October 06, 2010

For those not clued into the latest self-help fads, “game” is the art of picking up women, as preached by über-PUA (that’s pickup-artist) Erik von Markovik and most famously promoted by the blogger who calls himself Roissy in DC.  By studying “game”—stand like this, show this attitude, respond to this with this, and so on—a maladroit young male can turn himself into a master PUA.

The parallels between politics and seduction have been well aired.  A politician needs “game” to capture and hold the attention of voters—not exactly the same “game” as that employed by bar-hoppers like von Markovik and Roissy, but not really all that different, either.  As with PUAs, it helps to start from a position of unillusioned mild contempt towards the target.  Also as with PUAs, cool confidence is half the battle—“They can smell fear,” says Roissy.  And also as with that other “game,” a wrong word or gesture or a momentary drop of the mask can be fatal to the enterprise.

A lifetime professional pol like Cuomo of course has “game” coming out of his nose-holes.  He would never make such an elementary blunder as not knowing the last name of a reporter he’d had a controversial engagement with.  Heck, Cuomo probably knows the first and last names of all the reporters in New York State, and their birthdays too.

These amateur politicians that have come up this election season—the Sharron Angles and Rand Pauls, Christine O’Donnells and Carl Paladinos—are what the “game” community calls “betas”—clumsy, clueless, unschooled in the essential arts.  That they have done as well as they have is testimony to how thoroughly fed up the U.S. electorate is with the professional politicians who have been doing to us for years, metaphorically, what the PUA seeks to do, literally, to the object of his practiced stratagems.

That Cuomo can run rings around Paladino, as he is now doing, is counter-testimony that the smooth-talking arts have not lost all their power, and that the clunky, mis-stepping beta is still a romantic turn-off for voters.  Do we really want citizen pols?  Or shall we—in fact, should we—prefer the deft professionals?

A legislature of ordinary citizens sounds like a great idea.  We summon up vague recollections of Cincinnatus, the Founding Fathers, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Who knows our concerns better than one of us—a middle-class worker bee with a non-political job, a mortgage, and kids in public schools?  Or, closer to the actual Cincinnatus (and Paladino) model, a prosperous farmer or businessman, hitherto un-political, who is willing to forgo the getting of wealth for a while—willing, in fact, to spend some of his wealth—in the public interest.

The problem is, of course, that government is now a tremendous apparatus whose mechanisms take years to understand and master.  On-the-job training is out of the question, certainly for legislators riding a two-year electoral cycle.  You need to get started up that learning curve in your teens, or at latest during your college years, driven by an early interest in, and inclination for, political work.

Visiting London to take a legal examination, the young David Lloyd George couldn’t resist peeping in at the House of Commons (which was not in session): “I eyed the Assembly in a spirit similar to that in which William the Conqueror eyed England on his visit to Edward the Confessor, as the region of his future domain.”  Lloyd George was 18.  Nine years later he was a Member of Parliament; 26 years further on, he was Prime Minister.

Is politics a job, or a duty?  If it’s a job, the person likely to do it best will, as with any other job, be the one whose interest was caught by it at an early age, who never wanted to do much else, and who worked hard on his “game” so that he might fulfill his ambitions.  If it’s a duty, let’s do away with these tiresome elections and draw our legislators and executives by lottery.  All we have to lose is the thrill of seduction.


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