The No-Ender's Game - Protest Week


Simple Electoral College Map of the 2008 US Presidential Election.

My favorite internet meme after President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden was one that resembled a Nintendo screen after you’ve killed Bowser in the final world of Super Mario Brothers reading, “Osama Bin Laden dead… Obama 2012 Re-Election Unlocked!” The humor played on a generation’s childhood innocence juxtaposed with adulthood reality, touching on how seldom political endgames look like the clear cut victories of a video game.

For in those rare times when they actually do, it is usually in the form of decisive elections, of red states clearly routing blue states on touch screen maps, brief consensus over issues with minimal gray area, and most of all, when objective admissions come from even the staunchest political opponents that things have finally been done right for once.

Fast forward to nearly a year later, when the president’s foremost domestic policy, the reformation of health care, is sitting under the butcher’s knife of judicial review. The highest court in the land spent a fair portion of the week discussing not if but in what ways they it will gut the activist administration’s prize pig. Even those who delight in hearing such news know there’s no clear cut winner to be found at the end of this story, just one player (the president) wondering how much he’s going to lose.

This premise is built on an integral truth in politics, that a year these days can mean a lifetime’s difference in climate and circumstance. Which is where we find ourselves now, as a dark cloud hovers over the White House and many unfortunate American households wonder what will happen if the Affordable Care Act dies in the courts.

The practical prospects look as daunting as the political, as some think tanks on the left are envisioning patients and their families stuck in the limbo of a bureaucracy made worse by the legal logjam of throwing the entire law out. How that might go over for independent voters should be giving many Democrats insomnia. Still, too many liberals watching the Republicans’ especially entertaining presidential primary can’t see how anyone else could be president next year.

Let this be their wake-up call, because if only for the sake of good theater, a conservative ace-in-the-hole has no doubt just reared its ugly head. The trouble now for pundits lies in anticipating how the president’s base will take the potentially bad news. Noise concerning the “what next?” debate emanates from a number of camps, but let’s just talk about the feelings of the group who I’m most familiar with – “kids.”

The political implications of the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the law of powers beyond legislative repair could cause deeper ripples in the “Hope & Change” idealism of the youth vote than the administration’s past indiscretions, like NDAA or the BP oil spill debacle. With health care off the table, those believers are now left to wonder whether the change that was so earnestly fought for in a year-plus long legislative battle – that was so important that it warranted working within the flawed system before trying to change it – will have all been for nothing?

It’s a real possibility. No one can recall the process of passing health care fondly, to the point where the endless debates and rushed backroom deals surrounding this legislation have become perfect metaphors for the sort of Washington dysfunction that candidate Obama’s 2008 campaign focused its youthful energy on rejecting.

The disappointing fruits of all these labors now come with an added cherry on top – remember the mandate? The one that candidate Obama rejected outright on numerous occasions? That will be what ultimately brings down the giant house of cards.

Even for the few who applauded the law upon its signage, as the fulfillment of a campaign promise, despite the ugliness of its conception, there was still the pungent smell of a Pyrrhic victory. Hence, “shellacking” became the president’s self-inflicted buzzword for the 2010 midterm elections. Since then, the media remains at a loss to explain where went the strong brush of fiscal conservatism so associated with the pseudonymous Tea Party movement at a time when the GOP trumpets far-right social policy so loudly.

Now we know – both the Republican establishment and their vaguely separatist wing have only the failure of Obamacare to bank their hopes for the 2012 election. Any distractions that can be exploited, the Trayvon Martin story and the “war on women” included, only work to their advantage,

Judging that thought process purely from a sports-betting perspective (after all, it is March Madness), it’s not a bad wager. Back in 2008, Facebook, one of the Obama camp’s strongest assets, was a tamable animal. Today, it represents an integral part in a very emotionally volatile creature called social media, one that overwhelms its causes with results rather than practical consciousness.

Paired with the unprecedented new influence of SuperPACs and no worthwhile idea of the court’s likely decision, there’s absolutely no sense in calling the 2012 race in favor of the president right now – or at least, no more than there was sense in picking UNC to make the Final Four.

Given the improving economy and polarizing divisions on the right, I also hesitate to make any predictions in favor of the side that happens to have a greater stake in the news of the day (also why I’m not picking the Jets to win a Super Bowl or buying stock in Apple anytime soon).

But in politics, the victories will never be so distinct as final scores or stock prices; the game won’t be won by a round number just as the revolution will definitely not be televised, at least not properly.

In adulthood, I’ve come to understand this thought process is commonly known as losing one’s naivety. So for those like me whose employment is riding on the fact that their family plan can continue to carry their health insurance for the next few years, regardless of whether they respond to the instant gratification of a video game win – here’s a chance to learn a valuable lesson about naivety from the last four years: perhaps expectations weren’t as high as our standards should have been.