Late Night: The Politics of Me
The brief tempest in a teapot over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s harsh words for the House GOP in the wake of its refusal to provide disaster funding for his state has, thankfully, blown over. This sort of GOP apostasy, while pure catnip to the Village, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the real world, and is newsworthy only because such behavior is so drearily common.
There are always pragmatic, if mostly selfish, reasons for politicians to buck their own party: viability in a future general election, making a national name for oneself, being seen as a “fighter,” and sometimes even, doing what’s best for one’s constituents. Christie clearly had all of these factors in mind, the more mercenary of which appeared to escape the chattering classes, if no one else. But setting aside objective goals, something deeper is at work here, as it every time a tub-thumping right-winger finds his or her inner Compassionate Conservative.
This time, the bad thing happened to ME. That’s different.
Modern conservatism has degenerated to a place where misfortune isn’t just a sad but inevitable consequence of personal failure, but a deserved punishment for and deterrent against irresponsible behavior. Human suffering is a feature, not a bug. Opponents of state-funded largess for anything except tools of oppression and violence thus always find themselves in a bit of a pickle when all of a sudden, yesterday’s freeloading becomes today’s urgent need, and their own party tells them, drop dead.
And it isn’t just fiscal issues on which Republicans have been known to unexpectedly see the light, but only if said light happens to be a Super Trouper pointed straight at them. Pretty much every conversion is the foxhole kind, yet seldom treated as such by the media. Before Chris Christie belatedly learned to love infrastructure spending, there was Nancy Reagan on stem cells, Dick Cheney on gay marriage, John McCain on campaign finance, Ken Mehlman on gay marriage, Mitt Romney (one time) on abortion, Ted Haggard on gay marriage, Paul Babeu on gay marriage, etc, ad infinitum.
To no one’s surprise, none of the above had a scintilla of success in changing their party’s hardline stance, and whatever camera-friendly mouthing off Christie or kooky Peter King does will end up making pissing up a rope look productive, but such tiresome Kabuki is breathlessly touted as significant anyway. King’s concerns, after all, were primarily focused on but one constituent, who happens to be the 98-year old mother of one loathsome ex-Senator, Al D’Amato, not the public at large.
It would be tempting, if impractical, to hope that each Republican would be visited by some eye-opening disaster, either personal or natural, to help them remove their heads from their tightly clenched asses, but alas, fate seems not to work that way. But watching Christie and King cry themselves to sleep in beds of their own making is certainly the next best thing.
It couldn’t have happened to nicer guys.