Especially in the Citizen’s United age.
Sports are great because the rules apply to both teams equally and while you can try to “work the refs” their job is to apply those rules equally, evenly and appropriately. They are paid professionals whose integrity must be beyond reproach to be effective. We’re so dedicated to this concept that we’ve turned to technology to ensure that the just result is allowed to prevail over faulty (but sincerely applied) judgment.
In politics, the rules and norms are supposed to apply to both teams (all teams in multi-party system) but the refs exist in two layers:
1. the press, who are split between cadres of paid professionals whose goal is that their integrity and dedication to fairness are beyond reproach, but is actually in the eye of the beholder, and also a growing contingent of overtly partisan outlets who may falsely claim integrity but clearly root for a team, all of which informs layer 2;
2. the ultimate ref – the citizen, the voting public, not paid professionals trained in anything, with differing levels of education, information, attention spans, individual interests and dedication. There used to be a stronger sense of honor around being a citizen, upholding a sense of right and wrong and fairness, but like honor in sports and other aspects of life, the pressure to succeed, to win, to be on the achieving side of the ledger in a more and more desperate society has eroded that sense of honor. Cynicism rules, feeding less identification with the two teams for most and hyper identification with the teams for a rabid minority.
So already we have a vast difference between these two things that render fairness in politics much harder to achieve, to say the least. And then on top of that you have the working of the refs, the legally protected ability to misinform, propagandize, to lie to the refs for the outcome you want for your team. In politics we’ve seen cheaters prosper so that it is not unreasonable, if you are so inclined, to decide that honor and integrity is for suckers.
So I wish the sports analogy worked. But it doesn’t. And for that we’re fucked.