Zero-Sum

That Michael Lewis piece starts badly and gets worse: 

Back when he was president, Barack Obama told me that only two people treated any interaction with him as a zero-sum game. One was Vladimir Putin, the other congressional Republicans. Both behaved as if there was no such thing as a win-win situation: Any gain for Obama was a loss for them, and any gain for them must also entail a loss for Obama. The moment that the Russian president or congressional Republicans saw he wanted something, they went to work trying to keep him from getting it — even if it was something they might otherwise have approved of.

Approaching any aspect of life as a zero-sum game has obvious practical costs: Deals that leave some people better off without making anyone else worse off suddenly don’t get done, because making some people better off now, by definition, makes other people worse off. It also comes with some psychological side effects. It cripples your imagination. It blinds and deafens you, as you sort of know what your adversary is going to do or say before they do or say it. Or, rather, you know how you are going to make sense of it: uncharitably.

The zero-sum approach in politics has since spread, as it tends to do wherever it takes hold. It has infected congressional Democrats and parts of the news media, and is seeping into everyday political discourse.

Really? WHERE? HOW has it affected Congressional Democrats similarly? How has it just crept in and taken over their minds, like poison gas in a vent? SHOW ME, motherfucker, how both sides are the same.

I know it’s fashionable to pretend that everybody bears some blame for the currently gridlocked Congress, but until you can give me an example of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi passing legislation just to fuck with Republicans, sponsoring bills like the We Have No National Language Act and the Actually Let’s Expand Medicaid Nationwide Act and the Rename All the Reagan Buildings After McGovern act, you won’t convince me Congressional Ds are on the zero-sum train.

I mean, they have no power. None. They haven’t had any really since the 2010 midterms and they sure as hell have even less now. So how have they been “infected” by this mindset? Show your work or don’t show up at all.

I see no sign that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi want to protect Dreamers just to piss Paul Ryan off, or preserve Obamacare because it makes McConnell squirm. Congressional Dems did not block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee simply because they could, meanwhile Merrick Garland of noble name is sitting on a couch someplace. Shit, Congressional Dems confirmed far more of Trump’s nominees than their base is really comfortable with so if there’s a zero sum game it’s not between Dems and Republicans, it’s between Dems and their own fucking voters.

They are occasionally corrupt and often deeply stupid but they do actually have policy goals involving helping people, which is more than I can say for their opposition, which shut down the government rather than confront the operational reality of immigration.

This is a throwaway paragraph, the kind of nut graf boilerplate you put into a story to kind of paint the walls blue so everyone knows they’re looking at the sky, and that’s exactly why it’s so damaging. The lazy shorthand is all anybody hears and so all anybody hears is that both sides are at fault. They’ve been infected. It’s seeped into them.

A.

2 thoughts on “Zero-Sum

  1. Lex says:

    Lewis needs to stick with what he knows. And he for sure doesn’t know politics.

    Like

  2. joejoejoe says:

    It’s ancient history now but Merrick Garland was himself a compromise candidate for the 11th Circuit. In 1994, President Bill Clinton’s 1st choice was Peter Edelman. Garland was the President Clinton’s compromise choice for the 11th Circuit in 1994 and President Obama’s compromise choice for Supreme Court in 2016.

    Like

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