“Learning to Play the Long Game”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game in Charlotte

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)


We are in the midst of a heated political debate and it is interesting to hear fellow Black progressives talk about the dilemma of voting for someone they do not fully believe in versus opting out of the process all together. I understand this dilemma because I remember being at this very same place in the summer of 1968 when the DNC erupted in Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley had his police force brutally beat down the protesters and we came out of the convention with a candidate that many of us felt we could not support. Hubert Humphrey who was basically a decent human being was not Eugene McCarthy, the peace candidate of my generation. The failure to support Humphrey resulted in the election of Richard M. Nixon.


Now in truth, Nixon like any president has but 4 or perhaps 8 years to visit their behavior—good or ill—on us if what you are looking at is the “short game.” Over the years I have learned that what really matters is how we play the “long game.” If you will excuse a few sports analogies the 2007 New England Patriots went 18-0 but lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. They did not win the “long game.” This past year the Golden State Warriors won more regular season games than any other NBA franchise in history but ended up losing the NBA Championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors did not win the “long game.”


In politics the “long game” is not who wins the next election but rather what the long-range policies and implications will be. When we put Richard Nixon in office he began a systematic rollback of Brown v Board of Education that has resulted in the destruction of public education we are continuing to suffer from. Nixon also helped to orchestra the Southern strategy that turned the nation’s south into a solid red block of conservatism. Nixon’s election was part of a conservative long game. Similarly, when Barry Goldwater was soundly defeated in the 1964 election the American right began planning its conservative strategy of right wing think tanks, TV and print media. They began planning their long game and it continues to flourish to this day.


For me the current long game is the Supreme Court, not the Oval Office. Supreme Court Justices sit on the highest court for a lifetime. President Obama placed Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the bench as a part of his long game. Unfortunately, an obstructionists Senate will not allow him to appoint his third justice but someone will be making that appointment soon. And, as much as I love the “Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) her time on the court will eventually come to an end as well as that of Justice Stephen Breyer. I don’t have to be crazy about a candidate to know that I need someone who will put a justice on that court who will not work to keep my grandchildren from admission to college or insist that corporations are people.


Quite frankly, at my age, career status, and income, whoever becomes president is unlikely to make a huge difference in my individual life. But for me, the result of the long game for my 5 precious grandbabies is what’s at stake. I owe it to them to always play the long game.


Stay Black and Smart!