The Problem With Politics: The Defense Never Scores

Some of my fondest childhood memories take place in the living room of my grandparents’ old farm house.  I can remember the bright red carpet with its swirled texture; the navy blue slippers my Grandma always wore in the house; the way her thighs looked when she sat, legs crossed at the knees, in her recliner.

The whole house smelled of pipe smoke, wet Dachshund, and pot roast.  The sound of cards snapped one after another, shuffled, re-dealt in a hundred hands of solitaire before lunch and the clatter of overgrown dog nails on a kitchen floor have the power to transport me back like it was yesterday; like I’m right there again.   The cuckoo clock ticks, tocks, sings.

There are many ways in which my Grandma was an imperfect woman.  She drank and smoked and, if the stories I’ve heard are any indication, she had loose morals.  Still, there is no one I would rather emulate.  She was a hell of a Donkey Kong player and an occasional better on horse races.

She introduced me to the work of Stephen King at the ripe old age of ten, and it was that same summer I remember learning why she watched baseball so much. “For the tight pants,” she’d exclaim.  I became a Tigers fan sprawled out on that smoke-soaked carpet, and snuggled into a handmade afghan on the sofa at the far end of the room.

I learned a lot during those games; choice words and the rules of the game, that leaning out of your seat and yelling at the television helped your team win.  I’ve learned a lot from the game since and if there was just one thing I could tell you about those games after all these years, it’d be that the defense never scored.  Obvious maybe, but a simple fact that seems lost on us now.

They were the same men, of course.  It was the same men who slid into home under thunderous applause, but when they were out in the field they never scored.  And that was okay.  It’s the same with almost every other sporting event.   We don’t even expect our defensive players to score.  Sure, in certain games an occasional interception is nice, but it’s not expected.  We don’t hinge entire games on whether or not the defense can score, that’s the offense’s job.  And yet, when it comes to politics — certainly a “sporting” event of a very different kind — we’ve been betting our future on that very thing.

As a country, we’ve been playing defense and only defense for so long we don’t even seem to remember what scoring is anymore.  We’re all so busy telling people why our opposition is wrong, we don’t know what it is to solve a problem, to even propose our own solutions.  We have no offense.

And how could we?

It’s been so long since a new idea was proposed in this country, I’d almost be inclined to wonder if we have a fundamental lack of them.  Almost, that is, if I didn’t have an inherent faith in the human race.   I can’t believe that we’re out of ideas, that we ever will be, I just think we’re so busy crushing others’ ideas that we’re not spending any time on our own.  And that needs to stop.  Because when people play offense, regardless of the team for which they play, incredible things happen.  Thunderous applause, even.   And if there’s anything America needs this year it’s that.  It’s hot dogs and beer, tight pants and bright stadium lights, thunderous applause and a well-earned score.

If there’s anything we need it’s new ideas, new actions, the offense.   The problem with American politics is that the defense never scores.

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