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“The Same Game”: Clarification

Posted by Rick · July 23rd, 2004 · 6 Comments

It’s difficult for me to understand how some readers keep missing this point about “the same game” issue. On the assumption that the problem is the way I’m explaining it, I’ll try again.

First, to make it clear that I understand the point some others are making, let me note the following: Yes, people of all political stripes lie and deceive at various times. No Republicans lie all the time; no Democrats lie all the time. Neither do any of the parties mentioned tell the truth all the time. And it’s a given that when people lie, they usually are doing it for some particular reason such as — in the case of Bill Clinton, upon whose attempt to keep the truth of his sexual escapades hidden some are fond of focusing — to protect themselves. And people from both parties sometimes lie to advance their own, or others’, interests.

The difference that I’m talking about has been exemplified by the quote I often repeat from David Horowitz. And it’s rather amazing to me — and troubling — that this doesn’t seem to bother most people. It’s a significant shift in political thinking and it’s the reason our country right now ends up with approximately one-half or more of the citizens without representation in government.

Let’s consider a chunk of this Republican strategist’s advice that I haven’t quoted recently. David Horowitz believes that “Politics is a war of position. In a war there are two sides: friends and enemies.” (Horowitz, The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight To Win (2000) p. 11.) You may find this to be perfectly acceptable, even if you find another quote I’ve often used from his book to be disturbing. However, this quote is just as disturbing.

To help clarify this point, consider the definition of the word “politics” as presented by the Unabridged Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: pol?i?tics
Pronunciation: p?ltiks
Function: noun plural but singular or plural in construction

Etymology: probably modification (influenced by -ics) of Greek politika, from neuter plural of politikos political — more at POLITIC

1 a : the art or science of government : a science dealing with the regulation and control of men living in society : a science concerned with the organization, direction, and administration of political units (as nations or states) in both internal and external affairs : the art of adjusting and ordering relationships between individuals and groups in a political community b (1) : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy (2) : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government (as by selection of governmental personnel) — compare PARTY POLITICS
2 : a branch of ethics concerned with the state or social organism as a whole rather than the individual person : a division of moral philosophy dealing with the ethical relations and duties of governments or other social organizations : public or social ethics
3 : political actions, practices, or policies <protested against the politics of the Vichy government — Current Biography> <the same politics were followed by his successors — New Republic> <it was not good politics … to present this menacing figure as an incompetent fool — Gilbert Seldes>
4 a (1) : political affairs or business; specifically : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (2) : activities concerned with governing or with influencing or winning and holding control of a government <flinch at the thought of … participation in partisan politics — John Lodge> <a university in which politics had no place — Marjory S. Douglas> <trying to understand recent French politics — Julian Towster> (3) : activities concerned with achieving control, advancement, or some other goal in a nongovernmental group (as a club or office) b : political life especially as a principal activity or profession <politics is … the noblest career that a man can choose — J.L.McConaughty> <entered politics> c : political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices especially in securing the success of political parties or candidates <dirty ward politics> <in the underworld of politics — H.R.Penniman>
5 : conduct of or policy in private affairs <reading a lecture on … matrimonial politics — Henry Fielding>
6 : the political principles, convictions, opinions, or sympathies of a person <his politics was … reactionary enough — Lionel Trilling> <changed his politics for advancement’s sake — W.B.Yeats> <a woman’s politics are the man she loves — Owen Rhoscomyl>
7 : the total complex or interacting and usually conflicting relations between men living in society: a : the relations between men concerned with governing or with influencing or winning and holding control over a government b : the relations between leaders and nonleaders in any social grouping (as a political community, church, club, or trade union)
8 a : POLITICAL SCIENCE b : the branch of political science dealing with the activities of political parties and pressure groups — “politics.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (23 Jul. 2004).

Isn’t it interesting to note that “politics” is about, among other things, adjusting relationships and is considered a branch of ethics?

The problem with David Horowitz’s view is that it doesn’t posit the idea of human beings with differing views of the best way to regulate, control, organize, direct, administer, adjust, order or do any of the other things that fit the definition of politics just given. Instead, it’s about “friends and enemies.” It’s about “war.”

And the object of a war, as David Horowitz puts it, is to do anything to win. Well, anything except recognize the humanity of one’s opponent, the dignity of fellow citizens and the possibility for compromising in order to build a government of, by and for all the people.

