The Midterms and The Queen’s Gambit

The Midterms and The Queen’s Gambit

Not long ago, after bingeing the hit Netflix series The Queen's Gambit, I picked up a new chess board. It appears I’m in good company, because sales of chess boards doubled a few months after the release of the show, demonstrating how much influence pop culture television can have on our society. Related, I’m still waiting to see if porn finally catches on after the HBO show Minx launched, featuring a feminist female magazine writer turned slinger of a smut zine filled with male nudes. We’ll keep our eyes on things, no pun intended.

The reason why I like chess has very little, if anything, to do with nudity. Especially male nudity, although there’s a chess board theme for any player’s interest ranging from Harry Potter to Hairy anything else. I tend to prefer my ivory to be dressed in medieval business casual.

My draw to the game is because of the exercise in strategic thinking. I’m one that realizes that to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs, and to win a chess game you have to lose some pawns. Winning isn’t about getting your way. It’s about getting what you really want in the end, which is your opponent's king, and a hearty breakfast to go with it.

This is how I think of politics, policy making and of course omelet making. For example, we probably all agree that murder should be illegal, but making it illegal doesn’t stop it from happening. I would venture to guess that the law saves fewer lives than one of a dozen policies focused on reducing poverty or adding street lights. I could care less whether you think murder is wrong or a personal choice. I’m more interested in whether you want to commit one or not.

In chess you have pieces of different ranks. You have pawns, rooks, bishops, knights and your two most valuable, the queen and the king. In politics, similar factors are at play. There are individual policies, and then there is the greater agenda.

When it comes to the midterms this year, if we were to focus on the murder rates, the goal is not to pass a law outlawing murder, it’s to reduce the body count. My vote will go to the candidate who can reduce murders by addressing the conditions that make murder more likely. A moral stance on murder is a pawn I’ll sacrifice first, in favor of keeping my queen.

Murder rates may come up in a local election, but on the national conversation, the topics are more likely to be about murdering democracy or murdering babies, but whatever birds are being killed will need to be hit with one stone. Every election season, each party chooses a platform, a central theme for their campaign. They think a few moves ahead and identify their strategy to keep kings, capture queens, knowing they will lose some pawns along the way.

According to the poles, and the opinions of most political analysts, the Republicans have a strong chance at gaining a majority in Congress. More than likely, the Democrats are going to lose their narrow majority, but that doesn’t mean their candidates shouldn’t run the race to win. To be successful, they’ll need to have a platform that appeals to voters enough to overcome the low approval rating of the Party’s leader. The Democrats may have to lose some pawns to capture the opponent's queen, and retain their king.

Each party has chosen their gambit, an opening tactic with a degree of risk. In the case of the Republican party, it seems to me they have decided to risk integrity to get leverage. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to bring myself to vote for a Republican because of this – this doesn’t count our recent neighborhood HOA board elections, although I can’t say for sure because most candidates don’t disclose their party affiliation. I would guess it was the Green Party that swept the election season this year because our president and his constituency seem hyper focused on the quality of people's lawns.

The broader Republican Party prioritizes a number of policies that are receiving outsized attention. Here are a few for reference.

  • The content of school books related to social and emotional learning.
  • Whether or not something called CRT is taught outside of law school.
  • Restricting voting access based on claims elections are stolen.
  • Addressing whether or not a trans person plays school sports.
  • Exerting state control over what a woman does with her body.
  • Building walls along the southern border of our country.
  • Discussing the size of a Presidential candidate’s hands, and its correlation to other parts of the male anatomy.

When it comes to campaigning, rhetoric is more important than policy, and many of the Republican candidates' campaign messaging is focused on how “Trump” they can be. Surprisingly, when you get into the numbers, 53% of the candidates running right now are straying away from Trump or Trumpism in their message, but on the national level, the party seems aligned to Trump’s platform, and dependent on the Trump base to win.

With Biden’s low approval ratings, and continued inflation, what should the Democrat party focus on in their messaging?

I’d say they should deploy the Queen’s Gambit. This is a strategy by which you will put your pawn at risk in order to control the center of the board. I believe the Democrats should accept the loss of a pawn due to being blamed for inflation. They should accept that they will be blamed for gas prices. They should accept that some people don’t agree with their fiscal policy. In this midterm election, the Democrat party should focus on two key pieces.

  • Integrity of Leadership.
  • Democracy for Everyone.

They should focus on these values that all of us Americans deserve, and most of us believe in. Not because their way is the best way, but they should campaign on these values because we all know the Republican party won’t be.