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Monday, July 18, 2023
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via Brett Marston, I found the following clear-thinking from Peter Levine: why I don’t care about Karl Rove which is an entry in my the “Best Things I’ve Read About Plame” Contest.

He makes a number of salient points about why this isn’t the dramatic story that some wish it to be (and makes an interesting argument about what the overall effects of the story may be-and it isn’t damage to Karl Rove), including this one, which is my favorite:

Third, if we spend time thinking about Rove, then we must have decided that we are a virtual jury. Our job is to decide whether powerful celebrities are guilty or innocent and register our verdicts in opinion polls (if anyone happens to poll us). Or perhaps we think of politics as a contact sport, played by two relatively small teams of national pros. Then the question is whether Rove can play the second half–or was his foul so bad that he has to sit it out? Whether we’re a bunch of spectators or a virtual jury, we have no serious responsibilities or opportunities. But if we were focused, for example, on the high school graduation rate, then there would be much for us to do–starting in the schools of our own communities.

Exactly! We too often treat politics like a spectator sport–everything is seen in terms of whether it helps our side move the ball forward or not. If our side says it, it is good; if the other side says it, it’s bad. Such thinking diverts us from genuine, efficacious public dialogue. We altogether seem too interested in making sure our side scores (or, at least, that the other side doesn’t) than we are in actually having a worthwhile discussion about what our national priorities should be, and what solutions are needed to address them.

Because the current story involves Karl Rove–a man greatly disliked by many in the press and in the Democratic Party and a man loved by many Republicans because he works for a Republican President–the story becomes a way to score points.

Think Dick Morris: he was hated by Republicans when he was helping Clinton formulate triangulation strategies, but beloved by many of the same folks once he started criticizing Clinton in newspaper columns and writing anti-Hillary books.

All of this is part and parcel of what I have often called (although never on the blog) “The Deion Sanders Effect”. When Deion played for the Falcons he was an annoying, preening player–but he didn’t bother me all that much, because that Falcons didn’t matter to the Dallas Cowboys. When Deion signed with the 49ers, he became extremely annoying. Indeed, he was perhaps the most annoying football player ever. However, when he signed with Dallas, why, he sure did seem to calm down–not quite as arrogant as he used to be. When he was helping make Larry Brown into a Super Bowl MVP he was the salt of the earth, right ?(at least if one was a Dallas Cowboys fan). And the funny thing is that he got all annoying again when he signed with the Redskins. Must be that he has a more appealing personality when he resides in Texas. Perhaps its the really good BBQ and Mexican food that affects his attitude… (And maybe today, it ought to be called the “Terrell Owens Effect”).

Certainly, many look at all things political in a similar fashion.

Beyond personalities, I would point to the recent response to a suggestion President Bush made at his most recent prime time press conference, wherein he suggested that Social Security benefits might have to be indexed to income in the future to deal with the explosion in the number of beneficiaries. The suggestion was defended immediately by many Republicans and denounced by many Democrats, yet James Joyner was quite correct when he noted at the time:

Of course, if Bill Clinton had made this proposal, conservatives would almost surely be crying “Socialism!”

Quite right: yet Democrats, who should have been ideologically predisposed to support the idea rejected it and Republicans, who should have been predisposed to reject it, embraced it. So much for looking at actual ideas: all that matters is that if my side scores, or not, right?

Update: Part of today’s OTB Traffic Jam.

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    1. The trackback said something about Social Security and, given the post title, I immediately thought of the commercial that came out shortly after he signed a then-enormous $35 million dollar contract with the Cowboys with the punchline “Both!” (Do you want $15 million? $20 million?)

      Comment by James Joyner — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 4:40 pm

    2. Indeed ;)

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 4:50 pm

    3. I know you had some kind of point with the whole Deion Sanders analogy, but but it is totally ruined by the requirement for the reader to imagine being a Dallas Cowboys fan. A proper analogy must be reasonable; if it is too farfetched or ludicrous it distracts from the point you are trying to make.

