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Column: The political economy of bowling

Gather around all you Democratic presidential hopefuls. It's time for Uncle Andy to tell you a little story--the story of the Political Economy of Bowling.

 Once upon a time, there was a Democratic governor from the South who was thinking about running for president. He was charismatic, intelligent, and the smoothest talker in all the United States. He championed good old-fashioned American institutions like fast food and full-figured women.

 But for all his charm and appeal, he couldn't' come up with a decent campaign strategy. His wife told him that he could build a campaign on 'issues' such as 'universal health care' and 'balancing the budget,' and while he believed in these causes, he knew in his heart of hearts that they wouldn't be enough. He forced his dream to the back of his mind and all but forgot about the presidency.

 Then one night, the governor's interns took him out for cosmic bowling. They knew that the bowling alley was sure to cheer him up, for in it he would find all of his favorite things: cheeseburgers, beer and bowling alley chicks. The governor didn't bowl much himself, but in any event he figured he could get some snacks and enjoy the view from the back.

 A few hours and a few rounds into the evening, the governor started paying attention to the games and immediately had a revelation. The pins in the lanes were arranged in a pyramid, with the majority of pins clustered around the center and a few outlying pins to the left and the right... it was just like the American electorate!

 He also noticed that certain bowling strategies were more successful than others... just like election campaigns! "If I study this game of bowling," he thought, "I will be sure to capture the hearts and votes of the American people!" The governor began scribbling his brainstorms onto a nearby napkin. He titled his project On The Political Economy of Bowling, and it went something like this: Bowling pins, much like the American populace, are carefully divided.

 The majority of pins stand in the middle, representing moderate views, and lesser numbers of people occupy the extreme right and extreme left. At the ultimate extremes are the gutters, representing political ground so poisonous that no one could tread it and survive the process of an election. This is precisely why Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton do not hold office.

 Each pin, representing a particular political viewpoint, has a high probability of influencing those nearby and a low probability of influencing those further away. As a result, one must attack the middle in order to knock down the pins on both sides, and capture the election.

 Attacking the middle straight on is far too transparent a strategy, and will tend to alienate the supporters on the extremes, causing a split. The two extremes are very difficult to influence in the same stroke, as their viewpoints very so greatly. One must avoid splits or the campaign will be resting primarily on luck. To maximize success, a candidate must maximize the target area of a campaign by attacking the middle at an angle.

 Starting at the most extreme viewpoints towards the beginning of a campaign, the candidate must run towards the center during later stages, so that he strikes just to the left of center. The spin increases the target area of the campaign, ensuring the highest probability of a strike and of victory.

 Using this strategy, that wily Southern governor crafted a campaign so subtle and vaguely appealing that men and women across the country couldn't help but vote for him. But now times have changed, and the Republicans have learned the lessons of the Political Economy well.

 George W. Bush, shifty Texan that he is, was able to march all over the laser-straight Al Gore in 2000 with a campaign that zig-zagged as much as his train of thought. Because the Republican party is far more unified, Bush is able to employ a much more compact stroke in approaching his slate of policy issues, giving him greater command over the spin of his campaign and giving him a much more effective election vehicle. Democrats, having to think very hard about the precise arc of their campaigns, have a much longer stroke in bowling terms, which makes the exact outcome of their efforts much harder to predict.

 Still, your best bet is to follow the way of the Political Economy of Bowling. Start with a campaign that is moderately extreme and tugs at the heartstrings of some of your bleeding heart compatriots. Then, when they give you the nomination or when you are clearly ahead, spin your campaign back towards the middle. If you land somewhere just left of center you will be sure to strike out the competition. If you miss the mark, you will leave voters unaffected, and will have to try some other year to spare your political careers.

 Alright, Johnny, Johnny, Joey, Howie, Bobby, Dicky, Denny, Ally, and Carol, story time is over.

 Go brush your teeth, wash your face, say your prayers and dream of bowling, so that we may all live happily ever after.

 Andrew Waugh is a Trinity junior. His column appears every third Thursday.


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