It’s not even about political debate, which explains why Republican candidates often refuse to appear before groups where they’ll be asked questions about their policies and views. “You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate,” David Horowitz says. That’s why Republicans refuse to discuss issues. It’s not just that their policies are bad policies (and I admit, I believe most, though not all, Republican policies are bad policies). It’s that even if they were good policies, the goal of Republicans isn’t winning debates. Their ultimate goal isn’t even winning votes. (This will be significant when Diebold and others make the need to win votes unnecessary.)

If it’s not about winning people to your way of thinking by debating issues, what is the goal? “In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.” (Horowitz, supra, at p. 24.) When you have a difference of political opinion with someone else, this Republican strategist says, your goal is to annihilate, destroy, eliminate. Ultimately, what you want is that there is no opposing view left; no voice to speak against you. This provides a stark explanation of Republican politics today, ranging from the “go f*ck yourself” comment from the Vice-President of the United States to the constant “shut up! shut up!” of Bill O’Reilly.

It explains what happened last week, when I watched a “debate” between two African-Americans on the television. At one point after the Republican had spoken for about three minutes, nonstop — which surprised me because “moderators” usually don’t let someone talk that long nonstop — the Democrat objected to a false statement that had just been made by interrupting and saying “That’s not true.” The conservative Republican proponent calmly (almost as if he’d been waiting for this) said to the liberal Democratic proponent, “Please give me the courtesy of giving my point of view. Please do not try to censor my statement,” or something to that effect. To my surprise, she immediately stopped interrupting and he spoke for perhaps another two minutes. Then she got her opportunity. As soon as she said two or three sentences which contradicted some of the things he had said, he suddenly started interrupting her. Loudly, so that you could not really hear what she was saying. I sat there talking to the television: “Now would be an excellent time to re-quote his own words back to him.” But she didn’t do that. I don’t think it really would have mattered, but if she had been heard, it would have shown something I’ve said before: Republicans want to use the liberal belief in freedom of speech and debate to get us to keep quiet while Republicans talk; when liberals start to talk, freedom of speech goes out the window and suddenly it’s a combination of interruptions and “shut up!” or “go f*ck yourself.”

(The term “liberals,” as I use it, sometimes includes, but is not limited to, Democrats. And there actually are conservative Democrats. This whole problem, though, of thinking there are just two kinds of people in the world and that they are adequately divided up into two political parties would require a whole different blog entry, at least.)

Now I know that many people want to insist that “both sides” do this. And I agree that “both sides” these days interrupt one another on television shows — we can’t really call it “news” even if that’s how some stations label it. That’s what those folks are paid to do. After all, more Americans will watch than if they actually follow the old-fashioned rules of debate. I know, also, that during these “fights” set up by the networks, each side is going to put its best foot forward. They’re going to try what they can to win.

What’s different is that conservatives will flat out and intentionally say things they know are untrue. And I don’t mean about whether or not they had sex. I mean about the issues, the facts, the realities that cause us to need Presidents and Vice-Presidents and members of Congress and other elected government officials in the first place. About these things, I have yet to see a Democrat caught saying something he or she knew or should have known was a lie. If it just happened once in awhile, that would be one thing, but it’s the consistency, the pattern, that puts it so far across the line of reprehensibility.

What’s different is that David Horowitz, a Republican strategist, has written a pamphlet for Republicans telling them that their goal is not to win debates, not to convince political opponents, or to compromise with them, but “to wipe [them] from the face of the earth.” (Horowitz, supra, at p. 24.) To wipe them from the face of the earth.

And guess what?

During the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, every Republican member of the U.S. Congress received a free pamphlet, compliments of Congressman Tom DeLay, the party’s majority whip. Written by conservative activist David Horowitz, the pamphlet was called The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win. It came with an endorsement on the cover by Karl Rove, the senior adviser to then-candidate George W. Bush. According to Rove, The Art of Political War was “a perfect pocket guide to winning on the political battlefield from an experienced warrior.” In addition to DeLay’s gift to members of Congress, the Heritage Foundation, one of the leading conservative think tanks in Washington, found Horowitz’s advice so impressive that it sent another 2,300 copies to conservative activists around the country.” — Rampton & Stauber, Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America into a One-Party State (2004) p. 3; emphasis added.

Democrats advising Democrats that the goal is “annihilation” of any opposing views — indeed, of any opposing people — is not happening. Democrats structuring their political campaigns and comments as if “wiping [them] from the face of the earth” were the goal is not happening. Democrats and other liberals repeatedly have asked for open discussion, realistic debate and, sometimes, compromise, on issues that affect the lives of millions of Americans and people in other countries, when you consider the impact of American policy on the rest of the world.

