is also using strategy. The process may not be as elegant as that of a Chess game, it is strategy nonetheless. The biggest difference between the two games lay in the risk.
Poker is played between two or more individuals who are betting only the cash they have on the table. Chess players act as the Commander-In-Chief of the board, issuing orders that are carried out by each piece, the most vulnerable and expendable of which are the pawns. There are no pawns in Poker, however, and politicians need pawns – their constituents.
When a politician makes a bad move, they are not the ones who suffer but their constituents. The people become the sacrifice because. Even though the constituency elects someone to office, they also have very short memories. Politicians ramp up the rhetoric before an election and the people forget about how he or she cost a region jobs or had a hand in eliminating a needed social service.
Generally speaking, the majority of those elected to American legislative bodies, every vote is an attempt to solidify their power on Capitol Hill. Unless there is great media interest in a particular piece of legislation, politicians are far less concerned about the struggles of the guy who just lost his job than how to get more campaign donations so they can keep theirs.
Now House and Senate Democrats are hoping that constituents will overlook the double-digit unemployment and failed bailout programs before the fall midterm elections. They are in a Poker mode again, claiming they have more in their hand than they actually do right before betting the pot that people liked George W. Bush less than Barak Obama.
Once again, keep in mind that the people have short memories. Most see what’s going on now and blame whoever is sitting in the Oval Office at that moment, rather than looking backwards – regardless of how things got so bad in the first place. But, since the president’s power is so limited, he could simply be seen as the King on the Chess board.
The president’s job is to push an agenda crafted by his advisors – a job which has been relatively easy with a Democratic majority in congress. It may get harder if people decide they are tired of the good old boy system the Dems are playing and vote in more Republicans this fall.
Whether the strategy is similar to Poker or Chess, the objective is to win the game. A politician wins by getting elected to office or getting a bill through congress. Perhaps if politicians spent a little more time worrying about how to help their constituents instead of lining their own pockets, there would be fewer pawns and more winners.
Columnist Gery L. Deer is a Jamestown resident and syndicated through GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing. www.gerydeer.com