Suckerball: Why I wish the Obamas would stop inviting me to dinner

What’s also no wonder is that liberal Democrats who believe in managing life’s unfairness on behalf of those to whom it’s most unfair, both at the moments of birth and afterward, during their student-loan repayment periods, don’t mind holding silly raffles to meet George Clooney and the empress-editor of Vogue, as long as the proceeds go to a good cause.

The 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.