Social Studies

Social Studies
Fantasy Congress

Joe Blancato | 30 Oct 2007 11:39
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Already, their baseball card idea is working. I can weigh my local Representative, David Price, against the one from my hometown, Shelley Berkley. Price, since he's been around longer, sponsors more bills and manages to push an impressive 20 percent of them through committee. Berkley, however, has a much higher "Maverick" tendency, meaning she's more likely to vote with the conservative bloc than Price. In terms of the game, I'd have to decide if Berkley's Maverick score is enough to offset the Legislation points Price is capable of racking up, and how likely either is to get injured - or embroiled in a scandal.

And as a tool for rooting out the bad politicians of the world, it works pretty well. "There's folks out there who've stayed as a member of Congress for a very long time, but they haven't really done much," Lee says. "In fact, they may not appear in the news a lot, they may not sponsor much legislation; they don't even co-sponsor legislation. On a vote, they vote party line. It's really odd. Folks like that, I think, are under-performers." However, like in sports, it's hard to deny there are certain intangibles that never show up in a box score. Much of a Congressperson's work occurs not on the floor but on the phone, in terms of fundraising and browbeating colleagues, but, also like in sports, it's difficult to track, which means Fantasy Congress' metrics are entirely results-based, something at least one successful American politician would appreciate.

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It's easy to see how the game can educate voters on how their elected officials represent their political attitudes. For instance, Shelley Berkley's Maverick score tells me she's either a Democrat in a conservative district or an elephant in donkey's clothing. And given her ranking among Representatives with similar experience (65 of 147), I'm able to see she's a mediocre politician, regardless of how she votes. The game's metrics have a great way of cutting through bullshit and eliminating confusion. No amount of doubletalk can change the number of bills a Senator gets through committee in a given session.

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