Social Identity

Undermining Biden, Supporting Putin: The Dangers of the Sportification of Politics


This has been a busy week what with Putin’s war in Ukraine and Old Handsome Joe’s State of the Union address and a number of other odds and ends like the convoy slowly making its way to DC to protest something or other and unemployment falling to 3.8% from 6.4% a year ago.

One thing that both the war in Ukraine and Loaded Boebert and Mad Dog Greene’s heckling of the president during his congressional address makes clear is that real danger of the sportisification of our politics. I mean, the needless completely avoidable deaths of a million real live dead Americans by an utterly controllable deadly pandemic should’ve already alerted us to this realization, but, you know, it didn’t. The sportisfication of our politics also explains why McConnell doesn’t want to run on a policy platform; he wants to run on a vilification of Biden and the Democrats platform and reap all the hate voting, instead.

Most pundits hardly take notice of sportification of our politics, partly because they profit from fanning those flames. Since Ye Olde Blogge makes no profit, we are free to objectionably write about issues more objectively with objectionable being the operative term there.

The Sportification of Our Politics

The University of Pennsylvania political scientist, Dan Hopkins, has posited that the average American talks and thinks about politics as if it were a sports team and that we are just the fan base for a sports franchise’s “nation” a la the Cowboys Nation or Lakers Nation. Just like we cheer for our favorite sports team and trash talk the other side, we are simply cheering for a political party and hating on the other parties not because of anything more important than we identify with the party or team.

In other words, politics is no longer about policies and outcome, it is about blind loyalty to your team and hating the other side.

The problem is that nothing much changes whether the LA Rams win the Super Bowl or Cincinnati Bengals win the Super Bowl. The next morning, we all go on with our lives, even the rabid Cinci fans continue on with little or nothing having changed for them. They are Bengals fans, they are used to disappointment and losing, amirite or amirite? I’m right, right?

Dire Consequences of the Sportification of Politics

Not so with politics. If Greg Abbott is governor of Texas, 246 real live dead Texans needlessly lost their lives in the Great Winter Storm of 2021. Neighbors stalk neighbors in the hopes of winning a $10,000.00 cash prize for turning them in for seeking or aiding and abetting an abortion. The state hunts the parents of trans youth.

And, let’s not get started on all the states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA or the Repube governors who refused to follow public health guidelines in combating a pandemic and purposefully made it worse.

Sports don’t cost people their lives, politics, do. There are people walking around dead today who would be alive if it weren’t for knee-jerk Repube opposition to Democratic laws and policies over the last fifteen years.

Causes of the Sportification of Politics

Nowadays, there are few local issues that will sway a vote. We evaluate all of our politicians based on how they relate to the national political positions of the two major parties. This is why we’re electing school board members based on their stance on critical race theory. Everything in US politics is defined as being part of the national political picture. Nothing is local any more. Like it or not, you’ve got to vote that way until we can decouple local elections from national again.

When we root root root for the home team or that sports nation that we identify with, we set off a cascade of chemical reactions in our brains. Namely we activate the wanting-and-liking system in the mesolimbic reward system. This is the system that is working when you want to do just one more thing. Like when you’re binge watching a TV show, you want to watch just one more episode. Or you’re doom scrolling your social media, you just want to look a little bit further down your timeline. Or you’re watching a ball sport on the TV, you want that game to go on forever.

Having that reward system activated, feels good. That’s the purpose of the reward, to reinforce you getting another. To keep you going after something that is helping you. Only, sports don’t really help us, do they? They don’t particularly hurt us, either. It’s harmless enough, but it does become a big part of our identity.

A similar thing is happening with politics nowadays. When we trash talk the other side, just like in sports, we get a big hit of dopamine in the reward-and-liking system. That’s why the sick meme that totally owns the other side gets all the shares and likes on social media.

This is why McConnell doesn’t want to run on a legislative agenda in 2022. He knows that the Democrats can run attack ads based on any policy they advocate, and attack ads are what garner votes. Once again, McConnell is playing the Repube rank and vile for the patsies that they are.

