Political Chess

The 2-D Chess of Voting

When I was a little girl, around 6 or so, my stepdad taught me how to play chess. I was really excited that he was taking the time to teach me such a grown-up game, so I wanted to be really good at it and prove how smart I was for a kid. At first it was daunting. There were so many pieces, and each one moved differently! After playing many games, I fully understood how it all worked, and I was able to hold my own. In fact, I started winning pretty regularly.

After winning several times in a row, my stepdad told me that he was proud of how fast I learned. He praised my skill and determination. He confided that he had taught me an easier, children’s version of the game. And, since I was so good at the kid’s version, he felt that I could learn the full adult version. Little by little, he taught me all of the extra rules that came with playing the grown-up version. Pawns could not take a piece on their first move. Castling could only occur once all of your pawns had been sacrificed. Knights in play could never return to the first row. There were many more rules, and each one made the game harder to play, but I was up to the challenge!

Playing by the new rules did make it much more difficult to win, but my stepdad had to play by all those rules, too. I was too innocent to find it odd that, even though he was the one teaching me, I would have to remind him of one of these rules from time to time. Once I understood the new gameplay fully, I started to win again.

My stepdad became very busy with work, so he no longer had the time to play chess with me. I started teaching my friends how to play. For most, it was too involved and boring, so we ended up riding bikes or climbing trees. For others, they would learn all the rules as we went, but they would lose interest when it seemed they could rarely, if ever win. When my baby brother was born, I forgot all about the silly game. My chess-playing days were over before I turned 8.

In my teen years, that stepdad was long gone and I had forgotten all about chess. When one of my older, wiser friends in high school offered up a game, I told him that I hadn’t played since I was a kid, but could probably still remember all the rules.

The first game, I won. Looking back, it was probably luck. The second game, I corrected my friend when he tried a move that the rules did not allow. He looked at me like I was crazy. “That is not a rule in chess,” he simply said. Of course, being a very mature teenager, I replied with,

“Yea-huh! See, you can’t take a piece with your pawn on the first move.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“That’s how my dad taught me.”

…and then it hit me…

I spent the next couple of months or so learning how to play by the real rules. When we were all playing by the same rules, I was able to start winning again.

This story floated to the front of my memory after hearing Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her cult talk about abolishing the Electoral College. They honestly believe that their party lost the presidency because everyone was following the same rules. The truth is, Trump knew how the play the game, so he won. Now they want to change the rules.

As my experience with chess shows, changing the rules of the game does not mean that you will magically begin stomping your opponent. All it means is that everyone will change how they play the game, and the best player will still win.

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