      Comment by Terry — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 5:49 pm

    4. :-)

      Comment by Terry — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 5:50 pm

    5. The Deion Effect

      Steven Taylor on Plamegate and politics as a spectator sport: We too often treat politics like a spectator sport–everything is seen in terms of whether it helps our side move the ball forward or not. If our side says it, it is good; if the other side…

      Trackback by Signifying Nothing — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 6:42 pm

    6. I’m sorry. Deion was *always* annoying.

      Comment by Steven L. — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 7:18 pm

    7. This is, of course, true. But he was far less annoying when intercepting passes thrown by the 49ers than the other way around.

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 7:22 pm

    8. Actually, when he left Dallas, he was no longer annoying, just cartoonish and too old.

      Comment by Bryan S. — Monday, July 18, 2023 @ 8:17 pm

    9. If the progressive indexing proposal could have been construed as socialism by conservatives, then Social Security as a whole is currently socialism.

      Also, I’d have to say that a lot of conservatives WERE very cool on progressive indexing. Human Events, for example, went all out against the idea after Bush announced it. So did a lot of right-of-center bloggers. I mean, didn’t even give it a chance. Even though Bush announced it.

      So, in other words, with all respect to Joyner, that’s just a bad example.

      Comment by Will Franklin — Tuesday, July 19, 2023 @ 9:06 am

    10. Will,

      An example nee dnot be universal to be a good example. I watched the talking heads responses that night, and Joyner’s observation was on target.

      Neither he (nor I) am arguing that all members of a given group had an identical response.

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, July 19, 2023 @ 9:21 am

    11. Yep. When Danny Ainge played for the Celtics he was a spoiled brat, but when he came to the Suns he became a sterling citizen. And suddenly he was right when he disputed a call with the refs. ;)

      Comment by Brainster — Tuesday, July 19, 2023 @ 2:20 pm

    12. [...] e Process Was Sped Up Because of Rove and Plame! This is a favorite of those caught up in political scorekeeping (for example here, here and here). Now, do I think that the administration is glad to [...]

      Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » The Politics of Nominations — Wednesday, July 20, 2023 @ 8:55 am

    13. [...] as not a particularly good argument (indeed, it isn’t an argument at all, it is the Deion Sander Effect in operation). That isn’t a very good political argument, nor it is one that is bas [...]

      Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » — Tuesday, August 2, 2023 @ 1:05 pm

    14. Deion was always annoying and strutting, though I never much cared until Super Bowl XXX, where he helped beat the Steelers, surpassing thier win mark at the same time (they have 5, though they lost more too, including twice to the Steelers).

      Then he got to the Ravens, which was weird, but not annoying to a Steeler fan because you have to be good and strutting to make people notice.

      The Terrell Owens effect isn’t apt, though, because he’s so annoying that fans hate him after a while. Just ask any Eagles fan about this contract flap, and they’ll tell you they disliked the whole thing. They’ll probably put that aside for the season, though, should Owens play well.

      Comment by B. Minich, PI — Tuesday, August 2, 2023 @ 2:42 pm

    15. Of course, if TO goes somewhere else and helps them win, those fans will love him–at least in the short term.

      Remember: they used to like in SF as well ;)

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, August 2, 2023 @ 2:46 pm

    16. [...] that citizens (and denizens of the Blogosphere perhaps more than some) treat the political like a sporting event, I would underscore that the Aftermath of Katrina is as far from a football game as we c [...]

      Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » On Criticizing the Response to Katrina — Monday, September 5, 2023 @ 11:02 am

    17. [...] A clear problem with a two party system is that by essentially making every election a binary choice means that partisans are prone to, especially over time, vest their side (in their own minds) with unlimited virtue and the side with undying vice. Call it the Crossfire/Hannity and Colmes Effect wherein all of the complexities of the political world have to be centered in one side or the other. I have termed the way in which we have a tendency to protect (or, at least, excuse) our own side as the “Deion Sanders Effect” (although, as I note in the original post, the younger members of the audience might want to call it the “Terrell Owens Effect”). [...]

      Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » A Problem with a Two Party System (or Three Deadly Sins of Partisanship) — Saturday, October 7, 2023 @ 1:57 pm

    18. [...] From 7/18/05: The Deion Sanders Effect 10/7/06: A Problem with a Two Party System (or Three Deadly Sins of Partisanship) [...]

      Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The Rebranding of a Blog — Tuesday, October 17, 2023 @ 3:11 pm

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