Suckerball: Why I wish the Obamas would stop inviting me to dinner
LOTTERIES, BY DEFINITION, are for losers. You enter them with an evanescent sense of grandiosity and optimism, but beneath this delusion lurks the knowledge that you wouldn’t be buying a ticket at all if you believed you had a fighting chance of obtaining the prize by normal means. Then the winner is chosen—always some distant stranger who’s notably lacking in your best traits—and it becomes insultingly apparent that you can’t beat the system by any means, including the one that you just vainly tried. The game is not only rigged against you; it isn’t really a game. It’s a stone rip-off.
Given these gloomy psychological facts, it’s somewhat surprising, even slightly shocking, that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have embraced the sweepstakes as a fund-raising, mailing-list-building tool—and at a moment when middle-class Americans have started to fear they’re permanently out of luck. These contests are generally announced by e-mails ostensibly sent by the candidates’ family members who use a breathless, faux-familiar tone to convince donors to take a shot at securing something the families get for free: proximity to the great man. If the pitches came from the lobbyists and fixers who usually have to pay dearly for such access, they might sound marginally more genuine, but this would remind folks that face time with our leaders is indeed a priceable commodity, not a windfall to be gained by accident.