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The Fantasy Team

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/10/2015 Kathleen Schafer

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American politics has become a spectator sport. We watch the debates and daily machinations with the same armchair intensity of weekend football. As a Michigan State alumna I was thrilled by their dramatic victory over Michigan in the final seconds of this weekend's game and like politics there are lots of lessons about leadership embedded in our sports. If only we could create our own fantasy teams in politics then perhaps the current Congressional leadership debacle would seem less like a game-ending fumble. The idea that we need to engage in our political leadership in the same way we do with our sports is an idea whose time has come.
Politics and sports are following a similar societal arc. A few decades ago, kids who wanted to participate in sports did so in streets and in parks with whoever else showed up to play. School sports were seasonal and, for the most part, those who wanted to participate did -- the talented, the determined and the dreamers all had a place. Today only the "elite" are allowed to compete at the highest levels and after years of singular focus and with the support of tremendous resources of time and money. Our politics have become the same.
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There is no doubt that the Clinton and Bush political dynasties keep their latest representatives at the forefront of the current contests, propelled by advantages their competitors will never have. If the current primary races are any indication, we are not satisfied allowing our political system to run only by those whose advantage is the reason for their success. Enter the disrupters, the outsiders, the ones who want to play even if they don't have the same experience or qualifications; after all, who can compete with the might of the Clinton and Bush political dynasties?
Herein lies the struggle we are having as an electorate and it is a battle that exists in ourselves -- are we willing to broaden the team even if it means we aren't playing the most experienced and polished players? Do new ideas and enthusiasm for playing outweigh experience and knowing how to win?
The Republicans are clearly sending the message they want outsiders as the press keeps Jeb Bush alive as the best "viable" alternative to the three never-elected candidates soaring in the polls. Similarly, Sanders continues to hold a firm lock on a Democratic base that sees an extension of Liberal elitism a distasteful idea for another four years.
Never before in American politics have the choices been as varied and the front-runners as despised as they are in this election. Winning the primary may be a victory and yet the general election match-up will be incredibly challenging for both sides as a victory on the left or right leaves little to be desired for a nation having to choose just one.
As in sports, we are at a moment when choosing how we move forward as a nation rests not with those seeking to represent us, it rests with us. Are we looking to level the playing field, allowing all to have access, or are we going to continue to rely on the thoroughbred to win it for us again?
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The answer may rest in our love of sports. Is it the players and teams that start with all the advantages, a la the New York Yankees, that inspire us or is it the stories of the those who rise up against the odds to find the best in themselves and to play up to the potential that only they see like the 1980 US Men's Hockey team? And perhaps there is room for both types of players and teams.
Whatever happens in this election cycle, one thing I know will be true. We will elect the candidate that best represents who we are as a country in that moment. Here's hoping we will be making our choice with clarity about who we are and what we see in our next leader. Will we elect the candidate that never gives up and is ready when the last minute fumble happens or will it be tried and true behemoth who everyone expects to win and who does?

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