OPINION: Politics is not a team sport — it’s about America



To my Republican friends (and you Yankee, New England and Red Wings fans, too):

Ok, I get it. You’re Yankees fans and I’m a Cards guy. You’re for New England and I bleed Bears orange.

A few years ago, when I was still serving in Congress representing southern Illinois in Washington D.C., I was in the produce aisle at a local grocery store (yeah, even Congressmen sometimes do the grocery shopping), when I heard a voice behind me: “Congressman, hey Congressman!”

I turned around and, lo and behold, here was a woman I’d known for 40 years. We’d worked together as part-time clerks at a local hardware store, me selling power tools and she floor coverings, when I was a young airman at Scott Air Force Base. We remained friends over the years. Later, as a lawyer, I’d represented her and her husband, then her daughter. I bought prescriptions at his pharmacy. I bought office supplies at the store she managed. I’d attended her husband’s funeral. I’d helped her settle his estate, after all I’d written his will. Although lawyers are bound to client confidentiality, it’s a matter of public record that I did the wills and estate since they’re filed at the county courthouse, so I can state this without breaching any client confidentiality.

We hugged and I noticed her belly swollen by the cancer that would kill her a few months later. As we hugged, she said: “Wrong team, Congressman. Wrong team.” Clearly, in spite of our years of friendship, she voted for her team. Oh well, you can’t get every vote.

Why do I tell you all this? To make the point that too many of us view politics as a game. It’s all about the team.

Politics is not a team sport.

Politics is about how we govern ourselves. Politics is about how our great nation chooses to interact with the other nations and peoples of the world. Politics is about how we interact with the climate. Politics is about allocation of resources. Politics is about how we decide what is fair, whether it’s the amount we tax ourselves, the amount we spend on the military, the amount we spend on health care, or the amount we spend on seniors or children or education.

Wealthy people control, or at least have an outsize voice, in that discussion. Poor people have virtually no voice in it and middle-class people not much more.

Our founding fathers disdained political parties. Disdained them for good reason. Political parties cause people to focus on the team, not the issues.

Unfortunately, the media does the same. “If it bleeds it leads” is the journalism maxim for a reason. Writing about conflict is easier than in-depth coverage of issues. It’s also easier and more fun to read.

Governance is not a blood sport. Governance is about determining the rules by which we agree to live. Governance is about determining the priorities we want to set as a society for our society.

There are those on the right and those on the left who want to “burn it down.” Those who believe government is corrupt and should be destroyed. Those who believe that “if I don’t get what I want, the system is rigged.”

Is the system rigged? I’ve already said the wealthy have an outsize voice. In this raucous, quarrelsome representative democracy, we all have a voice.

The question is which voices do we listen to? How do we decide which is a reliable voice? How do we discern what is truth? How do we weigh priorities?

I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life in two professions, the law and the military. In each of those professions, the facts matter. In each of those professions, one makes decisions, sometimes life-and-death decisions, based on the facts as you know them.

The truth of the matter is that you never know all of the facts, which is why we say in the military that “the 70 percent solution is better than no solution.”

The ship of state that we all as citizens are struggling to steer is a mighty big ship. We are the largest economy in the world. We are the strongest military power in the world. We are 320 million souls struggling to achieve 320 million goals.

As a general officer, as a lawyer, as an elected federal legislator, I have been privileged to work with men and women who help shape our nation’s policies. Those experiences have taught me that there are some people whose judgment can be relied upon. There are some people whose primary professional goal in life is to steer this massive ship on a steady course. There are others whose judgment is suspect, whose prime goal in life is their own personal aggrandizement.

By the way, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but: for those of you who are Q-Anon followers or other conspiracy buffs, I’ve yet to meet a cannibalistic, blood drinking pedophile in the halls of the Pentagon, the halls of Congress, the halls of justice or the halls of the White House, whether during Republican or Democratic administrations, and I’ve spent time in all those halls.

I have met people I disagreed strongly with. I have met people I considered among the most arrogant, self-righteous and pig-headed possible. Most were patriots, if wrong-headed patriots, although a few worshipped money more than the Constitution.

Back to you Yankee fans, you accursed Patriots fans, and yes you wrong-headed Red Wings followers: It is time to weigh the errors and omissions of your team management. Donald Trump has run this franchise into the ground.

By the Constitutional quirk of the electoral college, a guy with no experience in government or the military, who lost the popular vote by three million, stumbled into the White House.

Since then he has mishandled a pandemic, crashed an economy that the Obama-Biden team rebuilt after the Bush administration crashed it, has handed billions to the wealthiest through tax cuts designed to help those who need it least, and has weakened our presence on the world stage.

Thirty Republican national security leaders have said he is not competent to handle the nation’s affairs, men and women that I respect professionally and personally. He caters to dictators while attacking our allies. While the nation and the world are crying out for stable leadership, his hands aren’t on the wheel of state but are typing out erratic tweets assaulting people of good faith.

My Republican friends, the Yankees hired the wrong general manager.

I’m not asking you to cheer for the Cardinals, I’m asking you to do what is right for your children, your grandchildren and for the nation I spent nearly 36 years in uniform defending. It is time for you to sit quietly and stop rooting for your team while the quiet professionals restore our nation to its guiding principles.

Next October you can root for the Yankees. This November, do what is right – vote for Joe Biden.

(William Enyart is a former U.S. Congressman for Illinois’ 12th District and retired two-star general with 35 years in the military serving in the U.S. Air Force, ultimately serving as Adjutant General of Illinois commanding both the Illinois Army and Air National Guard. He started his working life as a member of UAW Local 145, Montgomery, Ill, where he and his father both worked for Caterpillar Tractor Co. The Enyarts live in Belleville, Ill. You can hear his blog posts at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1089968).



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