2/8/2009 9:24

Viagra Politics

This time around it is the Republicans who are engaging in Viagra politics. The party newly demoted to minority status responds by shouting We are not impotent at the top of their lungs.

Not necessarily literally. There is quite a variety of manner of making noise. Politicians know many ways of shouting, so only some of them are speaking loudly on the floor of Congress. Others make a lot of metaphoric noise rather quietly by focusing attention on the small and the trivial.

In physics and signal theory noise is the random fluctuation in the quantity you are measuring which (precisely because it is random variation) doesn't provide any useful information. In the current situation of bad economic times, the daily changes in the stock market averages are noise; the market going up and down throughout the day obscures the broader trend which will someday signal economic recovery. (Or so we hope.)

In our particular political world of the United States at the beginning of 2009, the reality is that the Democrats in general and the the Democratic President Obama in particular won a resounding victory by promoting bipartisanship. One can reasonably conclude that the citizens voted in favor of having politicians working together on the problems facing the nation.

In the reality of Viagra politics, the world looks different. To the Democrats, the will of the people seems clearly to be that the Republicans should work with the Democrats. It isn't quite so clear to them that Democrats should also work with Republicans. To the Republicans, meanwhile, it seems obvious that the people were willing to go with the Democrats in a risky gamble for short-term gains. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to the country that the alternative point of view (the one, single, and only possible alternative viewpoint, the Republicans' viewpoint) must be maintained as a distinct option for later adoption.

From this it follows that Republicans must show the nation that they are not impotent but rather a potent and viable alternative to the course approved in the most recent election.

From the broader view of actual reality, it may be thought that the party with recently reduced status might be acting less from a sense of protecting long-term alternatives and more from an immediate sense of loss of power. Grief over lost status, while not the most noble of human emotions, is a normal and natural part of political life. Not to mention a rather common aspect of political life.

Some, we think, may be inclined to accept the communal demotion and seek to blunt the excess euphoria of the victors by proposing reasonable policy choices which contrast favorably with some ideas of the new majority.

Others descend to the world of Viagra politics and desperately do anything they can imagine to prove that they haven't lost everything by losing the election.