A political football is a topic or issue that is seized on by opposing political parties or factions and made a more political issue than it might initially seem to be. “To make a political football” [out of something] is defined in William Safire‘s Safire’s Political Dictionary as “To thrust a social, national security, or otherwise ostensibly non-political matter into partisan politics” — Wikipedia
Implicit in the term “political football” is the back-and-forth, unresolved nature of an issue from which both sides seek an advantage, and yet for which neither side accepts responsibility.
For example, our Chaos President’s rescinding of DACA. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and a large majority of the population, seem to agree that these young, undocumented immigrants should be given a pathway to citizenship in the only country they have ever known. It’s the right thing to do, regardless of politics. But Trump purposely exposed 800,000 young people to deportation, upending their lives, flooding them with fear and anxiety. Then out of supposed compassion, he struck a deal (minus the Great Wall of Mexico) with Democrats to safeguard the Dreamers, passing the responsibility on to Congress to “fix DACA.” Now he has reneged by demanding that the Wall be part of the deal. In this football game of his creation, Trump is wearing the uniforms of both teams.
Another example is Trump’s antipathy toward fighting climate change, a cause which would seem to be a no-brainer (especially in light of this year’s severe hurricanes, floods and droughts). Economic factors, such as the number of jobs in the methane and CO2-producing industries, do not change the science behind climate change, but they do change the politics. To tackle this political football, the Administration’s strategy is to remove scientists from the EPA and deny the science altogether, rather than create new industries that don’t generate heat-trapping gases. Now Scott Pruitt is trying to justify repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan by lying about its costs and benefits. As always, Trump is an extremely short-term thinker, and his first priority– even over world survival in the long term– is to pander to his political base.
Healthcare has been (and may still be, despite the apparent demise of Repeal and Replace) another political football. How did taking away health coverage from millions of lower-income Americans for the benefit of the wealthy even get to a vote, let alone several rushed attempts to get Repeal and Replace passed? Without considering the greatest good for all of the people, Trump appeals to his base (even though many of them would be among those losing coverage) by trying to fulfill a campaign promise.
But stepping back from each of these issues and looking at the whole of Donald Trump’s presidency, you begin to see a much larger game going on, in which immigrants, global warming and healthcare, along with the upcoming tax reform, threats of nuclear escalation in North Korea and potentially Iran, are all isolated plays called from the bench, with the ultimate goal of exciting Trump’s base and reliving the WIN of the 2016 election. His support for white supremacists and the NRA, his heartless remarks made in Puerto Rico, and his ceaseless campaign rallies complete the picture for those benighted folks (sometimes spelled with a V).
Voices of dissent coming from within the Chaos President’s own camp are welcome news: GOP Sen. Bob Corker has taken the biggest step so far by pointing out that Trump tweets lies, is volatile, unstable, incompetent, needs to be contained, and could set the nation “on the path to World War III”– but Rex Tillerson calling Trump a “f___ing moron” isn’t far behind. It’s time for action: hopefully more Republicans in Congress will muster up similar courage and not only speak up, but also take care of the Dreamers, rejoin the Paris Accord, stop sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, and pull us back from the brink of nuclear war. Maybe when Trump calls on his team to throw the final Hail Mary pass, they will eject him from the game, or at least opt to take a knee.