Victimology is politics’ new language

Tyler Melling is a minor league pitching prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals. Melling, 25, is a left hander (which means he’ll never be out of a job in baseball) who pitched for the Cardinals’ Class A team this year. Melling is also, apparently, an investigative journalist of sorts.

Following the Cardinals’ defeat at the hands of the Red Sox in game one of the World Series on Wednesday, Melling took to Twitter, accusing Sox hurler Jon Lester — who threw 7 and 2/3 innings of shutout baseball — of using Vaseline on the baseball during the game. This would, of course, be an illegal action in the biggest of games on the biggest of stages and would seem to invalidate Lester’s gem.

The Internet being, well, the Internet, other Cardinals fans began scouring footage of the game for some kind of evidence of Lester “cheating,” with more than a few absurd “smoking gun” videos appearing on Vine, purporting to show Lester digging into his glove for some grease with which to juice the ball.

What Melling and Cardinals’ fans broadly fail to talk about is the fact that the Cardinals looked terrified to be playing baseball on Wednesday night. They fail to talk about shortstop Pete Kozma making two critical errors at key moments in the game or pitcher Adam Wainwright just watching a ball drop to the ground in front of him. They fail to say what Wainwright himself said: “Everything I threw was pretty garbage.”

I love the Patriots, of course, but their loss at the hands of the Jets last week was decried as similarly illegitimate due to a questionable call relating to Patriots players pushing linemen during field goals, which seemed to rob the team of a win.

In our complaining after the game, we, the fans of The Good Guys, were apoplectic in our outrage over the stolen game. We didn’t really mention that we were playing the Jets — THE JETS! — and that our performance in that game was pretty awful.

We never mentioned that we should never have really been in a position where a call like that could impact the game (it was the Jets, people; their quarterback is Geno Smith), or that we had escaped a meltdown the previous week only because of the supernatural power possessed by Tom Brady.

Such is the new normal in not only sports, but politics. When you lose, it couldn’t have been because you were the inferior team (or candidate) that night, or that you made errors that doomed your own chance to win. No, when you lose, it is because somebody conspired against you. Somebody cheated. Somebody stole from you what should have been yours. After all, your own side is righteous and true, and the only explanation for your lack of success is something “unfair.”

Victimology is the new language of competition of all kinds, but nowhere is it more prevalent than politics. Not even the wailing cries of Cardinals and Patriots fans can compare to what happens when somebody loses a political race.

Just watch what happens the next time somebody loses a race. Listen to the partisans explain away why the race went the way it did. “The media is against us!” “They had beltway establishment hacks running the campaign!” “The campaign wasn’t conservative/liberal enough to inspire voters to their side!” “The other side lied so much and the voters fell for it!” “The voters are stupid and couldn’t see through the avalanche of money!”

The complaints are endless, and they exist on both sides of the aisle. You never hear anyone say, “The other candidate was better” or, “My guy wasn’t really appealing to anyone” or, “My issues aren’t resonating with anyone.”

The danger of political victimology — much like sports victimology — is that it prevents people from truly understanding what it is they just saw.

If your issues are no longer speaking to the concerns of voters, you are nominating flawed candidates, and the actions of your candidates are alienating more people than they rally to their side, then that is something you have to recognize and understand if you are going to be able to win elections in the future.

It is like a baseball general manager not realizing that his pitchers are inferior, his hitters are weak, or his defense is terrible. It’s hard to improve a team if you don’t know what the problems really are.

Drone on about the “evil media” or the “stupid voters” or “misinformation” and blame it all for your lack of success, and that lesson will never be learned and your side will continue to fail.

Hopefully, just like the Cardinals. Go Sox.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.