Keeping Score

Love them or not, sports are an attention-consuming part of our culture. You likely have a friend — or might be that friend — who is constantly asking to change the channel to check scores. Web sites and smartphone apps now also exist to tally points and provide real-time updates, keeping us connected to every key play or stunning upset. And, of course, you’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant or bar TV that doesn’t regularly turn to a game or linger on a dedicated sports channel.

That is, perhaps, with the probable exception of a particular Tuesday in November every four years. On that day, we’re keeping score of a whole other manner of game, and one which usually focuses almost exclusively on a single, head-to-head battle.

This comparison of sports and politics is as obvious as it is apt, but it goes beyond the ballot. Elections at every level are very clearly competitions, yes, but it’s also true of virtually every action in politics and public policy. Legislation, resolutions and proposals are debated and punted between lawmakers and elected bodies. Competing interests advocate and gain momentum on opposing sides of the issues, pushing until they score a concrete win. Even the most idealistic, unifying political movement or initiative essentially boils down to a contest — change vs. resistance, knowledge vs. ignorance, or positive attitudes vs. negative ones.

Politics is many things, but it is first and foremost a game of power and influence. The players and strategies are just as critical and the impact is even greater, yet most political brawls aren’t provided the same popular following or score-keeping. And, rather than a scheduled period of hours, days and tournaments, the back-and-forth game of politics is always on (inclement weather be damned), with only a handful of dates defining the success and failure of a campaign.The action and the points are kept largely off screen — often even outside the perspective of the players themselves.

That’s far from ideal, and it’s no wonder that many campaigns drop the ball without realizing how or why it happened. To compete at anything, you have to be able to view the whole field, see plays as (and hopefully before) they happen, and have a way to measure your results and adjust your strategy before the final score is calculated. You have to be aware of every advantage available to you.

Athletes have coaches, trainers, and a dedicated throng of professional and amateur analysts. In politics, you need trusted support who can fill those roles; guiding you, training you in best practices, tracking your progress, and backing your efforts with thoughtful, data-driven strategies.

About the author: Steve Heikkinen serves as the Communications and Marketing Strategist for Grassroots Midwest, Michigan’s only bipartisan political advocacy firm.