President-elect Donald Trump is stocking the upper echelons of his administration with more than the usual share of business titans like himself, betting the success of his presidency on the idea that a clash of cultures is needed to fix the mess in Washington and bring order to international affairs.
First of all, there is no “mess” in Washington. Nobody knocked a paint pot over. No one upended a giant tub of Legos all over everything and then stepped on the dog. Mess implies an accident. There’s no “mess.”
There is unparalleled obstruction and cowardice on the part of one major party, which is REFUSING TO HOLD HEARINGS ON A NOMINEE FOR THE SUPREME COURT RIGHT NOW TODAY.
There is in Washington a number of very powerful actors on behalf of very powerful forces determined to gut public education, destroy what’s left of public sector unions, and scourge the image of a First Family so middle of the road their turkey pardon dad jokes make news.
There is in Washington a group of people who have trashed the system for nearly 20 years at least, insisting on 60 votes in the Senate to pass the most routine legislation, coddling and encouraging extremist views in opposition to horrible things like giving people health insurance and ending unpopular wars.
Washington isn’t a “mess.” It’s a crime scene.
Terms like this, like “partisan gridlock,” like “political infighting,” allow writers and readers to avoid responsibility for determining who took action and what consequences followed. They let everybody off the hook — mostly Republicans who are and have for eight years been the aggressors, but Democrats as well, for being victims.
Throwaway phrases, shorthand like “the mess in Washington” allow people to shrug, shake their heads, not even BOTHER MAN because it’s all so, like, worthless. They keep people angry because they keep people powerless, and they keep people powerless because they keep people hopeless.
And paired with “order in international affairs,” like when, pray tell, have we ever had “order” in international affairs? What would that even look like? This idea that in some hazy, half-forgotten past Reagan and Gorbachev got together and played chess and then the Berlin Wall fell down and everything was fine is, shall we say, reductive. At best.
We can’t do anything about anything until we can talk about it honestly and I don’t think this kind of thing helps at all.