Political campaigns should take a break the way baseball does

By Richard Lee

Major League Baseball will take its annual mid-season break for the All-Star Game this week. Wouldn’t it be great if political campaigns did the same?

In political campaigns, the stakes are high and time is always short. At first glance, a brief hiatus such as baseball’s three-day All-Star break appears unwise and impractical.

But think about it for a moment.

Baseball takes a three-day break while teams are competing for first place, players are chasing records, and milestones are approaching – and it does not diminish interest in the sport or the intensity of competition. In fact, teams, players and fans can be re-energized by the break, making for a more exciting second half of the season.

The All-Star break does something else for baseball that would benefit politicians. It humanizes the players. True, they are celebrities with tremendous physical skill and talent, but we also see how much they are just like us. Like fans, they take pictures and videos of the players and festivities. We see them with their families at events such as the All-Star Red Carpet Parade and the Home Run Derby.

Politicians often try to paint a similar picture. They strive to humanize themselves because they know there is a value to making voters feel that they are just like them.

As Roland Barthes wrote in an essay about photos used by politicians:

“A photograph is a mirror, what we are asked to read is the familiar, the known; it offers to the voter his own likeness, but clarified, exalted, superbly elevated into a type. This glorification is in fact the very definition of the photogenic: the voter is at once expressed and heroized, he is invited to elect himself.”

Another significant occurrence that takes place during the All-Star break is the opportunity to see that athletes who are fierce competitors throughout the season can actually appreciate and respect each other’s talents and work together as a team toward a common goal. Political campaigns, by their nature, rarely allow for such dynamics. Instead, opponents are attacked and demonized in an effort to obtain victory at the polls.

Will we see any similar camaraderie in New York during this year’s governor’s race? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we should refrain from taking inspiration from baseball. After all, baseball embodies the values that make our country great – hard work, leadership, passion and teamwork. And these are values that can lead to success on the ball field, on the campaign trail and in virtually all aspects of our lives.

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors. To read more of Lee’s ‘”On the Road to Albany” columns, follow the Jandoli Institute on Twitter and Facebook.



Categories: Jandoli Institute, On the Road to Albany, Politics, richleeonline, Sports

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