What Would Winning Look Like?

Our culture has a complicated relationship with the idea of winning. We love to use the language of sports and conflict in all aspects of daily life.

Yet, if we pause to think about it, winning means different things in different contexts. It doesn’t mean the same thing in war as in sports as in business as in politics. And it might not even mean what we think it means in those contexts: someone wins the Super Bowl every year, but there’s always another Super Bowl — and usually a new champion — next year.

Then there are other contexts in which it’s hard to picture winning at all. Can you win in friendship? In marriage? (If you won, would you still be married?)

On a day when everyone’s claiming victory by their own chosen metrics, it’s worth asking what winning means, what sort of wins are really possible in politics, and whether we want to live in a political culture that thinks about winning in terms of war or in terms of relationships.