It’s fitting the disastrous but highly entertaining Iowa Caucuses were scheduled one day after the Super Bowl. With the football season over and hockey and basketball far from their own playoff seasons, a large portion of the inhabitants of this continent need something to fill the gap. What could be better than the presidential primaries to take the place of quarterback sacks, slam dunks and breakaways for an entertainment-dependent public?
That was a rhetorical question.
Not all Americans are as fanatical about sports. There is a contingent so uninterested that they playfully chide those who are by referring to all organized athletics, whether amateur or professional, merely as “sportsball.” But that group isn’t nearly as large as the one completely uninterested in politics, regardless of how interested politics is in them.
Almost half the population doesn’t bother to vote in presidential elections. More than half skip Congressional, state and local elections. This august coalition needs its own dismissive, snooty-hip term for all things political. I humbly offer “Voteball.” As the great Nigel Tufnel would say, “It really puts perspective on things, though, doesn’t it.”
Interested or not, Voteball 2020 is upon us and it won’t go away until November 4, when with any luck an 11th season of the Walking Dead will be there to provide amusement a little more connected to reality. In the meantime, politicians, their surrogates, the media and even many of our neighbors will wage a full-frontal assault on our psyches.
Football, baseball and hockey players all wear helmets for safety. In Voteball, even the spectators need to protect themselves. In lieu of hard plastic headgear, I humbly offer the following safety tips:
First and foremost, remember Horton’s Law: Politicians can be counted on to keep all their bad promises, and abandon all their good ones. And don’t forget Mullen’s Corollary: Any minor good done by the current administration will be undone by the next. This will help prevent irrational exuberance over those occasional good promises made amidst all the bad ones.
Mark Twain once wrote, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe when the legislature is in session.” Most of the candidates running for president or Congress are already legislators. In President Trump’s case, he signs the bills legislators write, making them laws. So, as bad as the campaigns might be, don’t forget that every minute they spend campaigning is a minute they aren’t doing something worse.
English is not the primary language during Voteball season. From now until November, you’ll have to learn to translate a foreign language I call “Dronespeak.” It is important to avoid inadvertently adopting this language yourself as it can permanently warp your thinking. Here are a few examples of Dronespeak expressions to avoid:
“The Trump economy.” The economy is an incredibly complex combination of billions of individual decisions, partially overridden by thousands of government interventions. How well or poorly it might be doing at any given moment has very little to do with anything the president has done, no matter how much credit he or she tries to take. This isn’t directed at Trump. There was no Obama economy, Bush economy, or Clinton economy either. America prospers despite presidents and governments, not because of them.
“The commander in chief.” Yes, the president is commander in chief of the military and it’s perfectly appropriate to use this term when speaking of a strictly military issue. But it’s becoming more and more common to simply refer to the president this way in any context, as if he were commander in chief of the citizens. What an awful concept.
“Run the country.” Voteball doesn’t determine who will “run the country.” This is closely related to the “commander in chief” meme. The president doesn’t run the country. He or she runs the government, which causes enough problems on its own. Let’s not encourage any ambitions beyond that.
“My president.” “The president” is best; “our president” is questionable. “My president” is terrifying. It sounds a lot like those who say they have a personal relationship with God. Theological debate on that concept is fine, but can we agree applying it to a politician is blasphemy in a supposedly free country?
“We.” If Voteball in general is a war on your soul, presumptive use of the first-person plural pronoun is the enemy machine gun fire. It will be flying at you nonstop from every direction and it only takes one hit to take you out. Anytime anyone begins a sentence with, “We need,” “We must,” “We believe,” or “We all agree,” the proper response is, “Who is we?” Or, you could just refer them to Wemus.
This is by no means exhaustive but hopefully this short guide will not only help keep you safe from the dangers identified above but will give you the tools to identify and mitigate many others. Taking just a few precautions can make all the difference in enjoying a safe and entertaining Voteball season.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.