The Dire Consequences of the Sportification of Politics

So, now we’re stuck with Tweedle Dipshit and Twattle Dumbshit in the House standing up and howling at the moon during the State of the Union address like they’re common parliamentarians heckling a common prime minister, and passing it off as politics. The problem with treating our politics like we do sporting events is that politics matter a bit more than sports do. Politics affect people’s lives. Politics determines who lives and who dies.

If it wasn’t clear enough after our reaction to vaccinating and masking to mitigate the #COVID19 pandemic and save lives, or our reaction to curbing our use of fossil fuels and to slow climate change and save lives, then the war in Ukraine might be.

There is something about seeing the bombed out apartment buildings in Ukraine cities, watching panicked mothers trying to herd their children on to trains to escape the onslaught, hearing the cries of children in subway tunnels turned makeshift bomb shelters that tugs on the heartstrings, especially when they are all as lily white as the average MAGA Nation supporter. Especially, when the cities look like American cities or at least European ones.

There is something about seeing the average Ukrainien being handed an assault rifle and ammunition and told to prepare to fight off the oppressor that appeals to the deep masturbational fantasy of every Second Amendment Come-And-Take-It gun nut in America. They’ve been salivating over using their guns to fend off the jack booted government thugs for three generations or more. They can’t help but see themselves in the Ukrainiens in this fight.

If sportified politics is about identity and identity is about recognizing yourself in others, then the rank and vile can easily identify with the middle class white Ukrainiens now running for their very lives. No amount of Putin rimming by Tucker Carlson and Trump and other Repubes is going to change that. Our very model of a modern stable genius praising the savvy genius of the Kremlin is not going to change that. Perhaps that is why the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has changed his tune and is blowing less smoke up Putin’s ass and attacking Biden as being dumb, even as Biden is widely praised as having unified the West in opposition to Putin’s invasion.

Supporting Putin’s invasion of a European liberal democracy is clearly — undeniably — supporting the literal authoritarian assault on the West’s way of life. It may be just a little too clear and plain in ways that Putin’s assault on our democracy and disinformation campaigns were not.

Ukrainien resistance to Putin’s aggression resonates more deeply the American revolutionary psyche than any mere policy position could.

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Heckle and Jeckle” by sean wickett is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

38 replies »

  1. Ripples … Now in my seventh year of actively boycotting any kind of commercialized advertisement vehicles, I wish I could say this does impact me, but out here on the periphery it’s all interconnected. The boycott is of course ~

    Don’t just change the channel, don’t go there. Don’t breakfast at a bar or lunch at a restaurant featuring “the game”; don’t party in the parking-lot. Don’t buy, don’t participate in promotionals and sales of peripheral products, don’t wear gangster gear: team jerseys and jackets. Boycott it, treat it as if it doesn’t exist. Don’t read about it, don’t write about it, don’t talk about it.

    … but it’s not that easy. The neighborhood fuel depot sells beer, does promotionals (it’s Boston fergoddesssakes), do I not fuel our vehicles at the neighborhood fuel depot? Not shop the mega-chain grocery because that’s really all we’ve got? Not read the blogs of those who do not? The interconnectiveness is insidious.

    Carries over into the legal arena, the root of so much of our evil, the adversarial system as I learned it in my only year of law school, advocates embattling upon your/our behalf. Rooted, corrupted, not in the Anglo-English tradition but Greco-Roman, arguably corruptions of far older traditions. Devolutions, perhaps, but I don’t want to digress.

    I’m not enough of a student of history to judge, but judging based on the examples at hand: the fall of Rome and the rise of Germany, I’d venture stadium sports is not a good sign. And yet, it’s all: “law”, War, religion, War, religion, pornography, War, Ambien Prozac Viagra and crotch-shots on tv kool-aid, “society” … all rooted in the adversarial system of embattling advocates, in the sportsification of politics. There’s no escaping it, no matter how far out there you get.

    I lamented recently at an “atheist” blog we lack a language to rai against religion.

    [did I effectively connect War, religion and pornography?]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Ten Bears!

