So in Ezra Klein’s chat today, someone asked this question:
Durham, NC: So, my Fantasy Football League has its draft tonight, and it got me thinking: This hobby has swept the nation and is credited with adding interest to even the lackluster games on Sunday. I know CNN had a political market game back during the primaries where candidates and questions were treated like stocks that people could buy and sell. What do you say we create a Fantasy Congress League where people draft legislators and get points based on their performance? I think it could restore interest in democracy without all the town hall crazies.
Ezra Klein: I don’t know about restoring interest in democracy, and I don’t know exactly how you’d measure it, but I’m sure the Sunlight Foundation or Pew or someone would happily fund this experiment, and a lot of obsessives would happily play.
Let me just be on record as saying this is the worst idea I’ve ever seen for “restoring interest in democracy.” Not in the sense that it would be bomb, because I’m sure it would extremely popular, and as the questioner points out, people playing would probably spend more time learning about committees, rules, and other such minutiae. Nevertheless, this cleaving of politics from governing is the exact dynamic that Politico captures and magnifies. Listen, we don’t have government to please the egomaniacs who run for higher office, we have government to solve societal problems. This sort of obsessive coverage of who “wins” or “loses” in a given legislative battle misses the entire point. If the Republicans manage to “win” the health care debate, we’re going to leave some 46 million people with health care insurance, many others subject to the capricious whims of private insurers, and continue on an unsustainable financial path. This isn’t a game.