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How do you think local politics works?

I don't think my picture of local politics is adequate. I'm not ready to post on my civic engagement yesterday and today -- suffice to say it involves land use issues. And what, at the local level, does not?

Because again -- I should I think hat tip a Correntian for making this point, but I can't find the comment -- each level of government in our complicated Federal system has its own distinct reponsibility, and the responsibilities of the local level are all about land use. (That is why land titles are managed at the local level, or were, until MERS destroyed the land title system, but that is a time bomb for another day.)

Anyhow, I'm not sure what I think about the issue -- in contrast to the landfill or the East-West corridor -- so I'm not willing to go through my thoughts in detail, because they could be very wrong!

If you thought of local politics as a game, like one of those military games played on a map -- no, not Monopoly -- what would the rules be?

NOTE I started a long post on this, but I got lost in the weeds. Help!

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a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

I live in NYC. The Big Apple can be a frackin' little town sometimes.

Trying to influence even the city-wide elections is like trying to hold back the sea with a dyke - not a job you want to take on by yourself! But I can't tell you how much Bill deBasio's (apparent) primary win has cheered people up. (Of course, We've been here before so we know, no unmixed blessings.)

On the other hand - even in the Big Apple, local elections (like City Council or even smaller ones moreso) often turn on a handful of votes, There is some real democracy to be had there. The job is educating the voters.

By some kind of weird synergy, my City Council person (apparently soon to re-elected) was one of the people who Occupied City College way back when. I was teaching in CUNY then. Oh, the memories... How could I not vote for him?

jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

cool, and it is at this level that might make us on Main Street the ones that move to the next step what ever that is. This is one of many reasons I've moved on to Green. I hope your city council person does the write thing down the road. Small steps take time but is there anything else we can do that is not peaceful. Please remember this how repugs started their long climb back form tricky dick.

Oh have I told you how much I hate what's being done to us in the new Amerika.

The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit's picture
Submitted by The Infamous Or... on

"Long time reader, first time poster." I believe that's how it goes?

Let's see. Step one - establish credibility. I wandered through high school, college, and law school playing wargames, frequently ones from a company called SPI. SPI crafted fascinating games that were historically accurate ... and frequently unplayable, due to the history involved. There is, let's be honest, no "successful" way for Germany to invade and conquer Russia in 1941. I have also been working in law for over two decades, frequently with cities and counties. Finally, for about five years now I've worked intimately with local politics here in the ol' hometown.

Step two - discussion. SPI games (yes, I'm getting to a point) involved intricate and detailed rules (told ya!) and local politics frequently involves SPI levels of rule quality and quantity. Even more so than at higher levels, because local politics allows all sorts of interesting individuals to have a seat at the gaming table. The thing is that there is no single set of rules - everyone brings his own set to the table. Unfortunately, players may not feel constrained by their own rules, let alone the rules of others. This can lead to all sorts of fascinating results that can have somebody looking for logic out, instead, looking for a large number of stiff drinks.

In short - local politics are much more like a game of fizbin than something put out by SPI (or Avalon Hill or GDW). They're more of an art than a science, more about emotions than logic, and while an ability to deal with rules can be handy, sometimes it's just pure emotional sales work that gets things done. For good or ill.

Step three - kick ideas around until matter is resolved or a more interesting thread distracts me. :-)

Submitted by lambert on

Maybe some gamers -- I'm not from that generation -- can weigh in on how they feel; I can think of oneMR SUBLIMINAL danps haha at least.

1. What do you mean, "fizbin"?

2. Is there a template or set of common characteristics or tropes or plotlines to the games you are discussing? I'm looking for one level of abstraction beyond the day to day and person to person because that's how I think. I started with a GIS metaphor, and got bogged down....

The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit's picture
Submitted by The Infamous Or... on

1. Now I truly feel old - but Cujo359 described "fizbin" perfectly. It was nothing but an unconnected series of nonsense rules with no basis in anything other than the imagination of the script writer/actor. Likewise, that's how politics feels at times - sure, there are city charters and ordinances that *ought* to be controlling, but my experience seems to be that a lot of people, even in government, are not rules-oriented and have difficulty rationally following words and sentences to logical conclusions.

2. I started off typing an answer on this one with a confident, "Sure, I know wargames, how tough can it be to describe common elements?" running in the back of my head. After spending time and two cups of tea thinking on it ... I've come up with:

a. They all have rules, frequently novel-sized books' worth of them.

b. The rules govern the ways that the gamers interact with each other and, often but not always, the way they can operate in the environment that the game is set in.

c. No matter how detailed, the rules almost always have holes in them; likewise, no game can ever be totally accurate (or even all that close to accurate) simply because they're representing human actions and interactions, and nothing short of actual human actions and interactions can manage that. In fact, the more that games attempt accuracy, the less playable they become, simply because rendering accuracy takes time.

d. I guess that I could add that they're all played on a fixed surface, with artificial boundaries, which is often (but again, not always) a map of some sort.

e. As for plotlines, you could find most anything you'd care to have, from warfare in the Stone Age through combat between interstellar empires thousands of years from now. Everything from individuals through divisions and fleets.

f. As a final bit, for the moment, I'd also offer that almost all of them are competitive. Even multi-player games end up with one "side" winning, or even a single player having to defeat his early-on allies.

I suspect that this is not going to be as helpful as you'd like, or maybe even as helpful as it could have been. But that's the joy of discussion! :-)

Submitted by lambert on

"Sovereign are they who decide on the exception." Ha ha! Only serious.

The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit's picture
Submitted by The Infamous Or... on

Agreed. And the higher up the political food chain, the less likely players are to see the rules (such as they may be) actually applying to themselves or their cronies.