Analogies and metaphors. They’re tricky little boogers.
They can be illustrative. They can be perilous.
A number of analogies and metaphors have been thrown around by supporters of Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter to describe Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne’s endorsement of Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in the general election. It seems a number of folks are none too pleased that Dardenne crossed party lines to throw his support behind Vitter’s gubernatorial runoff opponent after placing fourth in the primary last month.
Let’s start with Peter Egan, chairman of the GOP executive committee of St. Tammany Parish. He compared Dardenne — who’s been lauded for his work on behalf of domestic violence victims during his tenure in the state Legislature — to a wife killer.
In an open letter that started rather cordially, Egan called Dardenne’s endorsement of the guy who did not mercilessly and viciously attack him during the primary as “a vehement act of retribution.” Egan told Dardenne, “Your behavior somewhat parallels what might be the mind frame and actions of an angry and rageful ex-husband. The behavior of endorsing Edwards is akin to that of a jilted man firing indiscriminately at his ex-wife’s car, mindless of the collateral harm and injury to many innocent people.”
Egan’s analogy, like hopefully all of the bullets shot by that angry ex-husband, missed the mark. But at least he signed the letter “respectfully.”
Then there was Scott McKay, of the conservative blog The Hayride. He literally and graphically compared Dardenne to Ephialtes, “the hunchbacked Greek traitor who sold out Leonidas and the Spartans to the Persians at Thermopylae out of pique over a slight,” as described by McKay in a post headed by the image of the grotesquely deformed character from the film 300.
Two things about McKay equating Dardenne to Ephialtes I find rather interesting.
One, in the movie 300 based on Frank Miller’s comic book miniseries of the same title, King Leonidas led 300 Spartans into battle against the Persian god-King Xerxes and his invading army of over 300,000 soldiers. Does that mean Edwards has 1,000 times as much money and support as Vitter in deep red Louisiana? Is the Vitter-McKay coalition our last hope of stemming an all-out invasion by the god-King Obama and his captain, Edwards? Do McKay and his fellow Spartan conservatives think they look like Gerard Butler?
I’m not sure McKay’s fellow pro-life Republicans appreciate him associating them with baby killing.
Secondly, newborn children in Sparta were examined for physical defects by a council of elders. Those infants deemed “ill-born” were left to die on a hillside. In fact, in 300, Ephialtes’ parents fled Sparta to protect him from the state-sponsored infanticide. I’m not sure McKay’s fellow pro-life Republicans appreciate him associating them with baby killing.
The most notable comparison used to describe Dardenne’s endorsement of a Democrat, however, came from state Republican Party chairman and Grand Nagus Roger Villere. He called Dardenne “the Nick Saban of Louisiana politics” just days before the LSU football team took on the much hated former LSU coach and his Alabama Crimson Tide. The obvious implication is Dardenne is a traitor who betrayed his team and is actively helping those despised rival Democrats.
I know the timing made that analogy too irresistible, but allow me to explain why Villere — or anyone else, for that matter — should steer clear of comparing political parties to sports teams, aside from the fact that some might say Villere is the Curley Hallman of Louisiana politics.
Loyalty is good, but it is possible to be loyal to a fault. It’s nice to be part of a community and support your team, but loyalty can also blind people to reality.
Just observe a rabid fan of a football team as he watches his team play. Every single call that goes against his team is a horrible call. The officials clearly have conspired against his team and are working to help the other team win. The other team is cheating and his team is getting screwed. All. The. Time.
It matters not that the replay irrefutably shows the other team scored a touchdown, or that a member of his team committed a foul that his dead grandmother could have called. Every call that goes against his team is bullshit, while every play warrants a call against the other team.
And don’t even think about offering a dose of reality. God help you if you foolishly tell him those calls were obviously correct. It matters not that you are a neutral observer with no rooting interest in the contest; you are obviously biased against his team and really want the other guys to win.
