Nonsense, BS and outright lies

Today marks three years since the US House asserted its completely valid right to examine Donald Trump’s tax returns. Despite which, those returns remain locked in a vault even after America elected a U.S. House, U.S. Senate and president purportedly committed to oversight and accountability.

This seems like a good day to survey the degree of dishonesty which prevails generally even within the “responsible” portion of US politics, at this point.

I don’t imagine that this is really a new phenomenon, but we’re now years into perma-crisis; did that shock anyone into shaping up? Not a bit of it.

One can insist that there’s a continuum from reasonable errors, through nonsense, bullshit, and denial, to outright lies. On February 6, 2021, when Representative Marcy Kaptur proclaimed that “Our union remains strong. Our democracy may bend, but it will never break,” maybe that was just nonsense. Maybe it was a reasonable error when Nancy Pelosi said obtaining Trump’s tax returns would be “one of the first things we’d do” if voters gave Democrats a House majority.

But at some point, the volume and consistency of statements which don’t fit reality is just too much for positioning on the continuum to matter very much.

Democrats’ promises to enact transformative legislation went on far, far longer than optimism alone can justify. Schumer was blustering every step of the way, from his repeated insistence that “failure is not an option” to his meaningless comment last December 16 that “The fight to protect voting rights is far from over in the Senate.” Joe Biden has always been a casual bullshitter, but his personal promises that he had the votes to get Build Back Better legislation through the Senate should be a scandal, nonetheless; at best he was making promises which it was completely irresponsible for him to make, and it’s at least as likely that he was intentionally dishonest at least once in there, somewhere.

But it gets much worse than this. There’s also the constant dishonesty about how the Senate works, and where the buck stops. I’m not sure who isn’t guilty on this score. Schumer regularly smudges the distinction between a vote on legislation and a cloture vote, but he’s by no means alone in that. Presumably all of the alleged Democrats want to sustain the incompatible claims that they control the Senate, and that inactivity is solely the fault of Republicans, even though Republicans alone do not have the votes right now to block anything in a Senate where rules are whatever a majority wants them to be (aside from two or three things for which the Constitution specifically requires a supermajority). Within the span of three tweets, Elizabeth Warren (who is entirely smart enough to know better) bemoaned that Republicans won’t let Democrats act, and celebrated that “It’s good to be back in the majority.”

As for that “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” which (partly thanks to Biden’s dishonest bait and switch) Democrats did finish? It was also accompanied by dishonest math claiming that it will pay for itself. Bull shit. It was debt-funded “retail therapy” when we need surgery.

Before I move on from Congress, I should give special mention to Democrats’ outrageous dishonesty about the Voting Rights Act. After insisting over and over in 2020 that legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act was ready to go, and only being stalled by evil old Mitch McConnell, voters pried the Senate gavel out of McConnell’s claws and gave it to Democrats, after which… House Dems who had already passed VRA legislation in 2020 strangely needed months before even they would revisit it in the new Congress, and of course no form of this legislation has actually gotten a vote (as opposed to a related vote on cloture) in the Senate at all. This episode really cannot be explained without absolute fraud, somewhere.

But, who is there to call it out? Journalism, don’t make me laugh.

Talking heads or watchdog groups? Norm Eisen operates in both worlds, and has pretty much been bullshitting us nonstop, from assurances that Trump is in dire legal jeopardy to promises that Democrats were certain to enact voting reforms in the Senate to praise for Liz Cheney as a “badass” democracy defender. Alas, he is by no means alone in spreading any of this BS.

Who can forget the Ohio groups, chiefly Common Cause and League of Women Voters, who crowed that “we slayed the gerrymander” when people voted for redistricting reforms (which Republicans have simply ignored without consequences). On a single day last November, Rideshare2Vote claimed that “In Ohio, Democrats turned out and won! We are starting now to turn out the vote to turn Ohio blue in 2022!” [What the fuck were they even talking about? The abysmal low turnout in the 2021 elections for local office?] and a For Our Future email celebrated that “we got rid of Trump [despite Ohio voting to reelect him] and drove Portman to give up on another term [actually he recognized long odds of winning a GOP primary].”

Indivisible is practically a firehose of nonsense, and Swing Left is just about as bad. One could parse Indivisible’s Nov. 14, 2020 mention of “the seats we picked up in the House” as referring to those which Democrats “flipped,” but since on-net Democrats lost seats in the US House in 2020, such phrasing is outrageous. I have notes about plenty of nonsense from both groups, but really, I think that has little to do with either being atypically unmoored from reality, and more to do with what lists I’m subscribed to and in the habit of looking at.

Ultimately it is all too easy for me to understand where all of this bullshit comes from. Most people operate in endless muddle. There is, now, even strong disincentive to confront honestly the realities of America’s poisoned politics and broken institutions; “It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.” In a sense, I suppose, we are probably to the point of system-wide GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. Bullshit in, bullshit out.

What alternatives are there, at that point, to becoming complicit or else becoming a complete outsider (either because you disengage or because your honesty is a discordant sound which everyone just tunes out)?

Not great.

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