Caitlin Clark and Why I Hate Politics

Caitlin Clark and Why I Hate Politics

I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I hate politics.  Seriously.  Hate, hate, HATE it!  I can’t stand all the ugly, angry, grotesque, dishonest, self-serving, goodwill-destroying BS.  It gives me the creeps.  It makes me angry.  It makes me sad.  It makes me tired.  Indeed, it makes me wish I’d done something else with my life.

Therein lies the rub, though.  It’s not like I have a whole bunch of marketable skills.  I can string a few words together semi-coherently and I can…well…umm…that’s about it.

Aha, you say, if I hate politics so much, then why don’t I string a few words together about some topic other than politics?  It’s not as if the political world won’t survive without my profound insights.

Great Idea!  There’s only one catch.  There is almost no subject about which one can write these days that isn’t politically tinged.  Everything is politics.  Politics is everything.  That’s a big part of why I hate it so much.  It’s everywhere, in everything.  There’s no escaping it.

It wasn’t always like this.  When I started in this business 28 years ago (HOLY CRAP, I’m old!), one could still easily separate politics from…life.  It was possible, for example, for my favorite “culture” writer to be a sports columnist by day and a radical leftist, and for me nevertheless to love everything that he wrote and to listen happily to his radio show on the drive home from work, all the while never knowing or caring one whit about his politics.

Those days are long gone, however.  It’s been more than 15 since that writer was credited with “ruining” American politics.  And it’s grown worse since then.

Most of you, I’d guess, know who Caitlin Clark is.  If you don’t, she is one of the greatest women’s college basketball players in history and the game’s all-time leading scorer.  She’s a nice midwestern kid from a midwestern town (Des Moines) who played ball at a midwestern school which she led to the championship game.  She can shoot from anywhere.  She passes the ball effectively and stealthily.  She is fun to watch.  She talks trash remarkably well.  And she generally inspires admiration, even if only begrudgingly.  She is, in short, the female Larry Bird.

Caitlin Clark is the reason that women’s college basketball saw an impressive surge in popularity in the last two seasons.  She’s the reason anyone cares at all about the WNBA.  She’s the reason that WNBA teams are now flying on chartered private planes rather than on commercial flights (seriously).  In addition to being Larry Bird, she is also the bird who just keeps on laying golden eggs.  What she’s done is remarkable.

And in return for doing remarkable things, they hate her.  Well, some people hate her, while other people love her.  Of course, the ones who love her don’t love her because of who she is and what she’s done but solely because of the other people, those who hate her.  Because of course they do.

When I say “they” hate her, I mean that some of the other players in league and some of the coaches in the league and some of the commentators for the league hate her.  More than that, though, a great many political observers hate her as well.  The execrable Sunny Hostin, co-host of “The View” recently suggested that Clark benefits from “pretty privilege” and “white privilege,” both of which, apparently, make basketballs more likely to go into baskets.  (Who knew?)  In her defense, Hostin was merely echoing others who have said similar things, but worse:

[W]hat makes the pony-tailed Clark, just 22, so special? Sure, she’s the leading scorer in women’s college basketball history, but how many people have heard of Lynette Woodard, the woman she passed? And for all of her individual accomplishments, she has never won a state or national team title.

What really makes her stand out is the fact she almost blends in. Despite her talents, at 6 feet and a slender 152 pounds she’s one of the smallest players in the WNBA….

But Clark…also stands out for who she’s not. In a league in which approximately 70% of the players are Black, nearly a third identify as LGBTQ and most come from urban environments, Clark is white, straight and from Iowa.

And that sets her apart even more than her shooting skills.

“We would all be very naive if we didn’t say race and her sexuality played a role in her popularity,” said Hill, now a contributing writer at the Atlantic and host of the “Jemele Hill is Unbothered” podcast. “While so many people are happy for Caitlin’s success — including the players; this has had such an enormous impact on the game — there is a part of it that is a little problematic because of what it says about the worth and the marketability of the players who are already there.”

They can’t help themselves.  It’s always about race and sexuality and whatever.  And it’s always “problematic.”  And it’s always about urban vs. rural.  And blah, blah, blah…

In other words, it’s always tribal.  It’s always about what “team” she’s on – and I don’t mean the Iowa Hawkeyes or the Indiana Fever.  It’s always “us” vs. “them.”

Of course, since “us” got their say, “them” had to have their say as well.  Take a look around social media, and you’ll see all the usual suspects insisting that Clark is great and Clark is getting screwed over and Clark is this and Clark is that, not because they care at all about her or her game or anything else related to the sport but because they care about their sport, the sport of political bickering, the sport of total war.

I’ll spare you the long quotes today about Carl Schmitt and the end result of total war in the total state.  Just know that it’s not good.  More to the point, ultimately, it’s the consequence of people finally having enough of the bickering, of the infighting, of the politicization of everything, and demanding a resolution one way or another.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I’m eager to see that happen.  I am most definitely NOT.  I’ve read my Schmitt, and I know what happens next.  As I say, it’s not good.

What I am saying is that I can understand, more and more every day, how we get from here to there, and I am frustrated that the people who are pushing us from here to there won’t stop.  I’d like to say that they don’t know what they’re doing, that they don’t have any idea how this all ends, but I’m pretty sure they do.  They want the power that comes with “winning” this war.  That’s dangerous.

As David P. Goldman (a.k.a. “Spengler”) put it the other day (about a different subject): “Our leaders are wicked children playing with matches near gasoline.”

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
[email protected]

Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.