Since she announced her run for president, Hillary Clinton has often included a populist line about how the middle class has been left out — a metaphor about how the "deck is stacked."
The line usually goes something like this, which she said in Iowa in April:
"Unfortunately, the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top, and we need to reshuffle the cards."
The metaphor generally makes sense until you think it through. For instance, who is the dealer now? Are we... electing a new one? Does Hillary Clinton want to be our dealer?
The metaphor doesn't stop there, though. At a house party in New Hampshire, for instance, she said this:
“I think [...] we’ll either ratify the positive steps taken under the Obama administration or we will change radically in ways that will further tilt the playing field in favor of those already at the top politically and economically. The deck is stacked in their favor. My job is to reshuffle the cards and to get those cards back in your hands so you can make those decisions for yourselves.”
This is when the real questions began.
First off, is this card game being played on a tilted surface? And wouldn't people get the cards anyway, regardless of whether the deck was stacked, because that's the nature of card games? What card game is this?
It didn't stop there either, though! Oh, no. In Las Vegas, Clinton said this:
“Even with all of the hard work and sacrifice so many families made, in many ways, the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top. I’m well aware in Las Vegas there is nothing worse than a stacked deck. I want to reshuffle the deck. [...] To help reshuffle the deck, people have to do their part. They have to step up and take their education seriously.”
"To help reshuffle the deck, people have to do their part."
Seriously, who's the dealer here? Why are people helping reshuffle decks of cards? How do you even do that? Like, do you just dump the cards on the ground, kick them around with your feet, and then everyone picks them up?
During a big economic policy address this summer, she dropped this new variation on the original line:
“The deck is stacked in too many ways.”
Just how many ways can a deck of cards be stacked?
Sometimes, Clinton also includes an entirely different card metaphor to applause in Democratic crowds: "If [policy] is playing the gender card, deal me in." But on Friday night in Iowa, she outdid herself:
“If fighting for equal pay and paid leave is playing the gender card, then deal me in. And if helping more working parents find quality, affordable child care is playing the gender card, then I’m ready to ante up. If Republicans say they’re going to win this election by demeaning or dividing women, then they’re the ones not playing with a full deck."
We've got two gender cards, Clinton calls a bet, and Republicans aren't playing with a full deck. Is Clinton now playing cards instead of dealing them? How many decks are there? Are the decks stacked? If Clinton's no longer the dealer, if she ever was, how will the deck(s) be reshuffled? Is life controllable beyond that moment just before you receive cards, or are we just inescapably, unknowably chained to the pain and elation of chance? What card game is this??
Katherine Miller is the political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Katherine Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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