Republicans are spending lots of money providing pamphlets to other Republicans advising them that their goal is not to win debates. “You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate,” say these Republicans. “Your goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.” (Horowitz, supra, at p. 24.) In addition, Republicans spend lots of money on organizations whose sole purpose is to create and send out “news stories.”

Do both parties play games? Yes, indeed they do. But this is not two parties playing the same game. One party has, as its goal, the annihilation of anyone who opposes them. The other party, so far, has as its goal an attempt to get its message out. Do both parties want to win your vote? Yes, indeed they do. One party does it by spending thousands of dollars to try to “fix” elections. The Republicans, for example, are funding Ralph Nader. Republicans are circulating petitions to get Nader on the ballot in places like Michigan. Are they doing this because they think he’s the better candidate? Will they be voting for Nader instead of Bush? Yes, they will, right after pigs fly out of my butt.

These are just a few of the things that make the “game” the Republicans are playing a different game than the one Democrats are playing.

Responsible voters can learn more about this in a variety of ways. The information about the Republicans working to get Nader more money and more visibility — and even about the fact that they’re doing it because they remember that Bush would have lost the election without any doubt, if it hadn’t been for Nader last time — can be read in many newspapers and even sometimes heard on the television news. (TV “news” is a little less reliable, because it’s controlled by a small group of Republican businessmen. These owners actually instruct correspondents to cover events in a way that promotes the positions of the Bush Administration and the Republican party. You can read about this in an FTC complaint here.)

Responsible voters don’t limit themselves to understanding only one point of view, even when that point of view seems immediately attractive to them. Responsible voters inform themselves about a variety of views. If nothing else, think of it as “research” for making the other side look bad. After all, this entire blog article couldn’t exist without reading David Horowitz and I can pretty much guarantee anyone who is confused that I do not agree with or endorse David Horowitz’s views!

Force yourself, if you have to, to listen to “that crap” the “other side” says, writes, or otherwise makes available. See what they have to say. Understand why you’re voting the way you’re voting when you vote. (And do vote!)

But don’t pretend that — especially when you don’t even know the facts because you refuse to read them — both sides are playing “the same game.”

Categories: Politics-In-General


6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 nick meyer // Jul 23, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    I am not going to continually play the word game. If Democrats were presently holding the office they would be pulling the same crap. I’ll leave it to you and your buddy Mark to discuss how the world would be much better off if all Republicans were dead. I sent you a link on the 13th of this month about a Democrat that hired a prostitute to hinder an investigation and you told me you would be writing about it, but 10 days later no writing. ALL POLITICIANS PLAY THE SAME GAME. Period. You and Mark keep talking about reality, yet in your hatred of this President and his policies you are voiding your own arguement. If we were at war with a Democratic President would you be crying about lifes being lost unjustly. I think not. That is all!!!

  • 2 nick meyer // Jul 23, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    It seems that the Associated Press is reporting that President Bush’s military pay records have been found. But that is probably timed by the administration to damper the Democratic Convention because only Republicans play the game.

  • 3 Mark // Jul 23, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Gee, Nick’s on to our game! He’s caught us!

    Yes, Democrats start unprovoked wars and lie about the reasons. We do it all the time!

    Democrats desert posts that rich daddies got for us in the National Guard. We do it all the time!

    Democrats pay people to lie about political opponents. We do it all the time!

    Democrats have drug-addicted radio talk show hosts. We do it all the time!

    Democrats lose private sector jobs, increase the size of government, and skyrocket deficits. We do it all the time!

    Democrats take from the poor and give to the rich, just like Jesus wants us to. We do it all the time!

    Democrats question the patriotism of anyone foolish enough to say anything the least bit critical of a court-appointed resident of the White House. We do it all the time!

    Democrats make sure the minorities who have broken no laws are removed from voter rolls. We do it all the time!

    Democrats “out” CIA operatives. We do it all the time!

    I am so dissapointed that Nick caught on to us. What we will do now?

  • 4 Rick // Jul 23, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    This is where I get confused about what you write, Nick.

    You sound as if you think that what I said was that every piece of information which is released is part of the new Republican political game of annihilation.

    If you mean (and I didn’t take it that you meant this) that Democrats were playing the game because they reported that Bush’s records were missing, then you’re forgetting something. It was not Democrats who reported that Bush’s records were missing now, was it? It was the Pentagon. And now those records are being reported as found; as before, it’s the Pentagon reporting this, not the Bush Administration. I suppose it’s entirely possible the Pentagon’s timing is political, as you sarcastically seem to imply someone like me might think, but I’m not sure I buy that. At best, I would imagine that if the White House was involved in any way in this, it might have been along the lines of “hey, guys . . . the press is roasting us over this; you gotta find those records.” And I don’t see anything inappropriate about that myself.

