Sunday, January 31, 2016

Elections Are Not “Games”

           Metaphors from games or sports can often be appropriate, but the increasing careless use of metaphors about games, especially in inappropriate situations, is degrading our already-degraded public discourse ever further. 

            Metaphors about games have been used in public discourse, including by political candidates, elective officials, the media and other political commentators, with increasing frequency, especially in regard to political campaigns for election to public office.  They are even being used more generally in other particularly inappropriate situations, such as in regard to a person’s terminal illness, which has been described as the “end game.”  The term “game-changer” is coming into ever-more frequent popular use, even in regard to crises, wars, or diseases, but especially in regard to political campaigns and politics itself.  “Game-plan” and “ground game” are other terms associated more often than before with political campaigns. 

            Elections are not games.  They are more than the result of competitive marketing campaigns in competition against each other as if for sport, but the decision after public debate among the electorate between candidates for public office who will best serve in the public trust.  Indeed, no one “wins” or “loses” elections.  One is either “elected” or not. 

           An elevation of public discourse, such as would be achieved by reserving game metaphors only to appropriate situations, would better serve to remind people of the seriousness of the democratic process and might even help to some degree to improve political campaigns themselves by beginning to restore a sense of their true purpose.

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