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Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game, By Christopher Matthews

1335 words - 5 pages

Hardball: How Politics is Played Told by One Who Knows the Game by Christopher Matthews compares politics to a game played by individuals seeking to gain and maintain power. Matthews defines hardball as “clean, aggressive Machiavellian politics. It is the discipline of gaining and holding power, useful to any profession or undertaking, but practiced more openly and unashamedly in the world of public affairs,” (13). Matthews offers maxims to explain tactics and truths that better a person’s position in the game of politics. These maxims include “It’s Better to Receive than Give”, “Keep Your Enemies in Front of You”, and “Hang a Lantern on Your Problem”. These three maxims have proven successful in bringing success to those who utilized the tactic.
The game of hardball is all about keeping up a good reputation to your peers and to the public. A successful politician can build up alliances. It is definitely impossible for someone to make their way to the top without any help. Instead of getting help, a person could make a mistake by “limit[ing] their horizons to missions they can accomplish alone” (15). These people ultimately lose the game. Matthews describes one way to forge an alliance in the maxim “It’s better to receive than give”. While confidence is a good thing, too much pride can end in disaster. A way to avoid looking too confident is asking for help. During the General Elections of 1978, Jimmy Carter asked for the help of those who had lost on election night. This is wise because they looked for work and wanted to be needed. Votes and alliances can be made simply because of a feeling of inclusion in the process. A politician asking for help is “offering a chance to join in the political action, to be part of his success” (63). People will happily do favors just for the chance of forging a connection in the political world. It is true that “people like to be asked…it just makes them feel more valuable, more real” (69). Having connections is important to one who wishes to become affluent in a community. If it means that person has to help someone who wishes to advance further themselves, then so be it; they will help. The one giving gets the connection they seek and the one receiving gains someone in their favor. This system of giving and receiving ends in an alliance.
When up against another force, it is a common strategy to “keep your enemies in front of you”. This particular maxim stems directly from Machiavelli who said to “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. Because one person and their opponent share the same interests, it is not impossible for the two to work together eventually. In the context of politics, keeping your opponents in front of you could mean giving an individual a position in your administration if you were president, for example. This tactic was successful for Ronald Reagan. Reagan appointed his rival, Jim Baker, as Secretary of the Treasury. The president took into account Baker’s talents and...

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