Almost by definition, U.S. politicians do the opposite of what they say. The promises they make to gain power are, as a rule, antithetical to the process of consolidating and preserving that power — because the most popular policies would elevate the will of the voters, and not the ruling class. This is bedrock, high school sophomore cynicism, but it rarely misses the mark.
Yet in a consciousness running parallel to this conventional wisdom, there is still belief in the weight of something called “hypocrisy.” Many people, despite knowing better, want it to matter when an elected official reneges on their word, or won’t play by the rules they previously set down to their own benefit. This article of faith extends to the business of campaigning, and turns into attack ads that chastise the dishonest and unprincipled opponent for doing whatever’s most convenient at a given time — as if that is not how they maintain their grip on government.
Here, for example, is the Lincoln Project, a Never-Trump conservative PAC, going after Republican senators who want to vote on a Supreme Court replacement for the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the upcoming election, despite arguing against a similar vote in 2016, under Obama.
The outcome of such a gambit is fuzzy at best. Moderate Democrats and Republicans administer a ceremonial outrage at this lack of consistency, or character; further to the right, it’s approved as ordinary hardball or a great way to “trigger” enemies; the exasperated leftists note that the assurances of fairness a few years ago were always hollow. The charge of hypocrisy, if it is to have any impact, needs the element of shock — and who, apart from a small group of stubbornly gullible, civility-minded squares, can be surprised that this battle has progressed along strict party lines? That Sen. Mitt Romney, though willing to vote to remove Trump from office (merely as a symbolic gesture), nonetheless wants a reactionary SCOTUS? And how can the GOP be pressured on these fronts when they are not bound by their word?
The hypocrisy angle is not only ineffective for moving the needle; it has also come to represent the abdication of leadership among high-ranking Democrats. Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff tweeted the hashtag #TrumpKnew, hammering the president for lying about the dangers of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, with this encouragement: “Pass it on.”
Pass it on to whom, Nancy? You’re second in line to the presidency — surely you are in a position to act on this information in ways that your followers are not. Then you have Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the wide-ranging Senate Judiciary Committee, observing that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has adopted a “double standard” with respect to Supreme Court appointments.
No shit! Isn’t it your job to do something about it? I mean, besides posting?
Instead of setting forth a viable defense, any plan of action to prevent the GOP from ramming a nominee through, they’d rather complain that Republicans won’t stick to the bullshit parliamentary norm they pulled out of their asses to obstruct Constitutional procedure in the first place. Siding with 2016 McConnell against 2020 McConnell… is just another win for McConnell.
Again and again, we’ve seen that you can’t nail politicians on their bad-faith reversals, because that’s how the game is designed: Hold your rival to allegedly bipartisan protocol while violating it as often as you can. Democrats continue to grasp at a moral high ground by harping on rules and integrity, but in a post-hypocrisy world — one that moves too fast to afford much concern for the public record and “resurfaced” comments — there is no strategic advantage to be found. There is no referee to hear this appeal. And the effort required for these naïve theatrics is subtracted from the work of meaningful opposition in the chamber, the vicious and dirty fight on the floor that actually counts. Nobody will guilt Trump and his bootlickers into behaving as liberals would prefer. They won’t abandon their agenda over a scornful video montage.
Pelosi’s “pass it on,” and everything like it from the Dems, is the buck being passed from sitting representatives to the helpless constituents begging them to use force. We understand that Congress is full of smarmy, two-faced bastards; to spread awareness of the fact is the laziest approach available. The supposed heroes of the Resistance should challenge the extreme right with tough negotiation and endless bureaucratic roadblocks, not a lot of moaning about nebulous ethics that were waved off the same day Ginsburg died.
Citizens have risked life and limb this year, and throughout history, taking to the streets to demand the justice denied to them. But liberals of status seem unwilling to risk the slightest aggression in parrying Trump and McConnell. And if you won’t take some serious initiative against the base hypocrites you’re worried about — well, why should we care what anyone says? It’s all hot air in the end.