October 23, 2006

At last, a Fantasy League for wonks and hacks

Perhaps it was inevitable, after all, politics has devolved into a sport in many respects, but now a few college guys in California have made it a reality.

For those people who have zero interest in memorizing football stats and find their coworkers and friends talk about sports to be mind-numbing, there's a new game in town.

From the NY Times:
... policy buffs have an outlet for their competitive urges. Fantasy Congress, a Web site created by four students at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, made its debut three weeks ago. Through word of mouth and blog entries, it has attracted nearly 600 participants from states including Texas and Florida, from as far away as Denmark and, of course, from the Beltway.

For those who have no idea how many yards Peyton Manning threw for on Sunday but can cite every legislative amendment proposed by Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the game could be an alternative to the prevailing fantasy sports culture.
Just as in fantasy football or baseball, each player picks a team — in this case, 4 senators and 12 House members of varying seniority levels — and competes with other players in a league typically managed by a friend or a co-worker. Members determine whether to play for money or the thrill of victory. But that is where the similarities end.

On the Fantasy Congress Web site, www.fantasycongress.us, leagues have names like "We the Peeps" and "Foley4Prez," in addition to the usual school and workplace affiliations.

Players accumulate points as the legislators they have chosen go about their business on Capitol Hill. A House member or senator earns five points for introducing a bill or an amendment, and more points for negotiating successfully each step in the legislative process.

Players can change their team members once a week, so if a scandal-plagued lawmaker resigns there is an opportunity to pick someone new. As of now, legislators can be on multiple teams within a league, but the site’s creators plan to introduce an exclusivity rule that would limit a legislator to playing for only one team.

A list updated daily on the Web site shows the cumulative point rankings of each legislator. Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska and chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is first in the House with 1,905 points. Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, leads the Senate with 1,991 points.
The Web site’s creators say they plan to add other ways to earn points, like floor speeches and news media references, but for now, the bill-based system is the sole measure of legislative productivity, making for a range of team-picking strategies.
One of the founders of the fantasy congress site is Andrew Lee...
Mr. Lee is also a Denver Broncos fan and has dabbled in fantasy baseball. In his dorm room, a poster of Jake Plummer, the Broncos’ quarterback, hangs across from legislators-in-action photographs from Congressional Quarterly.

One day during his freshman year, Mr. Lee was watching CNN while his roommate exulted over the results of a fantasy football team. He thought, Why not devise a similar game that would pit government aficionados against one another?

He hopes that Fantasy Congress, in addition to being fun, will teach people about their representatives and the legislative process.
If the ins and outs of Congressional business are unlikely to have the hold on the imagination that E.R.A.’s and R.B.I. do, turning those maneuverings into a game may win a few converts to the geek side.

"Everyone knows about football, but more people need to know about Congress," Mr. Lee said. "If as many people knew about Congress as knew about football, baseball and basketball, we’d all be more educated."
Hard to argue with that.


At 10/23/2006 6:47 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

I love it! I have been waiting for something like this to come down the pike for a long time.

And I can totally relate when you mention how mind-numbingly boring SPORTS is... as are all the people who talk the sports babble and know every statistic, etc.
LOL. I thought I was the only one.

When people start talking all that "Packers and Bears" horseshit, I just respond with a blank look. I mean who gives a f***, really?
They get the message.

At 10/23/2006 9:15 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I can relate. I don't dislike sports, but my life doesn't revolve around it. I enjoy sports more for the human drama and emotion than for anything else, seeing the results of years of hard training, talent, and dedication end in victory of defeat.

I find myself rooting for a particular team every now and then, but knowing who has the best ERA against left handed batters at home in night games on artificial turf? Forget it. Knowing who plays second string strong safety for the Bucaneers? Don't think so.

I think the thing that separates casual fans with hard core fans is giving a damn or even paying attention to what happens in the off-season or player drafts. And I couldn't care less.

I'm not even sure I know enough about politicians and what they're up to to be a big player of this fantasy congress league.

