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Presidential Politics, Softball Politics.

by Dear Jon
May 6, 2008

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Dear Jon,

Why doesn't Billary call it quits?

Tired of Billary

Dear Tired,

The American electorate has gotten used to coronating media favorite front-runners from each major party, buying the line that these equal the only viable alternatives for an "unwasted" vote. This situation has only pertained since around 1980. The voting public has forgotten that party conventions used to "convene" to do real work; to hash out agreement on a candidate and on an agenda to present to the nation. It has happened that the primary season has not always given the party the clear decision going in to the convention. Throughout history conventions have involved hallway candidating and backroom negotiations, and the results have sometimes been surprising. The Democrats in 1968 had a chaotic convention that was marked by riots and police intervention.

The persistence of Hillary Clinton is serving two causes: First, keeping open the possibility that her involvement will force Obama into critical campaign gaffes. Second, should Obama continue to build support, the enormous block coming in for Mrs. Clinton will force the Democratic party to deal, on everything from its legislative platform to the role of Mrs. Clinton in the future of the party and the administration. I am reminded of two-time presidential loser Adlai Stevenson, who became America's ambassador to the UN under Jack Kennedy. This is no mean post, especially now.

There are a lot more reasons to keep the campaign going than mere opinion polls and fatigued voters assume. Mrs. Clinton is challenging the voting public where we need to be challenged most, at the level of our attention spans.

Meanwhile, I wonder if your question has anything to do with the question that comes up next.


Dear Jon,

My daughter's soft-ball coach had others start ahead of her last year who were nowhere near as talented. We can already tell that this year is going to go down the drain just like last year. Good players might qualify for scholarships to college. When good players are benched behind bad players who have no future in the game it is unfair not only for the team's chances but for the future of the good players. How can I talk to the coach so that he will be reasonable?

Frustrated Softball Dad

Dear Softball,

Hm. I wonder if your daughter feels anything like Hillary Clinton, in that in her mind she is forced to warm a bench behind less capable starters?

For my first answer I am going to assume that you are giving an objective assessment of the truth. On that basis I conclude that your coach is a jerk.

I don't know why a coach at any level --except back-yard birthday picnic games—would want to play athletes who offer less of a chance to win. Other politics are in play, or something is happening at the level of that coach's competence. When either is the case, talking to a coach that is a jerk can be an extremely frustrating effort.  Depending on where you are and what your flexibility is, consider registering your daughter to another team, or another league, with another coach or administration that will do the right thing. Maybe that means sending her to another school or another park district. Maybe you don't have that flexibility.

For my second answer I am going to assume that you are giving a one-sided assessment which still accurately describes many things that are true. On that basis I conclude that neither of you are jerks and that both of you are caught up in your own judgments so that you are each suspicious of the other.

Sometimes the question about who starts has less to do with raw talent and more to do with how the team gels. The ability to play together has to do with attitude and emotion. Your coach may have your daughter playing behind someone who sparks the team from the outfield, one who is always communicating and taking leadership. Maybe your daughter gets on base one out of two at-bats and the other girl in one out of four, but maybe the other girl is a smarter base runner, obeying the signals of the coaches. I'm not saying that maybe the problem is that your daughter is a prima donna on the team or a loner or has great skills but no personality. I am saying that the mix of raw skills, confidence, personality and teamwork are not always tangible and the coach might have a different take on the intangibles than you do.

For my third answer I am going to assume that you are seriously over-estimating your daughter's level of play based on your own hopes for a major financial benefit in terms of college tuition fees. In this case you should give up on your campaign to make your daughter a starter, so that the team can pull together for its best chance to compete down the stretch of the season.

If this is the case and you are persisting anyway, it may be that you are so fixated on your hopes for your daughter's future as a scholar-athlete that you do not realize the reality of her own prospects; that she is simply not the person to lead a team. This fixation does not necessarily make you a jerk. How you respond to this wake-up call will determine whether you are a jerk: Will you continue to campaign for your daughter to start, putting her in an impossible situation because of your unrealistic expectations?  O will you be a wise and loving parent able to help yourself and your daughter live with the uncomfortable and disappointing realities of life so that the team can pull together and succeed?

Hillary Clinton is a slugger who in the course of her career has a solid batting average, a high incidence of home runs and a good ratio of runs batted in. Barak Obama is a rookie who so far seems to have a good presence at the plate and a batting average as high as Hilary's, but he has not established this batting average over time. Hilary insists she should be the starter, and she swings for the bleachers every time. Barak gets on base and lets others go to bat to bring him home.

The thing is, I don't see John McCain pitching fat ones to allow Hillary to knock the home-run into deep left. I think McCain is too smart from the mound. I see the election against McCain as a squeeze play. If you are for the Donkeys against the Elephants, whom would you rather see between third base and home-plate? Can Hillary outrun the throw and slide in? If we agree that McCain won't be throwing grape-fruit and that the election will be a squeeze play off a bunt down the center line, it seems to me the Donkeys know whom they want in position to win the game: Barak Obama.

Meanwhile, McCain had better have the right catcher in the game: Condi Rice. Do any elephants have big enough ears to hear me on this?

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