Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Republicans’ Slowroll

Republicans at work trying to decide who they areDuring this week and next, the country’s two major political parties are having their conventions as part of the run-up to the November elections. Aside from all the speeches and songs, the conventions primarily serve as occasions for both parties to anoint officially their chosen candidates for president and vice-president. The conventions also are where each party approves its so-called “platform” -- i.e., that collection of core beliefs, values, and principles that inform the party’s self-professed identity (of the moment, anyway).

Used to be that the conventions were where these platforms were debated upon and ultimately composed, though nowadays all of that tends to take place prior to the conventions and usually only members of the “Platform Committee” are directly involved in those discussions. Delegates do vote on the platform at the convention, but it is essentially a ceremonial event -- for example, the Democrats presented their platform at their convention on Monday, and it was adopted by a voice vote without any debate on the convention floor. But it had already essentially been adopted back in early August.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are still putting the finishing touches on their platform, including considering (and reconsidering) whether or not they wish to include language decrying online gambling.

Since 2000, the Republicans have had the following statement opposing online gambling in their platform: “Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support legislation prohibiting gambling over the Internet or in student athletics by student athletes who are participating in competitive sports.” By contrast, the Democrats have no corresponding language regarding gambling -- of any variety -- in their platform.

On Tuesday morning the Republican party’s Platform Committee decided to drop those two sentences -- along with a number of others that had appeared in the previous platform. All told, the new version was something like half the length of the previous one. Said Richard Burr, the Republican senator from North Carolina and co-chair of the Platform Committee, the idea was to “make the tent bigger” and not alienate potential supporters of Republican candidates needlessly with statements such as the one opposing online gambling. However, Burr did say at the time that the anti-online gambling statement (as well as other excised statements) could well reappear if anyone on the committee proposed an amendment to replace it.

And by dinner time on Tuesday, such an amendment was indeed proposed by Kendal Unruh, a Republican activist from Colorado who serves on the Platform Committee as a member of the “Defending the Nation, Securing the Peace” subcommittee. “Internet gambling represents the most invasive and addictive form of gambling in our history,” argued Unruh. The amendment passed, and the two sentences were reinserted. The Republican party’s platform is scheduled to be adopted on September 1, the first day of their convention.

A bit of a slowroll, then, with online poker players falsely believing for a better part of a day the Republicans were going to lay off the online gambling bit for a while. During that hopeful interim, the Poker Players Alliance issued a response saying that the removal of those lines was, in the words of PPA Executive Director John Pappas, “a small victory” in the fight to protect our rights to play online poker. But the lines are back. A small defeat, I guess.

Only one of the two sentences -- the first -- actually could be said to concern online poker, insofar as continuing to “support legislation prohibiting gambling over the Internet” also refers to supporting laws to stop people from playing online poker. And it does, I think, for most of those who want to keep that sentence in the platform.

The subsequent association with student-athletes’ betting on games (the second sentence) is frankly misleading -- as are a lot of the arguments evoked by politicians who oppose online gambling -- although for that small percentage of student-athletes who do get involved in such activities, being able to gamble via the web certainly enables them to do so.

In any case, the Republicans’ back-and-forthing here does signify a certain internal conflict within the party regarding the significance of such legislation which for many represents government gratuitously interceding into citizens’ private affairs -- the sort of intrusion the “Grand Old Party” usually represents itself as avoiding (and often accuses the other party of doing too much).

And perhaps that internal conflict may manifest itself down the road in the form of support for some sort of anti-UIGEA bill -- or, more likely, a continued (indefinite?) delay of the finalization of the UIGEA regulations.

Of course, from a practical standpoint, whether or not those two sentences are included in the Republicans’ platform should matter relatively little to online poker players. Even though political platforms address real world issues, the documents themselves exist in a kind of strange netherworld of mostly symbolic significance. Notes to self, you might call ’em.

And we poker players well know how hard it is to follow those.

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Blogger Random Table Draw said...

I may have to change my "What's worse, Slowrolling or Beastiality?" questions then. This is worse.

8/29/2008 1:12 PM  

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