      It is indeed all interconnected. As Marx and Marshall McLuhan said, social media is the opiate of the masses. It is all here to distract us from the fleecing that the 1% and their lackey politicians are doing to us. A good example occurred in South Korea shortly after the Korean War, when Korea was rapidly industrializing and building up its infrastructure. They invented and popularized soju — potato liquor. It had to be cheap enough that the laborer could afford, potent enough so that they could get drunk quickly enough that they could sleep it off before returning to work the next morning, and not so horrible that it would leave them debilitated with terrible hangovers. As long as those laborers could get drunk every night on their bottle of soju, they could maintain the social order. It’s the same shit here. Social media, memes, video games, sports, the superhero-super villain might-makes-right movies, vapid sitcoms and rom-coms, all of it exists to buy off the middle class and get us to accept our horrid fate of living in Cancer Alley, drinking Flint water, paying for Texas utilities, and dying quickly and quietly when we can no longer contribute more than we cost. As long as we believe there is nothing to be done for it, we’ll accept the status quo. As long as the premature death comes slowly enough but quickly enough to avoid any painful expensive lingering at the end, the money transfer to the 1% can be maximized.

      When you scrape away the thin layer gilded varnish from the surface of it, it is all the same old shit.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Like

  2. Ripples … Now in my seventh year of actively boycotting any kind of commercialized advertisement vehicles, I wish I could say this does impact me, but out here on the periphery it’s all interconnected. The boycott is of course ~

    Don’t just change the channel, don’t go there. Don’t breakfast at a bar or lunch at a restaurant featuring “the game”; don’t party in the parking-lot. Don’t buy, don’t participate in promotionals and sales of peripheral products, don’t wear gangster gear: team jerseys and jackets. Boycott it, treat it as if it doesn’t exist. Don’t read about it, don’t write about it, don’t talk about it.

    … but it’s not that easy. The neighborhood fuel depot sells beer, does promotionals (it’s Boston fergoddesssakes), do I not fuel our vehicles at the neighborhood fuel depot? Not shop the mega-chain grocery because that’s really all we’ve got? Not read the blogs of those who do not? The interconnectiveness is insidious.

    Carries over into the legal arena, the root of so much of our evil, the adversarial system as I learned it in my only year of law school, advocates embattling upon your/our behalf. Rooted, corrupted, not in the Anglo-English tradition but Greco-Roman, arguably corruptions of far older traditions. Devolutions, perhaps, but I don’t want to digress.

    I’m not enough of a student of history to judge, but judging based on the examples at hand: the fall of Rome and the rise of Germany, I’d venture stadium sports is not a good sign. And yet, it’s all: “law”, War, religion, War, religion, pornography, War, Ambien Prozac Viagra and crotch-shots on tv kool-aid, “society” … all rooted in the adversarial system of embattling advocates, in the sportsification of politics. There’s no escaping it, no matter how far out there you get.

    I lamented recently at an “atheist” blog we lack a language to rai against religion.

    [did I effectively connect War, religion and pornography?]

    Liked by 1 person

      • It would be my pleasure: “law”, War, religion, War, pornography, religion, War, Ambien Prozac Viagra and crotch-shots on tv kool-aid, religion, “society” … good, bad or indifferent we are all, inured to it, if not brainwashed. All rooted in the adversarial system of embattling advocates, in The Sportsification of Politics. There’s no escaping it, no matter how far out you get. You can check out any time you’d like … but you can never leave.

        I am oft amazed at the similarities I find between Meso-American and pre-contact Chinese, or Indian (India, of course, Indian) cultures. In some of those notes reputedly scrawled while reputedly interviewing an old guy in Mexico is a comment that has long given me pause: (paraphrased) we start painting a picture of the world the moment a child is born.” Maya, all an illusion, though a damned painful illusion; all just Stations on the Way.

        We have to stop doing what we’re doing, it isn’t working; and it isn’t all that difficult, all we have to do is paint a different picture …

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Ten Bears!

          Like any addiction, stopping is the hard part. All addicts know they should, but…

          What we’re waiting on is an intervention, to reach bottom, to be given that undeniable sign that either things change or we all die. Some addicts still don’t quit even after that.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          Like

  3. And, we are shown the scenes of those Ukrainian refugees being welcomed even in the most fascist and formerly Putin loving European countries because, “They look like us.”, when those same countries were so recently trying to keep others out.

