In the comic strip Peanuts, the little red-haired girl is the permanent object of Charlie Brown’s unrequited affections. Peanuts creator Charles Schultz based the character on a woman he dated when he was a young man; a girl to whom Schultz proposed, but she turned him down and married someone else instead. Schultz was devastated by this rejection and used Charlie Brown as a mouthpiece to express the unfulfilled longing Schultz never quite managed to shake.
The Poker Players Alliance has this same dysfunctional relationship with the Republican party in Washington. Time after time, the PPA offers up its heart (and wallet) to Congressional Republicans, trying to convince them that online poker is as American as mom, apple pie and ignoring World Trade Organization judgments. Occasionally, the odd Republican may flash a come-hither smile, which the PPA is only too eager to accept, but inevitably, the GOP elephant spins around, stamps its mighty foot and flattens the PPA’s heart like a pancake.
Much like on Tuesday, when the Republican National Committee released its official party platform unequivocally supporting “the prohibition of gambling over the internet.” STOMP! To think it was only earlier this month that a widely distributed McClatchy article quoted PPA exec director John Pappas saying there were now enough backers in the Republican-led House of Representatives to overturn the prohibition on online poker. Whoops. The PPA’s VP of player relations Rich Muny (the airborne gent pictured above right) said he hadn’t expected the GOP to come out and wholeheartedly endorse online poker but had remained “hopeful they’d choose for the platform to remain silent on the matter.” The PPA’s disappointment over losing the little red-haired girl (again) is understandable, we suppose: it’s natural to want those things that are perpetually denied to us. But perhaps there’s an even more apt Peanuts analogy here.
KICK ME HARD
Every fall, Lucy encouraged Charlie Brown to kick the football while she held it, and every year he would remind himself that Lucy had never – despite all her promises, coaxing and cajoling – ever let his foot touch that ball. The scene had always ended with a chuckling Lucy walking away with the ball while Chuck lay there, flat on his back, wondering whether the insult was worse than his injuries. Yet for some reason, he always managed to convince himself that this time would be different.
This February, in a rare display of certainty, Mitt Romney stated that he didn’t support internet gambling because of its “social costs.” Pappas immediately rallied the PPA social media troops to let Mitt know this stance was a “misperception” of the status quo. But in this instance, the real status quo on display was the GOP position on online gambling. They, uh, don’t like it. They’ve never liked it. More to the point, there’s never been any serious suggestion that the GOP position on online gambling has budged one iota since passage of the UIGEA in 2006; except, perhaps, in the fevered imagination of the PPA.
This isn’t intended to rag on the PPA. Lord knows, they’ve assigned themselves a thankless task on par with the GOP’s ongoing struggles to make Romney sound human. But PPA execs need to stop acting so surprised and/or hurt when the GOP does something very GOP-like. In September 2010, Calvin Ayre predicted the Tea Party’s tightening grip on the GOP’s reins would have little to no effect on the party’s traditional anti-gambling stance and time has validated that assessment. They’re called conservatives for a reason: they don’t like change. Especially when not changing provides an opportunity for them to look more sanctimonious than their godless heathen homosexual abortionist east-coast-college-educated poker-playing Democratic opposition.
So perhaps it’s time the PPA considered a change, such as shifting more of its focus from Washington to the state level, where legislative progress is far more likely to occur (much in the way the individual state lottery systems developed and eventually intertwined). Calvin Ayre suggested as much to Pappas two-and-a-half years ago after Pappas told the online poker community to ‘get ready’ for legislative fireworks and Calvin suggested ‘get real’ was a more appropriate response. For the record, the bill Pappas was touting at the time – Barney Frank’s HR2267 – did eventually pass a House committee by a vote of 41-22, but of those 41 ‘aye’ votes, just 7 were cast by Republicans, and Barney’s bill never did make it to the House floor for a vote.