Oh, the coin toss. One team get’s a choice. Do they kick the ball to the other team, or opt to have it kicked to them? While this may seem like a mundane choice, it’s actually quite critical to how teams attack or rather approach their opponents to start off the game. Much like football, elections often force candidates to adapt a strategy to outsmart, out smut, and out play their opponents. In football, the choice really comes down to personal preference. If you receive the kickoff you get the first crack at offence with the potential of getting a touchdown. However, if you’re brave, you can opt to kick the ball away to the other team, in hopes that your defense has the skill to stop them in their tracks before they reach the end zone, in turn scoring a touchdown.
In an election, the early days can often set a campaign off on the right foot. Sadly, rather than meaningful strategy, most politicians opt for the safer bet to hit the ground running on the offensive. In it’s simplest form, this equates generally to statements about how the current leader in power is failing, and how the moment they get into power, they will replace, repeal, or annihilate their predecessors’ policies.
It’s now halfway through the first quarter and things are starting to get interesting. Each team has had its exciting rushes, passes, and tackles. No one team has a huge lead over the other and things are starting to become interesting. But then it happens, out of nowhere and in an impressive feat, the team on the offensive completes an impressive play that brings them to the goal line. The defensive team now has an option, do they play it safe and hope their team can force an incomplete pass, or do they rush the quarter back with a blitz? Obviously, a blitz is more of a risk but it often results in bad decisions from a rushed quarterback, and is most definitely the most exciting of the two choices to watch as a fan. Much like football, elections generally heat up when one candidate starts gaining popularity, which can be compared to taking a lead in a football game. The opposing candidates now have some choices to be made. Do they sit back and trust their team’s ability to perform, or do they try and force the candidate who’s gaining popularity to make a mistake? For anyone who follows elections in the Western world it comes at no great surprise that most candidates opt to go on the offensive and blitz their opponents, rather than relying on their platform and their competency.
Halfway through the second quarter and the game is becoming intense. Fans representing both teams are starting to become heavily engaged in the game, and disputes start arising over whether the ref was paid off by the other team, or whether that pass was, in fact, completed inbounds. It’s heated, and there exist those who take things to extreme levels, but things are still for the most part civil. In elections, this scenario plays out often. A small group of leaders amongst the election becomes clear and many supporters begin heavily weighing in on the elections outcomes. In this case, the referees of the election are in the form of media. In today’s age they play an increasingly big role in a supporters understanding of the debates, policies, and news of the election. Sadly, unlike football, where it is prohibited to pay off a ref to rig a game so that one team will surely win, the same is not true for the media throughout elections. Just look at the past US election. News companies like Politico, CNN and Mother Jones posted hundreds upon hundreds of articles slandering President Donald J. Trump. However, other news agencies also campaigned to make Trump look good, and make Hillary Clinton look like a criminal (she is I might add).
We now find ourselves in the third quarter. Things are getting tense. There have been a couple of dirty hits, missed calls, and amazing plays. It’s really anyone’s game and all it’s going to take at this point is for one team to make a mistake. Everything was civil until this point, but now, with so much on the line, and so much emotion driving players to win, stuff can start to become dirty. Blindside hits, low blows, a cleat to the ankle. These things all culminate to a high-tension match where things could blow up at moments notice. Either team is waiting for the other to slip up for an excuse to join in the fun. At this point in elections things are getting tense. A few candidates have been in it since the start and are heavily invested emotionally in the election’s outcome. The media has been providing the kind of dirty plays found in football, and candidates from both sides fuel the fire knowing that all it takes is one wrong move from their opponents to create an entirely new ball game. At this point, fans and political supporters alike are fighting each other over the progression of the game, which may or may not be satisfactory for either side. It’s heated, crushing blows are being delivered and the spectators are left both shocked and enthralled. It’s still anyone’s game but things are tense and both sides are starting to tire and make mistakes.
Enter the fourth quarter… at this point anything that’s not caught by the refs goes. Purposeful knee’s to the stomach in a pile after the play, an exceptionally stealthy late hit, or in extreme cases a funny looking boxing match. Elections are no different. In the late stages, candidates are so invested they can easily let things escalate beyond control. Anything goes, from starting unsupported rumors, to landing smear campaigns suggesting that the other candidate is a lunatic who will never be competent in office or even digging up some out of context quote from their opponent from 2 decades ago. This may seem far fetch but it happens all the time, and it’s an almost expected outcome of every election in the past 20 years.
The outcome of this game or election as I’ve been comparing it to is insignificant. Throughout the game, things went from a friendly match, to an all out cesspool of emotion, controversy and unfounded claims. Both sides are too heavily invested in the final outcome, and not the game itself. When things became tense they chose the low road, rather than the high road. They could have kept things clean, kept a cool demeaned and a level head, respected their opponents efforts and still overcame them with skill and finesse, but they most often do not. It becomes a match where anything goes, the worse their opponent looks in the eyes of the public the better. Is this really how our elections are supposed to run, or as a society have we been mistaken, mislead and fooled by the media and political candidates who will do whatever it takes to win? I think so, and I’m sure tired of all the attack ads, the lies and the clever ad campaigns that take away from the election itself, and turn it into a he said she said battle comparable in significance to that of a child blaming something they did on their older sibling. The game is won, the trophy goes to the winning team, and their fans are delighted beyond belief…. until the next season.