When you cast your ballot, are you voting for a person or the team logo on that faceless candidate’s helmet?
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather the electorate make voting decisions rooted in reality than based on blind party loyalty. The alternative is the current trend of hyperpartisanship and adversarial political discourse that resembles smack talking on an online sports forum.
Too many voters are less concerned about the candidates themselves than they are about which team they’re on, as represented by the letter next to each of their names. When you cast your ballot, are you voting for a person or the team logo on that faceless candidate’s helmet? Are you voting for an individual with personal beliefs and motivations, or your team’s colors? Blue or red? Crip or Blood?
Can we get back to when political parties had members and supporters instead of fans like sports teams have? Fan is short for “fanatic,” a word sometimes associated with those brown people we’ve been killing in the Middle East for several years now because “they don’t respond to reason.” We need less fanaticism in our politics, Mr. Villere. Not more.
Sports fanaticism is what leads otherwise reasonable and discriminating people to actively cheer for unrepentant woman beaters, dog killers, and murder suspects simply because they’re on the “right” team. Similarly, fanatical partisanism is what leads to people overlooking questionable character and blatantly hypocritical behavior en route to supporting the opponent of a seemingly honorable, decent, and moderate candidate who happens to be on the “wrong” team.
But since Villere brought up the football team metaphor, why not carry it out like a Brett Favre play fake?
First of all, if the Republican Party of Louisiana is a football team, as chairman, Roger Villere — not Jay Dardenne — is the head coach. And while he may have a decent record on the field, his track record of discipline and playing favorites among his players leaves a lot to be desired in the locker room.
For instance, in 2007, after Vitter admitted to his “serious sin” with prostitutes, Villere and the GOP never called for any sort of discipline against the “family values” senator from Louisiana. No request for resignation. No censure. Nothing.
I’m sorry; that’s not true. They didn’t call for nothing. Villere and his party did call for support of Vitter and rallied the troops behind him. Because he was (and still is) their star player, and they needed him on the field (i.e., had Vitter resigned, then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, would’ve appointed someone to take his seat).
Then last year, when Republican Congressman Vance McAllister got caught kissing a staffer, Villere and his organization called for the north Louisiana businessman’s resignation from office. But that’s because McAllister was a walk-on player. They never recruited him. Instead, Villere and his GOP coaching staff really wanted Neil Riser to win the 2013 special election for the open congressional seat.
When the security camera footage showing McAllister kissing his friend’s wife was leaked, Coach Villere called for him to immediately clear out his locker and get the hell off his team. Meanwhile, Vitter screwed whores, and Coach Villere made sure he didn’t miss a single snap.
So when the security camera footage showing McAllister kissing his friend’s wife was leaked, Coach Villere called for him to immediately clear out his locker and get the hell off his team. Meanwhile, Vitter screwed whores, and Coach Villere made sure he didn’t miss a single snap. That doesn’t sound like a coach I’d want to play for.
And I sure as hell wouldn’t want to play for a coach who sits idly by while his star player brazenly hazes a supposed “teammate.” That’s essentially what Villere did as Vitter and his super PAC relentlessly targeted Dardenne in the primary. In fact, fellow Republicans Dardenne and Scott Angelle were the ONLY candidates Vitter and his super PAC attacked before election night.
So in Villere’s mind, it’s perfectly OK for Vitter to do all sorts of nasty things to a fellow Republican. But when that Republican decides to throw his support behind the one guy who did not attack him in the primary, he’s a traitor.
I’m not saying Jay Dardenne is switching parties, but if he did decide to transfer to another team, I’d totally understand why. Who wants to play for a coach like Villere who lets that kind of crap go on in the locker room?
Oh, and one last thing before we all finally stop comparing politics and sports: Lobbyists are fantasy team owners. They don’t give a damn about what actual team you play for in real life, whether you’re Republican or Democrat. Their only concern is buying and playing the right people in office and making as much money off their performances as possible.