On Rock-Paper-Scissors: Essay for New Year’s Eve 2011

The other night my son and I were discussing who was going to peel the cucumber for the dinner salad and determined that the only fair way to decide was the tried and true Rock-Paper-Scissors method. You remember, “Rock-Paper-Scissors-Shoot.” Rock crushes scissors, paper covers rock, and scissors cut paper. It is an order of magnitude more complicated than simple odd and even. There are web sites dedicated to the methodology of the game strategy.

The game has elegance to it. There is the raw power of the rock; the stealth of the paper; and the ingenuity of the scissors. No single element is omnipotent. Overplay the power move of the rock and the paper will surely counter it. The stealthy application of the paper will yield to the ingenious play of the scissors. Success derives from the masterful and timely play of one element over the other. And seldom is the gamed played in a single round. It typically plays out over some odd number of rounds, thus allowing for a bit of give-and-take and room for some strategic compromise.

I was immediately drawn into a political context for this childhood game. Let’s consider the three players in November 2012: Barack Obama, Rock; Mitt Romney, the likely nominee, holds the scissors; and the American People, the paper. The President has the power of the mightiest office in the land. That’s why he is the Rock. Romney has to be clever and ingenious to win, thus the scissors. The American People are the paper because we are the stealthy ones. We hold a lot of leverage but also have a lot at risk.

We the People have the power to cover the Rock, the President, and bring a halt to the national calamity in which we have been embroiled since the dawn of the era of Hope and Change. But the Scissors held by Mr. Romney can cut us, if he turns out to be something different from what we seek. And we seek a lot.

There is risk here but I invite you to consider how much riskier the status quo under four more years of Barack Obama would be than under Mitt Romney, the pragmatic one. Some may wonder where Mr. Romney stands on certain issues. Yes, there have been the so-called flip-flops. And there is Romneycare. The Right can question his conservative credentials until the cows come home but one thing is certain: Mitt Romney loves America with all of his heart and will work to restore the way of life that has provided so much for so many in our country for so long. Can one say that about Barack Obama?

When you play Rock-Paper-Scissors, you play for the long haul; you use wit and guile to outsmart and outflank your opponent. You can withstand small defeats and still attain a large victory. There is no litmus test in the game. Only the final outcome counts. And so it must be in November. There is no litmus test that will restore American greatness. And one should not expect a string of unending victories without an occasional compromise along the way.

As Lord Macaulay once said, “A single breaker may recede but the tide is evidently coming in.” And so it must be in restoring American greatness. We will have our occasional setbacks as part of democratic give and take. Sometimes they are issue-by-issue, Congress-by-Congress or even administration-by-administration. We will prevail in the end.

We don’t need candidates who scare people, however righteous they may appear. It is a sure indication that they cannot effectively govern. Is that not where we are today with our current President? Is he a man to debate issues of the day over a beer? Certainly. But do I trust him with the future of my country or the destiny of my children? I do not.

There is a saying that everything will be alright in the end: if it is not alright, it is not the end. We must have faith and have patience. The American vision held by Barack Obama is not the vision held by Mitt Romney. It is not the vision held by you and me and the vast majority of Americans.

It is as simple as that for me. Rock-Paper-Scissors-Shoot. I’ll take the guy with the scissors, please. Best two out of three.

Press on.

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