I’ll never forget my neighbor rising early and sleeping late to leer at the TV screen running Fox News. There wasn’t quite a coke addiction like it, such a thick bath of self-opprobrium and an indefinite disbelief that Democrats not only existed but also had the ability to vote. She would go on and on, chittering nervously at the thought of a pack of college hoodlums threatening her goddamngodgivenrights. And what surprised me was not that people like her existed, but that there were other blue-skinned Democrats who balked at polar ideas with equally matched addictions and equally goaded fears for all things which went against their one true America.
Political parties weren’t invented in America; they weren’t invented at all. They are so mean and crude that only the plain fact of the human psyche can give in to any explanation. But if we were to settle on who discovered political parties, I imagine that it must have begun as a disagreement in ancient Mesopotamia over which super-ape had the better flag. Or perhaps it must have been a fistfight over women or men or land or, perhaps, over no reason at all.
After all, the good fight for sundries has always been a check to see if an ancient spark plug could set fire to another bedlam. And now many things have changed; now we call ourselves elephants or mules or maybe porcupines. But political parties in America always have been and perhaps always will be steep illusions of control.
Any citizen, any scholar, any intellectual genius, any enlightened eight to five working man who drives through traffic and shops at Giant may claim that they know politics. And this is dubious, as politics is far too complicated for even the most steady political fanatics.
Regarding Congress, 15,779 pieces of legislation have been introduced in the last 22 months alone, averaging to roughly 24 pieces a day. This is only at the national level; the state and local levels are greater storms of sweat, fancy words and unaccounted activity. So, to truly know politics and the effects of one vote, a tax-paying citizen would need to take responsibility for reading and considering, at the very least, a small portion of these bills — 1 percent being 158. However, Mary or Bob or Joe may just want to focus on one or two major policies, as those will have the “greatest” effect.
When it actually comes to those big policies, there is little assurance of what will happen after the ink dries. In the case of the Civil Rights Act, which was passed nearly 100 years after the 13th Amendment, much of the promised racial equality in places such as schools or restaurants is still expected.
Of course, we are not in the same world as the 60s, but improvements have arguably come from the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement itself and not from any blotted piece of paper. Policy can be a miss, and in the case of the Black community, it was a rather unforgiving miss.
The idea of policies being stale is strange enough, but atavism is, in any sense, rude. Until, of course, massive monopolies, oligarchies and hyper-billionaires gloom over Rockefeller’s legacy despite the Democratic party’s claim that they “reined in a financial system that was out of control and delivered the toughest consumer protections ever enacted.” Or when the median net worth of Black families hasn’t changed since the 80s while white families have had a $30,000 increase.
Or the continual patterns of polluting our country, fixing the pollution and then doing it all over again, like the pollution of the Great Lakes in the 70s and now. Or when the GOP claims that “American banking calls for establishing transparent, efficient markets” despite the fact that only one banker involved in the 2008 crash was jailed by Republicans or Democrats, for that matter.
At the end of the day, passed acts and bills are only followed by the certainty of cocktail parties, handshaking, smiling donors and cocky supporters who knew it all along. We can hold no assurance that anything happening in Congress is going to work, or that Congress is doing any work.
Of course, lawmakers always have self-confidence in the goodness of whatever they pass. Yet, political parties inherently create a set of diametrical representatives who brood over their defeat and think through the great shame of possibly missing reelection. Such a vehement bipartisanship, such a game of back and forth, continually puts half of Congress on edge. Just recently, politicians have been looking to burn out any living signs of Obamacare or to overturn Roe v. Wade or, in some cases, to institute an inescapable 10-year wealth tax on all rich people who put any sort of solid footing in California. All it would take is a slight tilt in the respective party’s favor.
The key issue is not that we may never breed the winning horse; the issue is that there is a resistance, a swing of standoffs so severe that any possibility of solution gets swept under speeches and campaign promises and the great hope that the average person will not notice that policy is not the weapon we believe it to be.
So, let’s say this is all pointless. Political parties exist: they are real and present. Clearly, there is a fuss in being red or blue. There is some need to play the game; something has to be gained.
Political parties are an attempt at relief, a release of anger hiding under church nerves; swings backed by long-fettered feelings at the skull of any man who claims that the tax rate should be one percent higher or lower from what you believe. Jesus, isn’t it obvious? It’s all about letting loose on someone, with someone.
Politics is the ancient kick. It’s all about making yourself feel special, strong, in control. Imagine a husting where some poor fellow begs you to let him rule for a couple of years. Or imagine the feeling of knowing that whatever you are doing is better than whatever others are doing.
America would be so boring if we all agreed. What would happen to the great American spirit? What would remain of us other than trees wallowing in one long saunter? Politics is blazing. It is so ultimately complicated and eventually useless that it keeps us preoccupied.
If once and for all solutions were real, what would we do in family dinner arguments, where would the riots come from, the clashes, the spit and yelling and why would we appoint some man (no woman yet…) with the legal right to get dizzy over the thought of nuking out all the places he’s never quite liked?
Patrick Hutecker HM ’24 likes to read magazines.