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Republicans' Dirty Laundry

I am a baseball fan who has essentially given up on this season.

It is not only the fact that my Mets basically lose nearly every game they play, that they have weak hitting, inconsistent pitching, and a regular pipeline to the disabled list. If it were only this, my existential disgust with the 2018 major league campaign would not be so dire.

Rather, the other side of the equation from the Mets’ ineptitude is the unrelenting might of the Yankees, who win just about every game on their schedule. My angst is multiplied by living and working in the Bronx, where I have to deal with this every day—the certainty that the Yankees will play in the post-season this and virtually every other year, and the smug assuredness of their fans who refuse to admit that the team’s money and power enables them to build a juggernaut every year.

Of course, this whole exercise of rooting for a sports team is deeply illogical, for what difference does it make in my life or to the world as a whole? The rush I get those odd times when the Mets actually are good, and the satisfaction I feel when the Yankees get bounced from the playoffs, all fade away pretty quickly. And then I am left to deal with the real world.

And what a world it is, in which a person’s loyalty to a political partly somewhat mirrors one’s devotion to a team. Because political elections and subsequent policies have significant implications, and because people’s identity is often connected to their political party, the competition between different sides takes on the tenor of a sporting event, with all the passion and irrationality that follow.

The basic foolishness of being a sports fan is this: As others have said before me, we are essentially rooting for laundry. Personnel change for sports team is ongoing; the only constant is the uniform worn by the players on our team. More than half of the Mets this year didn’t even play on the team just three years ago, when they played in the World Series. Yet I still root for those Met uniforms.

Moreover, though I hate the Yankees, if their players were magically transported into Met laundry, I would certainly cheer for them. If Aaron Judge was hitting a home run for the Mets once every few days, I would be happy. If the Mets had added Giancarlo Stanton, last year’s Most Valuable Player, to an already potent roster, I wouldn’t be opposed. If the Mets, like the Yankees, had the financial wherewithal and overall depth to trade for an all-star pitcher this July (as they undoubtedly will), I would applaud the transaction.

I can’t explain fully why I so vehemently root for laundry. But I can say that this analogy holds for political loyalty as well. Just like in my sports example, Republican voters are cheering for politicians who espouse ideas the party once opposed and for which Fox News analysts would have denounced Democrats. Yes, Republicans today are rooting for laundry.

Here are some of the Republican laundry changes:

Since the end of World War II and into the 21st century, Republican presidents and voters have supported stable multinational agreements and relationships with democratic allies. They have been wary of Russia, China, and oligarchical leaders in other countries. Now the current president has trashed Canada and Europe and made nice to Russia, threatening American influence and a peaceful world order, yet hardly anyone in the party objects. Have Republican values suddenly changed, or are these party members just switching allegiance to a new uniform, done up in the shiny bauble of the country’s first reality show president and Fox News star?

Republicans consistently declare themselves the party of family values. The GOP website declares:

The family is the bedrock of our nation. When American families flourish, so too does our country. Our Party’s economic and social policies, including tax reform, education, health care, and the sanctity of life, should always promote and strengthen that most sacred bond.

Do family values include seizing children from their parents who are seeking asylum at the border? Is family separation (with its vestiges in the American slave system, which the original GOP was founded to eradicate) a family value? Why have no Republicans spoken out against this policy? Or has the uniform changed here too, so that it’s more important to pander to your “base” than to educate them about what is right and wrong?

One last example: A cabinet so rotten that if you bought it from IKEA you would return it the minute you tried putting it together. This goes beyond policy; there was no question that Scott Pruitt would use his EPA post to enhance the rights of polluters, that Ryan Zinke would sell out US lands to the highest bidders, that Betsy DeVos would define education to mean only that which is delivered in private schools, and that Rick Perry and Ben Carson would struggle to understand what their departments are even about. These uniforms have remained consistent and have sadly been part of Republican values for some time.

Rather, the wonder is that Republicans are so loath to criticize these cabinet secretaries when they so consistently, brazenly, and pettily take from the public trough. What if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had named an administrator who had his aide run errands for him and use his private contacts to seek favors for himself and his wife, as Scott Pruitt has done? What if the Secretary of the Interior had spent $139,000 on new office doors, as Ryan Zinke did? Wouldn’t Republican politicians and Fox News cronies play these scandals up for all their worth?

I could go on, but do you really need to hear more?

As I said at the beginning of this post, I have little hope for the rest of this baseball season. Is there room for hope in the experiment of American democracy? It depends. Will voters wake up and recognize hypocritical politicians who sell out their values? Or will Republicans voters continue to care only about the laundry—dirty laundry.

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