The Confidence Game
Democrats suffer from a lack of focus not because they can’t come up with a winning game plan but because they keep trying to fix a flawed game rather than win it.
By David Todd McCarty | Tuesday, May 12, 2020
In the game of poker, the better the cards you hold, the better your chance of winning should be. In theory, that is. We don’t all start from an even starting point, we are not all dealt the same cards, and we are not all playing with the same bank. We are dealt cards, presumably at random, and our starting hand is decided by fate. A skilled player can win the hand, even if they begin with lesser cards, by taking advantage of a weaker player by posturing that he holds better cards than he does, either by his play or his attitude, and end up convincing a weaker opponent with a stronger hand, to bow out.
We have all watched poker on television or seen it in action in the movies. We are familiar with the premise, even if we would be helpless in reality, sitting at a card table, tens of thousands of dollars on the line, and no idea what to do.
In poker, as in real life, we are not all given the same cards, nor do we start at the same place. But with a certain level of acquired skill, perseverance and dedication, we can rise above the hand we are dealt, regardless of whether or not we even hold the best hand. It is, sometimes, simply a matter of confidence.
The Republican Party is nothing if not confident. They are confident even when confidence isn’t called for—quintessentially overconfident, some might argue. Some would consider this brash, arrogant even, but in conservative circles, this is what stands in for power. Confidence is better than intelligence, expertise or even knowledge. This is the political party that the Republicans have created in Trump’s own image. Confident, arrogant even, but without the slightest ability to back it up with any substance. Just look at the President’s acolytes such as Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida’s 1st Congressional District, Jim Jordan of Ohio’s 4th, Devin Nunes in California’s 22nd, Kevin McCarthy in California’s 23rd, or Jeff Van Drew from our very own New Jersey 2nd. Their ignorance is matched only by their willingness to throw themselves into harm’s way in order to protect and defend the President, regardless of the insanity of his statements or actions. They are all in, all the time.
The Democrats, on the other hand, play poker with the confidence of a twelve-year-old boy with a nervous condition, twelve dollars to his name, and a full bladder. The fact that the twelve year old is holding a full boat—Aces over Kings—is meaningless in the face of the blustering idiot telling him that all red cards is the better hand.
The Democrats play as if they can’t afford to lose and the Republicans play as if they have nothing to lose.
If there were two Democrats and two Republicans playing at the same table, and one of the Democrats made an error in judgement, the other Democrat would call him out on it and encourage him to leave, for the good of the game. On the other hand, if one of the Republicans was caught with six Aces in his jacket pocket, he would blame the Democrat who had just left the game, arguing that he had put them there to make him look bad. Meanwhile, the other Republican would deny the very existence of Aces, claiming it was an Indian-casino conspiracy designed to keep the white man down, then he would crush a cyanide pill between his teeth and fall dead on the table.
We are not, it seems, playing the same game, and it’s high time that Democrats get a handle on that. Liberals in general tend to see many shades of grey and are therefore more likely to have a nuanced approach to the world, whereas Conservatives see the world in more black and white terms. This allows Republicans to coalesce around a single message, no matter how batshit crazy, while the Democrats want to argue the cost-benefit analysis concerning the risk of rabies versus the benefit of guano as a reliable fertilizer, while both defending the bat’s right to be there.
The Democrats have facts on their side and they are right about everything, because whenever they do finally come to a consensus, it has been thoroughly vetted by real experts that actually know what they’re talking about. The problem is that while they were vetting the issue, important though it may have been, the Republicans had already stolen their dates and left the party hours earlier.
Democrats want to be right more than they want to win, and Republicans don’t care if they’re right as long as they win. As Attorney General Barr said recently to defend his position to drop all charges against Gen Michael Flynn, “History is written by the winners, so it largely depends on who is writing the history.”
Republicans figure that they don’t need to tell the truth, or follow the law, or really even be right for that matter, as long as they win, because then they will be able to write their own version of history, and they will say they were right the whole time.
If Democrats want to start winning more, they need to be willing to be mostly right in a game that is ultimately flawed. They need leaders who are good, not perfect. Laws that are effective, not all-encompassing. Representation that entertains multiple ideas, not that represents every opinion every single person has.
In short Democrats need the confidence that they can govern better than a political party that has no use for facts, and they need to stop arguing about what color the backs of the cards should be, how many Queens are in the deck, and who didn’t ante.
You can’t fix a rigged game if you’re not in charge of the rules.
Follow David Todd McCarty on Twitter @davidtmccarty and The Standard @capemaystandard