    So now that the records are available, they reveal “no indication Bush drilled with the Alabama unit during July, August and September of 1972,” the three months some people have reported he was AWOL. But you think that’s a good thing, right? 😉 See, where I come from, that might be interpreted as evidence that the AWOL charge is true.

    It appears you don’t want “to continually play the word game[,]” because this allows you instead to continually act as if the routine game of politics and the new Republican version advocated by David Horowitz, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney and numerous others are “the same game.”

    You’re right about one thing, though. And I will own up to that immediately here: I did say I was going to blog about that article and I have not yet done it.

    For those who wish to see the article in question without waiting for me to blog it, you can find the article here.

    In the end, Nick isn’t going to like the article about Kushner, a fundraiser for a Democratic governor, because it will note the fact that he was a crook trying to hamper an investigation against himself. As I noted in the blog entry to which Nick is responding, “people of all political stripes lie and deceive at various times.” I also noted that “it?s a given that when people lie, they usually are doing it for some particular reason such as . . . to protect themselves.”

    I then went on to point out:

    The difference that I?m talking about has been exemplified by the quote I often repeat from David Horowitz. And it?s rather amazing to me — and troubling — that this doesn?t seem to bother most people. It?s a significant shift in political thinking and it?s the reason our country right now ends up with approximately one-half or more of the citizens without representation in government.

    Nick is one of those people who amazes and troubles me in that this new approach to helping voters decide for whom to vote doesn’t seem to bother him. Not only that, he can’t see the difference between committing your political party to the act of “wiping [one’s opponents] from the face of the earth” and tampering with a witness not to destroy their political career and/or silence their political speech, but because you’re a dirty, thieving crook and, like many dirty, thieving crooks, you don’t want to go to jail.

    When the word, or words, you want to use allow you to make it appear that individual criminal acts not related to the politics of your target are the same as concerted immoral acts that are related to the politics of your target, I can understand why you would want to insist that it’s just “a word game.”

    The problem is that it’s the kind of semantics that makes language work. Imagine this: someone says, “I drove my ice cream cone to Bakersfield yesterday and it melted along the way” and you, knowing certain things about the way the world works and the facts about the speaker’s trip, say, “You can’t drive ice cream cones; certainly not to Bakersfield. And your car didn’t melt, it overheated.” Then they respond, “I’m not going to continually play the word game.” It’s a pretty good guess that if you had not already decided that individual was a nutcase, their insistence that the difference between what they said and what you said was just “a word game.”

    You’ve given me your personal reasons why you won’t change your mind, Nick, and that’s fine. It seems to me from what you’ve said that your reasons have no connection with the reality of today’s Republican party. In fact, the things that gave you reason to feel so supportive of Ronald Reagan would probably not be allowed by today’s Republican party. (Remember from our discussion that I also once voted for Reagan. George Bush is no Ronald Reagan. Neither is Arnold Schwarzeneggar.)

    I’m sorry that you feel it’s just a word game. That sort of feeling is only going to allow politicians to continue to play that game. It also means that you will be unable to recognize (because you apparently cannot differentiate between disparate concepts underlying their acts) when the people for whom you vote are harming your country. And down that road — the one we’re all on at the moment — we’ll find the ultimate end of the Constitution of the United States, along with the great country that was built upon it.

  • 5 nick meyer // Jul 26, 2004 at 8:22 am

    “Shove it.” Teresa Heinz Kerry/2004

  • 6 Mark // Jul 27, 2004 at 7:15 am

    “Is our children learning?” Shrub 2000

    “We want our teachers to be trained so they can meet the obligations, their obligations as teachers. We want them to know how to teach the science of reading. In order to make sure there’s not this kind of federal — federal cufflink.” Shrub 2000

    “One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.” Shrub 2000

    “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Shrub 2002

    “Families is where our nation finds home, where wings take dream.” Shrub 2000

    “And there’s no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail.” Shrub 2001

    “We ought to make the pie higher.” Shrub 2000

    “The trial lawyers are very politically powerful… But here in Texas we took them on and got some good medical — medical malpractice.” Shrub 2002

    “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.” Shrub 2001

    “There’s no cave deep enough for America, or dark enough to hide” Shrub 2002

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