🗣Drunk With Power
A funny thing happened last month that captures the disconnect in how politics and power are perceived. On June 25th, The New York Times
reported that a group of reporters gathered in Washington D.C.
to “toast” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the outgoing press secretary for Donald Trump (and someone who has referred to the media as “the enemy of the people”).
One choice quote from an anonymous attendee, a reporter: “You’d better not say I was here.”
Two of the ways one can feel about this:
Betrayal - How can journalists repeatedly do a song and dance about how much of an existential threat the Trump administration is to the first amendment… and then yuk it up over drinks?
Encouragement - It’s a good thing that people who are professional adversaries can put work aside and socialize as people. After all, this is how bonds are formed and rivalries extinguished.
I find the reaction to such things comes down to stakes. To people whose lives are made worse by the policies of the Trump administration, the stakes are high. There is no room to be friends with “these people.” It’s a scorched earth campaign. I understand even if I don’t always agree. Who cares about civility if your family is being locked in cages at the border? How can you reason with people who believe something as insane as, say, QAnon
But that’s not who was in the room with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The people interviewing and covering the powerful are powerful in their own right. The stakes are low for them. Day-to-day politics are often an existential exercise. Important, yes. But they can all still go home to savings accounts, health insurance, and children in good schools. So who cares if they get a few drinks with Sarah Sanders?
This is just how power works. It goes horizontally, not vertically. Just like “rival” executives are more concerned with protecting each other’s power than the power of their employees.
This, I suspect, is what people get upset with when they sometimes disparage “the media” or “politics as usual.” It’s the sense that the people in charge of changing the status quo have no interest in doing so. And worse, while they say they are concerned with helping the powerless, their actions would prove otherwise.
The “you’d better not say I was here” speaks volumes. That reporter knew the morality of what they were doing were awful, but that’s what’s required to stay influential and to stay powerful.
As long as this happens, we’ll continue to see the populace lash out.
This is why a one-term senator from Chicago with a funny name can defeat one of the country’s most respected senators in 2008. And that’s why, in 2016, we elected a reality TV star.
With so many American’s willing to choose “new” it’s hard to say how 2020 will go. But one thing is for sure: It’s only going to get weirder.