    I am wishing I knew, or even suspected there is a way to de-sportify our (or anybody else’s) politics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the coverage of the black African nationals who were in the country when the invasion started and the difficulty they’ve had in getting out. It’s been everything from being denied places on transport from the cities to the borders to being denied entry to the host countries. There is no denying that part of our outpouring of sympathy and support for Ukraine is because it is a developed European Christian white country.

      One of the ways that we can de-sportify our politics, according to the experts, is by focusing on local issues and decoupling the local races from the national. Whether or not that can actually happen, I don’t know.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is clear that from the “conservative” side there is a deliberate strategy to nationalize local issues and bring culture war issues into local races (vaccine mandates, mask mandates, school curriculum, trans athletes) and most especially, school boards. Also, changing many local and state level offices, even judgeships, from non-partisan to partisan. Reversing all that is going to a long, hard fight and the outcome is unpredictable.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is the concerning part, too. They are going to win a lot of those elections for low level offices because they don’t get a lot of attention or a lot of votes. We’ll see how people do working in them. I imagine it will be a lot like that county cleric in Kentucky who refused to do her job and issue a marriage certificate when marriage equality became law of the land. I hope that a lot of them realize that the positions are just the drudgery of dotting government mandated t’s and crossing the regulatory i’s and give up after a term.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          Liked by 1 person

          • Another development with results yet to be seen is the rise of the independent voter. Here is NC, for example, “Unaffiliated” voters now outnumber both registered Democrats and Republicans. They get to choose which primary ballot they will vote. Independent turnout in the primaries has long been very low, but that may change if enough of them get weary of the base of the party toward which they lean pushing idiots, incompetents, and nut jobs.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Bob!

              If those unaffiliated voters begin turning out for the primaries in numbers large enough to affect the outcome, that will be news indeed. It seems to me that move towards independent voters — which means they just don’t publicly identify with a party, they still vote reliably for one party or the other — is because they are turned off by the negative politicking.

              I would hope that they begin voting in primaries, but I think it will be more just won’t vote and will be less likely to vote in the general election unless animated by an issue or two. Hopefully, in 22, that issue will be saving democracy. I think there are two keys to judging public sentiment towards saving democracy. First is Biden’s job approval. Recently, his numbers saw an improvement and his disapproval numbers are less than ten points above his disapproval. And the second is the generic congressional ballot survey. The Republicans are preferred by only a few percentage points over Democrats. Both of those numbers spell trouble for the Republicans in the fall.

              Huzzah!
              Jack

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, if Biden can keep his numbers up, that will help a lot. As long as we don’t get another major surge of a new COVID variant that revives the issue of mask and vacc mandates, those hot buttons will lose their importance.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Howdy Bob!

                  I see where Biden has banned the import of Russian oil, which the Republicans have been urging him to do, all the while carping about rising gas prices. Hopefully, someone somewhere will shine a light on the price gouging and war profiteering that oil companies and others are engaging in. But, Five Thirty-Eight has him only 9.1 points under in his approval rating, so that’s something.

                  Even though the rate of vaccination has slowed significantly, the vaccines, including the questionable Chinese ones seem to be protecting against severe illness and death. Hopefully, that will continue for the next variant. We know that there will always be a next variant.

                  The war in Ukraine also puts the spotlight on democracy and Russia’s attack on democracy. Bill Barr is such a oily used car salesman, but according to him, had Trump won a second term, he would’ve pulled the US out of NATO and that was what Putin was waiting on to invade Ukraine. Perhaps he’ll be willing to testify to that effect before the 6 January Committee instead of just profiteer off of it in his book.

                  Huzzah!
                  Jack

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Well, I suspect it is hard to take The 5th when the answer is something you put in a book, or it should be. Barr really didn’t say anything factual in the NPR interview that we didn’t already know, like Trump not listening to anybody but the enabler brigade.