BUT... I'd love to have an Inside Dope team. Nico maybe you'd be willing to be the manager?

So if anyone is interested, maybe they could band together online and take a stab at it. That would be a lot of fun!

At 10/23/2006 10:32 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Aside from these policy bullet points, I'd note that if the Democrats had followed DLC's strategy, every Dem would be like Joe Leiberman and the Dems would not have any shot of regaining control of any branch of the government.

Standing up and fighting back, even though far too late, has already proven to be the thing the American public has been waiting for for far too long.

Agressively standing up and fighting back against the right wing is WORKING.

But the DLC would have all Dems trying to "out Republican" the Republicans by moving steadily to the right. They've always advocated a view that open and strong opposition to the war, tax breaks for billionaires, or any opposition to the corporate agenda was unwise.

The recent huge gains by Dems, while being largely due to Republicans simply being so corrupt that it's impossible to hide it, was also launched by prominent Dems FINALLY standing up on their hind legs and calling bullshit on the right wing Republican spin machine.

Again, if the party followed the DLC, they'd all be simpering wimpy "me too" Dems, a failed strategy that has failed for 6 years now.

People want cooperation and results, but that doesn't mean that they want Dems to sit down and shut up and dissarm, which is essentially what the DLC position advocates and is exactly what most Dems have done.

We've seen how well that works.

Americans will refuse to fight for a party which refuses to fight for itself, and rightly so.

The DLC has routinely advocated a policy of assimilation with the Republicans, moving so close to them that the public can't tell the difference.

And the public both wants, needs, and is now demanding an actually OPPOSITION PARTY, not a bunch of jellyfish trying to carve off a piece of Republican success and campaign dough for themselves while being all too willing to abandon traditional Democratic ideals in the process.

At 10/24/2006 12:01 AM, Blogger demgorilla said...

My oh my, how wrong you are. The DLC advocates an activist, progressive platform and strategy of putting Democrats out front on the issues that will transform America. They have passion for pushing a progressive agenda and they have the the brainpower to do it. Just ask DLC co-founder Bill Clinton, former President. Clinton was right when he said the current political stalemate and debate represented sort of a brain-dead politics. He taught us how to both beat Republicans and do something creative about policy (deficit reduction, cops on the beat, etc, etc.). He taught us how to win and talk policy at the same time.

That's the DLC approach -- win and talk policy that's both progressive and effective.

At 10/24/2006 5:55 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

All I see in general from the DLC is the politics of capitulation and assimilation.

It's following, not leading.

You say we should "win and talk policy".

I suggest that if you do nothing but talk policy, you'll never win.

People want strong positions, not nuance, and believe me, I think nuance is important.

The electorate don't want people whose initial position on major issues is that they're not that committed to anything and so they'll be happy to let the other side dictate the results.

They want to know exactly where a Dem candidate stands, what they want to do, and why.

People will rally to this even if they may not agree with the position entirely, as was the case in the massive Republican victories of the past decade.

But they respond to strength and committement, not some weeny up there droning about biomass or the minutia of health care funding or something.

And it appears to me that the DLC seems to want to avoid taking any strong stands at all, and even the ones they do take are soft positions, and none of them too far from the right.

I realize that a cardinal rule in politics is to avoid specificity and stay as general as possible, especially in early stages of a campaign.

But where are the bold ideas?

There are none.

I'm not advocating that the Dems be rigidly partisan or uncooperative. I'm not saying that they should be just as arrogant and ignorant as the Republicans and bully and ignore the Republicans should they gain a majority.

After all, the ultimate goal is results which allow our people to have the opportunity to prosper, be secure, and protect the rights of the minority from the tyrany of the majority.

You simply can't get results without engaging the other side.
We've seen the disasterous results of a party of arrogance which refuses to allow the oposition party to play a part in policy or debate.

They're more of a "do-nothing" congress than the original do-nothing congress that attracted the label, working only 100 days this year and passing no major legislation.

But Dems need to stand up and fight to return the policies of this country to those traditional values which the vast majority, right, middle, and left, agree on and support.

