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Republicans Only Offer Faux Outrage While Progressive Democrats are Getting Things Done
And they need our help; there was never a better time to get involved
Long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses. —First-century Roman satirist Juvenal
Ted Cruz, who fancies himself a great performer on the stage of American politics, had an urgent message to tweet out to America yesterday. “The first weeks of the Biden administration,” he said, were “boring.”
Thank G-d. And, meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is “taking names and kicking ass,” getting The People’s business done in a big way by brilliantly exercising the power they’ve accumulated as their numbers have grown rapidly over the past decade.
Republicans have nothing to offer 99% of Americans by way of policy or governance, so they resort to spectacle to stay in the news and try to grab a few votes here and there.
Republicans who just want to talk about policy and getting things done, the “boring stuff,” like what Bob Dole and Mitt Romney were all excited about, tend not to get elected, as they’re lacking in spectacle.
Ronnie Reagan was a B-movie actor who knew how to play the role of president pretty well, but slept most afternoons and really had little to do with policy; he outsourced that to people like trickle-down supply-side inventors Stephen Moore and Art Laffer. But nobody slept through his speeches; trained in Hollywood, he knew how to do entertainment.
Donald Trump, too, spent his entire life in the middle of a media storm of his own creation. He fine-tuned his performance art when NBC hired acting coaches for his reality show and taught him how to come across well on television. But he spent most of his time playing golf and outsourced his policy work to people like Stephen Moore and Art Laffer.
Even George W. Bush understood the importance of sets and staging. When he decided to run for president, he moved out of his high-end housing and bought a former pig farm in rural Texas, converting it into a “ranch” just in time for the campaign, although there were no horses because he’s afraid of horses. His main performance art was war theater, and he growled pretty good for a coward who went AWOL for a year during the Vietnam war, an offense called “desertion” that would have landed most soldiers or airmen in prison for life.
But Bush, too, outsourced most of his actual policy to people like Stephen Moore and Art Laffer, and didn’t even bother to act on multiple CIA warnings that Osama bin Laden was coming to “strike inside the United States.” He’s now back in his gated community mansion living the leisurely life of your average multi-multi-millionaire.
Democrats, on the other hand, tend to run presidents who are all excited about policy. That’s because the Democratic Party, since FDR, has been all about doing the business of the people rather than just the billionaires.
Jimmy Carter might’ve been boring, but he put the country on track to be energy independent and have 20% of all our power needs met by solar and wind by the year 2000; Reagan, of course, put an end to that in his first weeks in office.
If Bill Clinton was famous for anything other than an eye for attractive women it was his obsession with policy. A Rhodes Scholar, he was the ultimate policy wonk and loved nothing more than talking policy long into the night.
And while Barack Obama could give a hell of a good speech, he didn’t show up in the press much at all, even when many of us were begging him to, like when Mitch McConnell barred the Senate from considering Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. He preferred to stay in the background and get things done.
The media, however, has always had a clear preference for a spectacle over helping the American public. It’s one of the reasons we keep getting performers as Republican presidents instead of competent administrators.
As CBS President Les Moonves said in 2016, Donald Trump “may not be good for America, but is damn good for CBS.“ Referring to the “circus“ and “bomb throwing“ that Trump brought to the election, he added, “I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.“
Back in first-century Rome, the satirist Juvenal ridiculed Roman emperors for the almost-daily spectacle they maintained in the coliseums to keep the people from paying attention to the predations of Rome’s politicians. At least the Roman emperors kept their day’s equivalent of popcorn flowing during the performances.
Today’s Republicans don’t even want people to have food stamps, although they’re more than happy to keep spectacle moving from “anchor babies” to “trans people in public restrooms” to “migrant caravans“ to Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potatohead.
Anything to keep from discussing the minimum wage, the right to unionize, the state of the environment or how badly they’ve damaged public education and throw an entire generation into debt over the past 40 years.
Dwight Eisenhower was the last boring Republican president. Overall, he did a pretty good job, building the interstate highway system that revitalized the American economy, and putting brand new schools and hospitals in hundreds of communities across America. He successfully ran for reelection in 1956 on a platform of expanding Social Security, expanding union rights, and expanding the minimum-wage.
But those days are gone, and people like my Dad, who called himself an “Eisenhower Republican,“ are dead or dying.
Like a slight-of-hand artist or a guy running at three-card-Monty routine in a back-alley, Republicans over the past 40 years have pretty much perfected the art of getting us to watch their right hand doing something flashy while their left hand is picking our pockets and poisoning our air and water.
It’s worked for them over and over, and clearly people like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Rick Scott think they can continue the Big Con and ride it to success in the 2024 presidential election.
But Americans seem to be waking up.
And the Congressional Progressive Caucus, under the leadership and participation of truly brilliant folks like Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Mark Pocan, have stepped up to play a decisive role in American politics commensurate with the widespread public approval for the policies they keep putting forth.
There’s no doubt the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan would have been radically watered down had the Progressive Caucus not worked as a block and fought fiercely to keep it intact, including threatening weak-kneed Democrats on their own side of the aisle.
And, to his credit, President Joe Biden has largely left behind his decades of “centrist” politics and is now openly ridiculing Trickle-Down Economics (in a speech yesterday) and talking like FDR about rebuilding America “from the bottom up.”
While the GOP continues to offer spectacle and their “outrage of the week,“ the Democrats, under pressure from the Congressional Progressive Caucus are actually getting things done.
We all need to reach out to and support our members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and do everything we can to participate in this extraordinary new transformational moment, working to get as many progressive Democrats elected, up and down the ticket, nationally and locally, as possible in the upcoming elections.