Rep. Thomas Massie is massive liability for the Republican Party. Will a serious primary challenge be enough to unseat him?
Mr. Smith Goes to Hollywood
There is a new normal coming to congress and elected office, and you won’t like it.
It’s the difference between the boring presentation of the facts on C-SPAN versus the sensationalized, slicked-backed version of politics as usual as delivered by media personalities on CNN.
Consider the difference in American contemporary music from the moment before music videos were invented- when it didn’t matter what anyone looked like, or how well they presented a certain stage personae- and the moment directly after- when it did matter.
From that moment forward, it was no longer enough to sound good, play expertly, write inspiring lyrics; you had to look a certain way doing it. Today’s musicians have to captivate, demand attention, launch a thousand ships. Oh, and make music.
A similar change is coming to the American political system. And it isn’t likely to improve our election day choices.
For some elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, this change has already come. Whether it is a certain young Democratic freshman lawmaker doing several takes walking in and out of her congressional office because the video production crew tailing her needed to get the lighting on her hair “just right” or a grandstanding Republican obnoxiously telling his colleagues to “toughen up” during a pandemic, the new normal isn’t pretty.
Twitter loves it, of course; but it isn’t governance. It isn’t lawmaking.
Now, if you value substance over style, HQ over GQ, the idea of adding elements of a beauty contest to political elections sounds appalling.
The people doing the best jobs in congress and in elected office are usually the ones you hear very little about; they are too busy to get on the news much. They are consummate professionals who don’t engage in social media dustups. They treat their colleagues with respect. You probably haven’t seen them on the news-talkshow circuit.
Other elected officials, however, take an opposite tack.
This might be due to good old-fashioned ambition. Not a terrible quality. But in a lawmaker, if it manifests as “raise the profile” rather than “serve with distinction” it is a bit of an anathema to the whole concept of public service.
And in spite of the entitled attitudes of some politicians, those elected to office are a serving class- not a ruling class.
If an elected official gives in to the greatest temptation for the ambitious- that of taking the easy route- the signs are easy to notice.
First, they do whatever they can to get in the news.
Elected officials do this by offering to do lengthy sit-down interviews. They allow budding young producers the opportunity to explore every corner of their private lives for public consumption. They run for president.
They take wildly unpopular, contrarian positions to create a stir.
Which brings us to Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).
Though Massie was essentially right to voice objections about allowing a vote as important as the recent COVID-19 bailout bill to be conducted remotely, he was making a grievous error in choosing to stand alone in opposition.
Thinking oneself smarter, tougher and more capable than one’s colleagues, and behaving as such, is a recipe for future disaster. Which is why this isn’t the last times the Republican Party is going to regret Rep. Thomas Massie.
Massie’s colossal bling spot makes him a dangerous friend.
When you live in a small, rural area- as Massie does- it is difficult to trust the wisdom of crowds. First of all, there aren’t any.
Second, there is a kind of pioneering spirit that afflicts many people who elect to live spaced out in rural areas, far from other people, far from the maddening crowds and city contrivances.
It isn’t just that rural folks come to see themselves as smarter, more individualistic and more self-sufficient than their urban counter parts; in some places, they have to be.
People who choose to live in sparsely populated Alaska are a good example. Rugged individualists may like not having anyone around to tell them what to do, but in Alaska, if you make a silly mistake, you die.
Run out of gas in Chicago, you live. Run out of gas in Alaska, you die. Lock your keys in your car in Dallas, you live. Lock your keys in your car in Alaska, you die. Get lost in Manhattan, you live. Get lost in Alaska, you die.
You don’t need the wisdom of crowds; it wouldn’t help in these situations anyway. But since there is no one around to help you if you get into trouble, country-folk learn to depend on themselves.
Living in a rural area it is easy to get caught up in the idea that you are smarter, more capable and better at cost-benefit analysis than everyone else.
Moving to the big city will quickly change that notion.
In the big city, you learn quickly to trust the wisdom of crowds. Reliance on just yourself and your own knowledge of the world just won’t cut it.
In the city, if you see long lines of people waiting to board a cross-town train at every turnstile except the one on the far right, the turnstile on the right will not get you through any faster.
Ditto if you are waiting in an interminable line of cars in traffic, and every lane is backed up for miles except the one on the far left. There is something wrong with the far-left lane.
Otherwise it wouldn’t be empty, see?
Everyone who is also waiting in their cars or in line can also see the deceptively empty lane or line. They also have places to go, people to see. If they aren’t using that lane, there might be a good reason for that.
If you look at those lines of people or lines of cars and think you know better than everyone else there…well. Best of luck to you. You will eventually reach your destination, but it will not be because you figured out a way to get there faster than anyone else.
Massie and some other lawmakers seem more intent on getting on the news than delivering for their constituents. Elected officials who routinely vote against their colleagues in an effort to get noticed should start asking themselves what everyone else knows that they do not, rather than assuming everyone else on earth is unprincipled or an idiot.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)