Democrat, running scared
Quimbley D. Democrat is looking over his shoulder. This makes doing his job rather more difficult than it ought to be. (This makes walking down the street rather more difficult than it ought to be.) But life, Quimbley D. Democrat knows, is about trade-offs.
Quimbley D. Democrat’s job is governing—he’s a 93-percent-loyal member of his party’s caucus in the United States House of Representatives. But Quimbley D. Democrat’s goal is keeping his job.
Which is why he’s looking over his shoulder. He’s on the lookout for the Republican attack machine.
They’re out there. Quimbley knows they’re out there. He sees them hiding behind that clump of trees off to his right—or at least he thinks he does. He sees them ducking behind that building, or heading into that broadcast studio. Unless it was only a passing shadow. A mirage.
They’re coming after me, Quimbley is thinking to himself. Have to be careful. Can’t leave any footprints.
Which is why Quimbley D. Democrat is in full pretzel mode at the moment. The last thing he wants is to hand the Republican attack machine something they can use against him. His vote on this health care bill, for instance.
He wants this health care bill to pass. It’s not a great bill, he admits, but it’s a much better bill than no bill at all.
So he wants it to pass. He just doesn’t want anybody to know he’s voting for it.
This makes things complicated.
In fact, this has sent Quimbley D. Democrat off in search of the latest fancy-dancy procedural loop-de-loops—anything to escape the box the Republicans are building for him. He can hear them building the box, hammers pounding, saws screaming in the middle of the night. (Or is that just another mirage?)
Can’t give them anything to use against me, Quimbley is thinking to himself. It’s the same thought he’s had so many times before. The same thought his father had when his father served in Congress. And his father’s father, too. For as far back as he can remember, actually—generations of Democrats, each of them looking over his shoulder, scared to death of giving the Republican attack machine something they might use against him.
If it wasn’t the nefarious Karl Rove at the controls, it was Lee Atwater, or Jim Baker, or Murray Chotiner, or…
All of them masters at mixing up that toxic political stew of truth and half-truth, of subtle innuendo and outright distortion. It barely mattered what the facts were, or the context. All that mattered was that something—a tank ride, a surfboard, an incautious phrase, a complex vote—be reducible to a soundbite. To a 30-second TV spot.
They were so deep inside Quimbley’s head—Quimbley’s head and his ancestors’, too—that not one of them was capable of saying anything, or doing anything, without first thinking: What can they do with this?
Without always thinking: What can they do with this?
Except that it almost doesn’t matter. The pretzeling and the loop-de-loops and the all the rest—they won’t spare Quimbley D. Democrat the robust attentions of the Republican attack machine. If he doesn’t give them something they can use against him, they’ll find something they can use against him. If they can’t find something, they’ll invent something; they’re very resourceful.
But Quimbley D. Democrat can’t see it that way. He’s running scared.
Which is why he’ll keep looking over his shoulder.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.