The point here is that poll after poll after poll shows that a large majority are more aligned with Dem policy positions than Republican.

This is when the policies are presented without a party label.

What this means is that there are millions of people out there who consider themselves Republican but who clearly favor Democratic positions on major issues.

So why is this? Well, the short answer is that they've been effectivly brain-washed. Through the demonization of "liberal", and then tying liberal to all Dems, they've been fed a distorted idea that Dems are practically communists and would roll out the welcome mat for terrorists.

This is non-sense of course.

So why do the Dems, especially the DLC, recommend that candidates continue to position themselves and pander to conservative positions on issues?

It's difficult to express this, but I'll try.

Let's say Joe has come to believe that any gun control measures are bad. Why? Well, because of Limbaugh, etc. and the desire of people to belong. So Joe's pals at work are all macho Republicans, or at least pretend to be, and his pals at the bar are too, and when he goes to church, he gets it there too. So what does Joe do? Well, he figures he's conservative, what the hell, might as well.

Now Joe might own a gun or not, it doesn't really matter. But he'll say if surveyed that he's against gun control, even if when he thought about it, he might favor some sort of common sense regulations.

But Joe considers himself a real man's man. He likes tough guys. And the Republicans seem like they advocate tough policies and they say what they believe and stick to it.

Joe actually voted Bush partly because at least Bush didn't "flip flop" and was a no-nonsense, stick to his guns kind of guy.

So the Dems read these polls, and tell their guys that they better damn well come out and support the NRA line to pander to the Joe's out there.

But all this does is needlessly move the entire Dem party further and further to the right.

What Dems need to do is, in this instance for example, stand up for common sense gun regulations, and do so absolutely unappologetically and state the case so that it makes sense.

Then, guess what? Joe suddently realizes that hey, maybe Dems aren't so wishy-washy after all. At least they have to guts to state their case and stick to it, come what may. And besides, what the Dem candidate supports isn't that bad. It's not like they're taking guns away, just making things safer. And add to that the fact that Joe likes the Dem policies on education for his kids and weaning ourselves off middle east oil and getting out of Iraq with dignity, and suddenly Joe's not such a big conservative anymore.

He might still tell his pals he's a Republican, since it's pussy to be a Democrat and they'd razz him about loving Osama and being a tree-hugger, etc and all the other cartoon caricatures which Limbaugh and the massive propaganda campaign has firmly established to represent Dems.

Eventually, someone with some guts will admit at the bar that they favor the Dems, and the rest of the sheep will follow along.

My point is that so many self identified conservatives are conservative simply out of image... it's only an inch deep. Their ripe for the picking if the Dems would ever stop pandering to this mythical conservative majority out there, and start standing up for what they believe in, showing that they're not weenies, not wimps, and that they are truly a better choice to represent the interests of Joe and the millions like him.

But the Dems have to STAND for something and fight for it, WIN OR LOSE. That's what the right did, and that's how they won.

They didn't pander, they didn't sit there so badly in need of some ideas of their own that they instead had to go try to co-opt some from the extreme right wing just to compete.

They stuck to their guns until they prevailed.

Positions and views which used to be literally jokes are now considered seriously.

Think how it would have gone over in say, 1965 if a major candidate came out and advocated that school teachers carry guns in the classroom? He'd be considered a lunatic! But now that's treated like a serious option.

Why? Because they refused to water things down and back off.

I just fear that the DLC represents that wing of the party which advocates far too much a "go along-get along" tactic which inevitably results in the party moving further and further away from it's base.

The Democratic party is already so conservative that it's to the right of Barry Goldwater in many respects.

The idea of Dems being "ultra-liberal" is just another BS name game by the right without basis in reality.

They've got people thinking that anyone to the left of Atilla the Hun is some raving communist.

I just want the Democrats to at the very least STOP helping perpetuate and spread the Republican's spin on them by constantly pandering to the right and even buying into their propaganda by running away from many things which people support out of fear of being thought of as "liberal".

Obama cuts through this BS pretty well, and he's like the messiah to some.

