"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Great American Circus–Politics At Their Worst But As Fun As It Gets

The United States Congress is a circus, and the side show of Senate hearings on Cabinet appointees has been one of the most freakish and fun.  What can be serious about all Democrats marching in lockstep against each and every one of Donald Trump’s nominees?  How could it be that supposedly intelligent representatives of the people could have no minds of their own, no individual conscience, or no personal convictions?

Image result for image chuck schumer at congressional hearings

Of course progressives claim that each of these 50 Senators do indeed have personal integrity, individual character, and a definite moral rectitude; but the cause of deposing the President has brought them together in a unified front. 

And of course conservatives claim that their lockstep support for each and every one of Trump’s nominees reflects his good judgment, the will of the people, and the Constitutional right of the Chief Executive to nominate his own choices and expect that right to be respected by Congress.

A few years ago the same scenario – written in the early days of the Republic but never more dramatically acted than in recent years – was on stage.  The Party of No – the Republicans – did the same goose-stepping, tightly-ordered precision march to overthrow Barack Obama.  Conservatives and moderates alike howled at the White House from the floor of the Senate and House – the man on Pennsylvania was an infidel and a traitor, a political imposter, and a Socialist.

Image result for images the party of no

The election of Donald Trump has been very hard for progressives to take.  It was bad enough that their liberal agenda had been soundly rejected by half the country, but it has been denigrated, spat upon, and ridiculed by the new President.  Not only would he oversee a radical transformation of an interventionist government but he would do it without the usual Washington veneer.

Even in the most acrimonious Congressional debates, Senators will trip over themselves to maintain a veneer of decorum, respect, and propriety.  All Senators are ‘esteemed colleagues’, members of the same fraternity and governed by the same traditional laws and practices. Donald Trump on the other hand has been a bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred, shoot-from-the-hip, unscripted and unrelenting attacker of those who oppose him.

Image result for images donald trump giving speech

His tweets, appearances on television and social media, and impromptu appearances at highly visible political events are incessant, loud, ironic, and perpetual.  After most elections, the losing party licks its wounds, salved by a conciliatory president, and move on to bond in loyal opposition. 

This president has given Democrats no time to draw breath.  He is everywhere, not only dismantling treasured liberal programs, but flaunting their demise, and tossing them with glee and a cheer into the trash.

So, not only are Democrats still hurting from their loss, but are now livid with anger, resentment, and hatred.  To be sure no less livid and pissed than Republicans eight years ago who could never get over the fact that this…..this apostate, African, illegitimate poseur…was in the White House. 

This defeat hurts more, however.  Trump’s rejection of the liberal agenda is not simply a promised reformation of government and a social reset; but a dismissal of moral precepts.  Trump was not only characterized as a radical conservative in the campaign but as a misogynist, homophobic, racist demon.  How could such a moral reprobate, an unethical and unprincipled man ever have made it to the White House?

All of which is to say that the American political circus is now more fun than it ever has been.  It is hard to know where to turn for the more entertaining circus act – Congress or the White House.  It is great melodramatic theatre to watch Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders – the standard-bearers and icons of progressive liberalism in the Senate – rant and rave before their colleagues.  Hectoring, badgering, insulting, and hammering them, they fume with rage and righteous indignation. 

Image result for images elizabeth warren yelling

Betsy De Vos (Education) will dismantle public education and by so doing consign little black children to the streets, abandoned by the very system set up to protect, promote, and educate them.  Rex Tillerson (State) who ran the world’s largest corporation, oversaw the environmental rape of the American natural patrimony because of greed for oil, enriched himself on the back of Native Americans, in bed with Russian oligarchs, and is in collusion with President Trump and his cabal of billionaires to amass even more illegitimate wealth, will manage foreign policy as a personal investment.  And on it goes.  No nominee has been spared.  No one is beyond reproach, calumny, and invective.

Given the perspective of lockstep, universal and mindless political solidarity, and hateful animus seething on the Democratic side of the aisle, one cannot help but chuckle at their self-important, self-righteous, and truly comedic somersaults.

It is equally amusing to watch the cream-puff questions lobbed at the nominees by Republic inquisitors who rattle on forever about their own greatness, insights, and service before getting down to business.

The outrage doesn’t stop in the halls of Congress.  The Women’s March on Washington was an assortment of over 250 progressive groups who protested everything from men to pipelines to white privilege.  It was indeed a big tent where all who shared the core values of social concern, compassion, and moral principle were invited.  It was a carnival, a religious revival, Woodstock, and a celebration of diversity, belonging, and solidarity. 

It had songs, chants, and hand-holding.  It was billed as another in the great Washington demonstrations on the Mall – The Million Man March, MLK on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,  protests against Nixon’s war.

Once again, there is enough circus talent in America to go around; and the Memorial Day Rolling Thunder ride through the capital is a sight to see.  Thousands of Harleys, leather, bandannas, shit-kickers, and hair.  Bad-ass choppers; bad ass riders protesting, demanding.

Or the quiet sanctimony of the Right-to-Life March held before the Mall could be cleaned up.  Gruesome pictures of half-aborted babies, over-sized placards with Biblical  injunctions, hymns, prayers and more prayers.

Not only do Black Lives Matter, but everything matters.  Citizens are in the streets to protest Wall Street greed; on the frozen plains of North Dakota to reclaim Indian rights and to condemn the environmental rapists of corporate America; in front of the Supreme Court, the Treasury, the White House, and just about every statehouse in the country.  Everyone has a gripe it seems.  The zero-sum society has finally arrived.  If you don’t demand yours, you won’t get yours.  Someone else will.

Image result for images north dakota pipeline protests

The social media are jammed with petitions to support or challenge something or someone.  The Internet, always the home of conspiracy theories and hate mail, is burning up the fiber optics.
The guy who pays his fifty bucks for the circus, however, gets his money’s worth and them some.  No Cirque de Soleil or Barnum & Bailey’s; no bearded lady, two-headed dog, fire-eater, snake charmer, man-with-no-head can possibly compete with the goings-on in the House and on the streets. 

Image result for image old poster barnum & bailey circus

If you do not take Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, or Bernie Sanders seriously when they stand at the pulpit in the Senate Chamber and begin their Pentecostal revival meetings; and if you ignore Donald Trump’s fast-and-loose dealing of the facts, then you can be witness to the greatest political show on earth. 

When politics get personal – when self-worth, rectitude, moral purpose, and self-image get involved – people are bound to be ridiculous.  There is nothing more absurd than political grandstanding on points of ‘principle’.  It is hard not to laugh.

Yes, there is a danger in this new political incarnation.  Once we loose our moorings to the Founding Fathers, Jefferson, or FDR – men of true principle, service, honesty, and commitment to governance – we are indeed in rough waters. 

The greatness of America is its resilience, optimism, energy, and enterprise, and more than likely moderation and temperance will return.  It may be, however, that we have turned a corner.  We are getting what we deserve from the multi-cultural, divided, zero-sum, contentious society which we have created.  Perhaps we have turned a corner and are entering a post-factual world, one more akin to Hollywood, Las Vegas, and reality television than somber affairs of rational governance.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose said Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr.  The more things change, the more they remain the same; and so it goes for politics, society, and civilization.  Human nature has never changed nor ever will, so the cycles of history will continue to roll.   All the more reason to pay your money and enjoy the show.

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