Why I wish the Obamas would stop inviting me to dinner

Walter Kirn in The New Republic:

ScreenHunter_01 Jun. 27 11.19The problem with these small-stakes lotteries that are currently clogging up our inboxes isn’t that they cheapen politics (it is what it is, especially lately) but that they reveal, in a depressing way that makes the whole enterprise seem almost futile, just how insanely expensive it has become. They offer as prizes places at power’s table that simply aren’t available to anyone but the odds-beating elect. They ritualize a sense of mass despair at ever achieving influence in normal ways, from getting somewhat but not filthy rich (R) to getting organized (D). Whatever they generate by way of cash or names and addresses for campaign mailing lists is canceled out by the cynicism they spread (or partake of and embody).

At a time when political idealism is hard to come by at any price, suckerball is an extremely dangerous game. It doesn’t help that the hucksters who promote it, the Ed McMahons of this particular sweepstakes, are tied to the candidates by blood and marriage. Tagg Romney sent me a note the other morning that opened with an encomium to fatherhood, the holiest of conservative institutions next to the debt and equity markets themselves (“Dad taught us a lot of lessons, including the importance of having fun as a family, but the most important lesson he imparted to us was the joy in helping others”), and closed with an invitation to wager five bucks on a chance to rub shoulders with his “Papa,” a famously tight-fisted, high-stakes gambler who’d never take such lousy odds himself, not even if tickets were a penny a pop. The deal stirred doubts in me about Tagg’s upbringing as well as contempt for his estimation of mine.

More here.