                    A poll quoted by NPR had strong willingness to pay more for gas if it means not funding Putin – even 3-1 among Republicans. We will see how long that lasts.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      I wouldn’t put it past Barr or any of the other grifters to take the 5th and claim attorney-client privilege even though they’ve written about it in their books and talked about it in interviews. These people are souless self-promoters.

                      We got to see how that translates into voting in November. I get so tired of things polling well, but then the candidates who will actually do it lose elections to candidates who will do the opposite.

                      Hopefully, we make it part of conventional wisdom that this next election is not business as usual but a real struggle between good and evil, democracy and authoritarianism.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 2 people

          • The shift of voters away from party identity appears to be greatest among those under 40 years of age. It occurs to me that part of the reason may be that the increasing demonization of the two parties of each other (more by Republicans, to be sure, but some in return, especially recently) makes claiming one or the other socially and/or professionally awkward.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Bob!

              My social media feed often features someone expressing shock and dismay that a coworker has revealed themselves to be part of MAGA Nation, or that they are the lone liberal in MAGA workplace.

              I think the demonization of both sides, and this one really is both sides, turns people off in general, but especially the non-idealistic members of the younger generation. If you’re caught up in the social issues that the media emphasizes (the GOP pushed social issues) then you automatically pick a side because your limbic system decides whether you are a yay or nay on the issue in a second without your even knowing it. And, if your limbic system is frightened, you automatically move to the more conservative interpretations of things.

              The youth vote gravitates towards the Dems because that limbic system emotional like or dislike on the MAGA social issues — abortion, gun rights, the Big Lie — generally lands on the side of liberal issues. Their lies about the fiscal responsibility of social spending and racial animus tends to pull people, especially older people, back towards them. Younger people are less susceptible to the racist dog whistles but not the fear mongering over fiscal issues.

              Huzzah!
              Jack

              Liked by 1 person

              • For a large number of the younger voters, a major money issue is their student debt. Inability to find an affordable “starter home” to buy is another biggie. Since the GOP is simply not addressing those issues except to block action on them, there should be a pull toward the Dems for those younger voters who will vote rather than sit it out.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Howdy Bob!

                  I can’t figure out why Biden and the Democrats are not doing more to explicitly reach for the youth vote by forgiving student loan debt, the Black vote through voting rights, and the Hispanic vote through more Spanish language advertising.

                  I’m convinced that part of the spiralling cost of housing is being caused by corporations buying up the housing stock and no one will actually own a home that doesn’t already. Everyone will be renting. But, addressing affordable housing — fewer low-income housing units are being built anymore — is one of the biggest needs that isn’t being talked about.

                  Huzzah!
                  Jack

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Forgiving the student debt may require legislation to really stick, rather than an executive order. It’s like the problem with helping the Dreamers. Voting rights, same deal, same problem, the GOP in the Senate.

                    The current housing market, certainly around here, is investment buyers showing up with cash offers. It is even happening with farm land when old farmers retire, private equity buying.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      More than likely debt forgiveness will require legislation, but the Dem House should pass it so that the GQP Senate has to block it. The Dems have done a fair job this year of passing major legislation out of the House only to have McConnell-Manchin-Sinema to quash it. While frustrating, it may be enough of a demonstration to motivate folks to vote in 2022. I was pleasantly surprised by turn out in 2018 and 2020, so it could happen again in 2022.

                      Unless or until we explicitly diminish the wealth gap, we’re never going to working towards a more perfect union. Yet another blog post in the works based on Letters from an American column and Heather Cox Richardson’s interview of Biden.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • If the cancellation of the existing debt is not linked to at least free tuition at state schools, the future students will be trapped in the same debt system. What’s called for is a fundamental change in the financing of higher education. How to get there? Tax the rich, not just wages, but assets and estates. Of course, that is exactly what the GOP fear when they warn of “Socialism.”

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • The age old tension between leveling the playing field and maintaining the hierarchy. Hopefully, the pendulum has swung far enough in the hierarchy’s direction that it will begin swinging back towards the greater equality direction.

                      Jack

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • When that pendulum swings rapidly in either direction, the changes tend not to happen without violence. Also, when the inequality is extreme, the ones on top are too insulated to see the swing coming.

                      Liked by 2 people

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