The Presidency Should Not Be a Participation Trophy

There’s been a lot of talk about the participation trophy in recent years – you know, that prize we hand out to every member of our children’s intramural sports team at the end of each season, regardless of how well they play. Many people believe it’s become a cultural symbol of how politically-correct we’ve become as a society. Our fear of hurt feelings has shamed us into rewarding mere participation instead of what we used to reward: Standout achievement.

We do it, of course, because of the affection we have for our children. We want them to be happy. We don’t want them to feel bad if their friends receive trophies and they don’t. So, our answer is to reward them based on how well we wish they performed, and not how they actually performed.

Sure, we know that rewarding mediocre and lackluster efforts isn’t good for our kids. It sends them the message that success really isn’t all that important, and that underachievement is okay. Yet, it’s hard to put a price-tag on a child’s smile, so we give in.

I have to wonder if a chunk of the American electorate is approaching the presidential election with a similar mindset.

After all, we’ve reached a point in the national polls where President Obama no longer seems to be adversely affected by the increasingly poor state of the country. As the economic news gets worse, more Americans leave the workforce, and chaos sweeps across the Middle East, support for his re-election bid hangs tight and even grows a little. It’s really quite bizarre. Sure, Obama has a tremendous advantage in an adoring and protective news media at his disposal. It’s an advantage that can never be underestimated. But I do think there’s something else at play… I think there’s a significant portion of the electorate that feels inclined to award the president with a participation trophy known as ‘re-election’.

Voters have always liked the idea of President Obama. From a presentation standpoint, he plays the part quite well. Voters like him personally. They find him friendly, charming, and endearing. He’s good at portraying empathy for the common American. There’s pride in his historic significance as the first black president. Voters want him to be recognized for greatness. The problem is that he hasn’t earned greatness. By any reasonable analysis of the trouble our country is in, he hasn’t even earned an honorable mention.

But that’s not what the participation trophy is about. Again, it’s about rewarding someone for how we wish they performed.

We saw an early example of this back in 2009, when President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite not having done anything tangible to achieve peace in his first ten months in the oval office, the Nobel Committee gave him a prestigious award for essentially wanting peace (which makes him no different than any other sane person). They were, in effect, rewarding a desire instead of achievement.

Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, the electorate doesn’t feel the same affection for him that they feel for the president. They don’t have that emotional connection with him. In Romney, many of them see someone who has already won enough trophies in life. He’s an over-achiever who is responsible for great successes, for which he’s reaped the benefits. When you think about it, he’s exactly the kind of person that the participation trophy was created to marginalize.

Just like President Obama expressed in his infamous “You didn’t build that” speech, there’s a tendency by some people to want to downplay the importance of exceptional individuals in order to feel better about themselves. Obama has certainly tapped into that animosity with his class warfare strategy, in order to attract votes. One has to wonder if he’s also using it to build a case for why his unexceptional first term shouldn’t be held against him in this election.

I’m confident that most Americans, deep down, know that the Obama presidency has not been good for this country, just like most parents know that participation trophies aren’t good for their children. A lot of Americans may be uninformed, but they’re not blind. But at this point in time, most seem to feel good about awarding Obama simply for being Obama. The question is whether or not that nagging knowledge that he doesn’t deserve that award will compel them to change their minds before election day.

After all, this isn’t a children’s sports league, it’s the fate of our country.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
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  • Wheels55

    Participation Trophies teach kids about socialism at an early age.

  • venter

    You  got this soooooooooooooo right ,   Loved what you wrote.  All true .

  • wally

    I agree with 99% of your article. Good job. Your last statement that most and lot will figure out that Obama is a bad choice. I have seen the” man on the street interviews” by Fox news and H. Stern. To me, these interviews show a lot/many voters are clueless when it comes to voting for a president. It is unbelievable how ignorant some people can be. They do not know who the vice president is even when shown a picture. I can understand the ignorance in the homeless, drug addicts etc. However, when these interviews are with college students, my fear is that too many are blind. 

    • Alden514

      “…my fear is that too many are blind”. 

      you forgot to mention deaf and dumb.

  • cmacrider

    John:  Equating the mood of the American electorate to participation trophies was a stroke of brilliance.

    • John Daly

      Thank you!

  • Artlouis

    I kind of like participation trophies. After all, nobody forces the kids to sweat it out game after game for an entire soccer (or whatever) season. They deserve some recognition, maybe not a trophy, but at least a certificate affirming that they put in the time and effort.  How about if we give Obama a nice certificate to take home to Chicago in January? You can argue whether he even deserves that, but I am willing to make the concession if he will just GO.

    • DanB_Tiffin

      If he promises to quit and move back to Chicago in order to write another autobiography, I will buy a copy. Really!

      • Alden514

        I was about to agree I’d buy one too, Dan…then I re-read your first line: “If he promises to quit and move back to Chicago…”
        Then I recalled that he NEVER keeps his promises…

    • Wheels55

      Don’t forget Obama’s parting gifts for playing on the “President in Jeopardy Game Show”.

      • NS Sherlock

        Great comment!

  • Deny916

    Of course the  electorate doesn’t feel the same way about Mitt Romney and that’s because the Lying Lame Stream Media won’t let them.  If they actually dwelled on some of the good things that Romney has done the  electorate might feel differently.  They are so in the tank for obammy that they are going to destroy anything that gets in their way of getting him re-elected.  It’s really quite sickening.  I hope the American public won’t get fooled again!

    • N_fuelling

      To bad all the douche bags on here think their above everyone else on some sort of social tottompole to bad when society participates within itself its weakest members are what our society really is. Maybe instead of pointing a finger at the president you should be looking at who hires dirty cops, or maybe why so many people turn to illegal activities.