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The magical world of politics

Not many would challenge the notion that Penn & Teller are among the world’s premier magicians. But not many know that they also are among its premier political thinkers.

The often comedic, often outspoken prestidigitators are classic libertarians, with views that often are at once very liberal and very conservative. And they often use the magic of their showmanship to drive home points they hope others might consider.

Despite being charlatan showmen, one thing they would never do is pull the type of political sleight of hand currently distracting us from real issues in the Kansas gubernatorial campaign.

Magic is about misdirection — keeping people from seeing what’s really happening by creating distracting patter, gesturing meaninglessly, focusing attention on one hand instead of the other, or drawing your eye toward some assistant.

That’s exactly what political action committees from outside the state are trying to do with commercials featuring a former collegiate swimmer from Kentucky complaining about having lost to the one and only known transgendered swimmer competing nationally.

Whether we think it’s fair or unfair for someone born male to attempt to adopt a different physical gender identity and compete against someone born female is a debatable point.

But the place to debate it is not state capitols. It’s in the meeting rooms of the governing bodies of whatever sport is involved.

Sports tend to be self-policing. Government doesn’t tell us that designated hitters are good or bad. We don’t hear cries to eliminate the libero position in volleyball or to reverse the switch to rally scoring. Congress didn’t decide that college football and the NFL should have different rules for breaking ties in overtime. The governing bodies of those sports did. And the athletes and team sponsors or owners made those decisions.

If enough swimmers agree with the one woman from Kentucky and don’t like rules that allow transgendered competition, they should change them — or create a new governing body with different rules. That’s happened in everything from professional wrestling and racing to golf, tennis, and even football, with the Canadian Football League.

Government should keep its hands off our sports lest some legislator decide that the three-point line in basketball is drawn too many or too few feet out.

And we, as voters, should start worrying about real issues that legislators and governors actually should be dealing with about instead of the sleight of hand that’s designed to keep us from thinking about real challenges that elected officials should be facing.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 28, 2022

 

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