Friday, January 29, 2021

On Politics In General

      A lot of the electorate - and no few of the elected -- appear to have decided that politics, especially at the Federal level, is some sort of apocalyptic blood sport.

      Some of this can be laid at the door of Mr. Trump (and his less-temperate opposition): he and they both grasped, early and deeply, that a great way to motivate voters was to get them alarmed that Their Way Of Life™ was under dire threat if the wrong power-drunk, jaded zillionaires (or would-be zillionaires) won, and never mind that part of the genius of the Federal Constitution is that no side wins once and for all.  More of it can be blamed on the spreading of nutty conspiracy theories, of which "Qanon" is only the more recent and -- so far! -- worst.*  Even more of this Ragnarokian thinking can be ascribed to the headline-grabbing but minuscule memberships of various street-theatre groups, from the masses of regular sign-wavers to street-blocking BLM protesters through to the rough-and-tumble combatants of antifa, the Proud Boys and all of their violent ilks, and on around to the tough-talking (and at times, ineptly gun-toting) Oathkeepers and Threepers. 

      What all of them have in common is that none of them are in the mainstream of American political thought or behavior -- Mr. Trump may come closest, but his intemperate speech and actions were better suited to a hostile corporate takeover than an election for Federal office and are not the generally done thing.

      What, you liked that?  Yes, politicians have been running as "outsiders" for years, as candidates who will look out for the little guy and clean up Washington D.C.  That's how you get former state Governors in the Oval Office -- Carter, Clinton, Reagan.  Nevertheless, they follow the normal forms and conventions of the electoral system, which Mr. Trump did not.  Neither did much of the reaction to him.

      As a result, we are now way out there, from the wittering media to the most stick-in-the-mud party-line Democrat or Republican, from your Great-Aunt Millie's Christmas newsletter to the fickle lunacy of social media.

      Take a step back.  Take a deep breath.  The End is not nigh.  I can't make your Congressthing stop talking brash nonsense, but we all can, by voting better.  The House of Representatives was always supposed to be full of churn and experiment, and the outliers are often outlying indeed, from AOC to MTG.  They get two years, and maybe if a House district if full of nitwits, it gets a nitwit in Congress and, well, that's representation.  But we can hold them to a higher standard; we don't have to reward trash talk and fantasy.

      And remember, the ones that stand out?  They are outliers.  That's why we notice them.  Most Representatives and Senators are sober, serious men and women, who do their homework and try to do a decent job.  They mean well.  About half of them have some damfool notions, but they are not deliberately malicious and they're open to compromise.

      Most of the members of the opposition party (whichever one that is for you) do not, in fact, hold their ideas and opinions because they are bad people who are out to do wrong to you, yours and the United States of America.  Their intentions are good -- and we elect Federal legislators to two assemblies to hash out the differences in their aims and plans, to find the approach that is the least obnoxious to the greatest number of the citizens, to test it against the Constitution as amended, and to stall and trip one another up in the process.

      This is not The Battle At The End Of Time.  It is not Armageddon.  It's the normal give and take of the Federal government, clunky and cumbersome.  It is, by design and intent, inefficient.  It is not improved by shoving a wrench into the already slow-grinding gears.

      We need to get back to fighting the normal legislative and lobbying fights in the normal way, and leave the sideshow behind.
* Look, if you have bought into the "Q" line of bullshit, you might as well stop reading my blog now.  That Q stuff is risible but pernicious nonsense, playing on the worst fears of decent Americans and the power of grouped imaginations; if it's not run directly by Russia's FSB, it is at least deeply and powerfully influenced by them.  It's a mind virus, akin to communism or following the Grateful Dead.


Douglas2 said...

I've long had a theory that Newt Gingrich saw an opening where if he pushed the norm a bit, he'd and up as a practical matter having almost prime-ministerial levels of power. He did end up with a remarkable level of power, and then squandered it on stuff like impeachment which wasn't nearly as popular with the general pubic as he thought it would be.

As we've spent the last 12 years (not just 4) screaming 'there will be consequences for breaking that norm' at congress and the president, with others arguing that the other side did so first, I've started to see that when you trace back the tit-for-tat rule & norm changes one very often ends up looking at Clinton-era articles about Newt.

Roberta X said...

Oh, Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt have plenty to answer for along those lines, as well.

Many parts of the workings of our Federal government are made up as we go along; the Constitution, as amended, is silent in some areas and vague on others. The checks and balances that are supposed to steer a balance between autocracy and anarchy are not a Swiss watch -- more like a sawmill. Errors and corrections can be a bit awkward.