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Politics Going to the Dogs
March 22, 2002
By Jeremiah Bourque

Why people can't see this as a pattern beats me.

Once again, Republicans who have sworn to "die on position" and "hold at all costs", end up fleeing with their tails between their legs, humiliated, silent, and quietly vowing revenge.

This time it's Campaign Finance Reform. Yesterday (or so it seems), it was the government shutdown of '95. Tomorrow it might be the raising of the debt ceiling.

Why do Republicans beat their chests so forcefully only to crumble at the last minute and quietly declare defeat?

Democrats are going to need to accept as a basic principle that Republicans are not motivated by security, but by insecurity, and that their machismo is, by and large, not motivated by confidence, but by paranoia and fear.

There is not one Republican, in all seriousness, who has no cause to fear the destruction of his political and personal life by right-wing hardliners, some of whom love the idea of the Republic, others who believe that the Republic is outdated and must be replaced by something more robust (shorthand for which is 'Empire' in many circles). The President is the most immune, but he is also the one who has the most to lose if he dares go against the Right.

There is one fundamental premise I see in media again and again about right-wing figures. It is assumed that because these people are close to the Right, capital R, that they can triangulate more easily and drag policies leftward because they're considered safe and trusted.

Let me correct this impression.

The Right trusts NO ONE.

The entire political culture of the Right is geared towards a powerful goal: The sniffing out and humiliation of anyone who is a traitor to the cause. Paranoid to the extreme of their hand-picked figureheads lurching leftward, their whole raison d'etre is about intimidation and political brutalization of those who would dare weaken their positions.

These activists have been burnt so many times, and are so hateful of "treason", that they have created a mentality that is, even (or especially) among the women in these movements, a culture of hyper-masculinity and over-aggressiveness to denigrate opposition. These are the sort of people who had the words "enemies, both foreign and domestic" inserted into the oath of citizenship, for it is not the foreign enemy, but the domestic, that is truly, truly hated.

Thus, since politics in the Senate, and in a different sense, the House, is like the operation of an oil cartel, fear of betrayal being constant, talking big, being aggressive, seeming confident, predicting and claiming victory, and dismissing all chances of failure, is not in any way based on reality. It is their cover story. It is their means of collective denial; the idea that if they believe hard enough and together enough that they will succeed, then no one will break ranks and be a traitor.

These people need to be exposed as the sissies that they are, poodles with a big bark.

I'm sure you've heard of the term "swagger" being used as a sports metaphor. "That team has its swagger back." "They really have a swagger today." "Look at that swagger! They just exude confidence on the field."

Swagger is held to be an ideal state for males. It represents total self-confidence, the raising oneself above the status of the "beta male", and establishing oneself as not only the physical dominant, but the sexual as well. Thus, with swagger having such large sexual overtones, it is easily understood, it is highly coveted, and it leads to confident behavior.

Now, in the sexual marketplace, to splice together a term that even oil drill huggers can understand, there is a constant problem: False swagger. Or, put another way, the con artist: individuals, or groups, who have swagger, and are seen to be dominant... but are NOT.

After all, it's a big problem, for packs both canine and human, to have a male who can't put up and won't shut up. Thus, societies tend to expose false swagger rather mercilessly. However, it's clear that a group with little alternative will follow even false swagger, even after it has been exposed, until other, more genuine swagger, is seen to rival it.

That said, as canines go, I've always admired the wolf. Doesn't bark a lot, in fact, as far as most people are concerned, doesn't bark at all, though apparently they do it in the privacy of their homes on occasion. The wolf carries a quiet dignity about himself, going about his business with a sense of purpose, a fair bit of unselfishness, and most importantly, has confidence that, while understated, has most certainly been earned.

It's that kind of confidence that the Democrats who do not have a voice need to have, confidence that is founded on the knowledge that no matter what the poodles say, they'll never quite measure up.

Even so, those who do have a voice require some sort of visible swagger. It's obvious that one is necessary, and justifiable: Just look at those Republicans cave! Daschle has proven that the Republicans are all hat and no cattle. There's no reason to be frightened of them as long as they're more frightened of each other and their own supporters.

It's time for our bark to reflect our bite.

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