Personal Reflections on Politics and Priorities

The Statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol building.

Let us speak of love and life and the beauty of this Universe.

What? Oh. Right. Sorry.

Look, to the one it seems really simple; to the other, we all have people in our lives who will, when they don’t like the obvious implication of an obvious fact, chuff and puff and stutter: “Wh-wha-what? What are you talking about? What does that even mean?” The thing about this behavior is that except for the fact of contention, these people in our lives know damn well what we’re talking about, and if there is any confusion about what it means, they’re certainly tipping their hand by going from zero to attack in zero-point-two-one-seven-three seconds. You know that common tease, “Struck a nerve, there”?

Sometimes it seems tragic: Perceived competitive pressures can seem so permeating in and of the perspectives subscribing to or advocating its processes and outcomes as to inhibit normal, healthy social function. More accessibly: Capitalism escalates mental health risk factors. Or, more generally: People who believe in or advocate the dog eat dog rat race can fall into it so deeply that their social faculties degrade into dysfunction.

And sometimes we think, “Huh? But you knew what this meant yesterday. And you even believed it last week!”

Talk about burying the lede, though we might note this isn’t usually what the phrase means. For our purposes at the moment, the time machine joke works here. That is to say, if you could actually go back in time and tell your former self and social circles about what was coming, at what point would it be unbelievable? We crossed that line twenty years ago, and I’d say stop me if you’ve heard this one before, except it really is a stale bit of esoterica. Still, though, I think back to the Republican Party of my youth, the crippling condemnations of the unemployed, or patronizing lectures on personal accountability. It’s all still around today; witness the tangle of conservative rhetoric whenever an issue affects women particularly, such as personal accountabilty in the abortion debate and using the law to curtail birth control and reproductive information access. It’s one thing to complain that women are somehow irresponsible for an unplanned pregnancy, but another entirely to do so while working so hard to make sure their boyfriends and husbands can knock them up at will. What was simply a questionable omission becomes almost conspiratorially outrageous. Or in terms of the unemployed, Speaker Boehner himself provides a brilliant example; on the same day he lamented a “very sick idea” by which the unemployed apparently would “rather just sit around”—you know, just the latest version of the lazy, money-for-nothing unemployed that we’ve heard for decades—he also closed the House of Representatives for fifty-four days, so that Republicans would not risk harming their electoral chances by logging tough votes:

And so, over the 14 weeks spanning the beginning of August and the middle of November, House members will work a grand total of eight days – out of a possible 103. And after today, they’ll be away from work for the next 54 days.


One of the biggest tough votes potentially facing Congress is the question of what to do about the military effort against Daa’ish; all Congress managed to do with their last vote was rubber-stamp an existing training program so that what was covert could now, more easily, be carried out in the open. While the Speaker agrees this is an important discussion that needs to take place, he would rather put it off until next year.

This is an interesting question; Mr. Boehner, of Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District, seems to feel that the lame-duck months of a Congressional session should do no work.

If that seems perhaps a controversial extrapolation, consider that the House has just cut its post-vacation work schedule to eight days in September and fifteen days at most in November and December. And, of course, the Speaker wants to put off the important business until next year.

Meanwhile, what of the Senate? There is only so much Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) can accomplish when facing perpetual filibuster and other dilatory juvenilia, and that sum is further reduced when the House would rather just sit around.

But that all focuses too much on Senate Democrats. How dare we ignore the chamber’s Republican caucus, right? Such as the sight of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)—he of the Tortilla Coast Junta in the House of Representatives—actually following House Speaker Boehner’s lead by trying to disqualify the lame-duck Senate from holding confirmation hearings for any nominee to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. It would be an abuse of power, the junior Republican from Texas argued this week, for the Senate to actually do its job. The nomination should wait until, well, next year.

At what point do we get to just spread our hands and say, “Holy horseapples! Are they effing serious?”

Sometimes the priorities that stand out to us are entirely personal. Indeed, I am not so much astonished, per se, as disappointed in the fulfillment of cynical expectation.

And this is where such ethical corrosion becomes especially divisive: What do we expect? we might wonder. They’re Republicans, after all. But to what degree is that fair? To the one, there is the Tea Party that is sick of institutional politicking. To the other, their factions are also main drivers of the excremental balbutive driving Beltway Republicans into this abyss.

And there are plenty of rank and file Republican voters drowning in their own flood of ego defense. That is, they would almost universally resent the idea that such dishonest and cowardly behavior is the nature of American conservatism, but where can they go? There are many serious policy disagreements between the Parties and the People who compose them, but to what degree are Republican voters happy to be defined by such irony as the Beltway conservative belief in a (cough!) “very sick idea” that Congress should (ahem!) “rather just sit around”? That personal accountability means important business should be put off until next year? That it is an abuse of power for the United States Senate to actually perform its constitutionally-assigned basic duties?

Really? The thing is that these are really basic themes about productivity and accountability and duty, and we’ve been hearing them from Republicans for years. Indeed, the greatest disagreement Democrats and liberals should have with such rhetoric is the specific practical meaning of such concepts. Yet their greatest value right now is a nearly mortal irony, as the same Party flying these colors should also demand the exact opposite.

Perhaps this episode finds such priority in my reading of the political news because it is so deeply invested in an ironic setup constructed unceasingly throughout the entire period of my political awareness. It should not be that Republicans categorically cannot be trusted. Rather, perhaps it is time for Republican voters to sit down with their Party and elected representatives in order to figure out why such a question could even be part of the discussion, and what the Party needs to do about it. Because it is quite certain that there are plenty of Republicans out there who are otherwise trustworthy, except for the fact that this is what they vote for.

Which, in turn, further distills the question for Republican voters and their Party leadership: Just what are Republican voters actually voting for?

For Democrats and liberals, this distillation comes up frequently, in diverse contexts defined by the nature of certain issues and their arguments. But on this occasion, the question is placed front and center by the actions of the House leadership in particular and Beltway Republicans in general. Just what are Republican voters actually voting for?


Except it isn’t really a conspiracy if we accept the proposition of a dialectic of neurosis; what seems conspiratorial is nothing more than growing neurotic conflict according to observable processes such as confirmation bias communally affirmed that disrupt perception and recognition of cognitive dissonance, thereby reaffirming confirmation bias and reinforcing concomitant ego defense.

Benen, Steve. “Nice work if you can get it”. msnbc. 18 September 2014.

One thought on “Personal Reflections on Politics and Priorities

  1. Pingback: My Superstition (Anti-Prophet) | This Is

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