We don't need more panderers like Lieberman, we need someone who can transcend the phony labels that have been attached to Dems instead of perpetuating them and letting right wing spin dictate their positions.

I'm not that good at getting complex thoughts across, and none of that may make sense, but at least I tried. ha!

At 10/24/2006 4:44 PM, Blogger demgorilla said...

The Democratic Leadership Council is brimming with bold, progressive and effective policy proposals to push for victory. They are what put Bill Clinton in the White House, because they mix good policy and good politics. They are bold, specific and responsible.
Shouting from the mountaintop to see who doesn't like George Bush reaches that 20% who already doesn't like George Bush.

To be a mature and effective party, we have to win with ideas and politics both -- we can do both, folks. The DLC's bold and in your race approach to policy and politics is a smart start.

At 10/25/2006 5:59 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

It takes more than bland pronouncemnts full of words like "bold" and "effective" which sound good but in the end are meaningless without specifics to back them up.

And helping elect Clinton is not proof that their idea are applicable or even desirable in today's climate.

The Dems are flat on their back and need to fight back. The landscape when Clinton was elected is almost unrecognizable today.

While it may have been successful then, it's not called for now.

Republican policies had short, snappy descriptions, such as smaller government, or lower taxes.

By useing such short attention span ideas, they were also able to paint the Dems as the opposite of these simplistic ideas. So the Dems are tarred as for big government and high taxes, which of course bears no resemblance to the truth.

But if the Dems can't articulate what they stand for clearly, they're bound to be lost even longer.

The Dems problem, which is reflected by the DLC strategy, is that they are AFRAID to stand up for anything. The DLC seems to operate under the premise that a Dem can't dare deviate too far from the Republican conservative line, no matter how far out it might be.

On some of the more radical right wing views, they need to stand up and completely reject those ideas and do so without being weasely or mush-mouthed about it, as they too often are.

Dems and the DLC allow their entire guiding principles to be dictated by where Karl Rove takes them. They build their strategy around a "me-too" frame of thinking, both accepting and often perpetuating the false perceptions that the right has constructed.

I simply say that those false ideas need to be forcefully rejected and ignored. Dems need to stake out their own policies, their own stances based on their core principles, and stop trying to be Democrats but too damn scared to stray too far from the right wing Bush agenda.

As I've said, the American people respond to strength, not someone who clearly believes one thing but is busy trying blur their positions so as to appeal to conservatives.

I say stop pandering to conservatives. After all, Dems are NOT conservatives and shouldn't have to pretend to be so.

If Dems stand up and reject all the conservative stereotypes and stand up for liberal principles, rejecting the negative mental image that the right has constructed, then two things will result.

It may not result in short term victories, which I think is where the DLC goes wrong. Just like many corporations, they throw out long term stability for short term gain. The right did not make that mistake and built for the long run and were amazingly successful.

It will take time, and some candidates will lose. But if the ideas and principles are stuck to, eventually the public will come around, and when Dems win, they will win big, and they also will have rejected and reclaimed the framing of literally everything by the right and will have shown the country that they are strong, they are willing to fight, and that, above all, that they STAND FOR SOMETHING other than getting their ass in some office by being willing to ignore their core values.

People don't respect that. They'd more support Dems who stick to their principles even if they don't agree with them, than a Dem who tries to change their stripes so to speak and is willing to become a Republican in everything but name in order to win office.

At 10/25/2006 5:53 PM, Blogger demgorilla said...

The DLC is very progressive, bold and politically savy. They have bold and specific ideas to improve America in education, the economy, energy independence, reducing poverty, strong and smart foreign policy. The DLC says we are all in this together, unlike the GOP's sink or swim on your own view of America.

I encourage your readers to go to the DLC web site and read the policy playbooks and the past speeches. You'll get a sense of a very strong organization, with a lot of backbone and a lot of policy and political savy.

To win back the House and Senate and White House, we need that and more. It's time for Democrats to get smart and strong. We can chew gum and walk at the same time.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home