Let’s go to the Animal Fair

A funny thing is happening in Washington.

Well, that’s not saying very much. A funny thing is always happening in Washington. Not funny “ha ha” either. I mean the other kind.

Now, amid all of the posturing and praying, preying and threatening, lobbying and firing up the faithful voters, an even bigger funny thing is going on, even if it’s not really clear to everyone just what it is.

So, let me tell you. A lot of Republicans in Congress are acting like a bunch of animals. But, which ones? It’s hard to tell when you are looking at a whole zoo.

The rats are leaving the sinking ship. Someone is dragging a horse to water, but can’t make it drink. Some of them are being chased by a bear, and realize they don’t have to outrun it, just outrun the other guy. And there’s poor Mitch McConnell, who has a tiger by the tail. Just don’t let go, Mitch.

See what I mean? Pick your favorite Republican in Congress, and decide what kind of animal they are acting like. Remember, if the behavior fits…

Now, this is not just taking a cheap shot. It’s a good lesson in politics, one that people in elected office learn over and over again.

Let me put it a different way. It will be a lot clearer. The meltdown in Washington is caused by the realization that support for Donald Trump among Republicans is a mile wide. But, for a lot of them, it’s also only an inch deep.

A rash statement? Well, when things were going well — remember only three and a half years ago — the entire GOP delegation lined up to take a picture with their President who was celebrating their big tax cut. A trillion dollar tax cut.

Well, anyone the President liked and who cut taxes for their constituents was in good shape for the next election. Well, that was when things were good.

Now, they are not. And here’s the thing. We live in a big, wonderful country, but every single gerrymandered Congressional district is different — different people, different values, different problems.

Some voters didn’t get big tax cuts, certainly not big enough to help Uncle Louie who lost his job. Some of them had huge medical bills, and were waiting for the Republican insurance plan, the one President Trump said would be better and cheaper than Obamacare.

Heck, maybe there are even one or two people out there who are still waiting for Jared to unveil his wonderful plan to bring peace to the Middle East. Who knows, they might visit Israel and Egypt once it’s safe to travel again.

In short, big generalizations don’t mean much to voters who are dealing with very real problems. They stop taking things on faith.

Anyway, here’s where I share some sage political advice with you. It’s something every public official discovers after they are first elected, usually about half-way through their first term.

You can’t do everything you want or everything you promised. Certainly not in your first term. To do things, you have to get re-elected. Doesn’t matter if they are noble, loving people who ran to make life better for everyone, or if they are nasty, grasping people who want to get along with lobbyists, dump their spouse for a newer model and get a big, cushy job in the private sector when they retire.

It’s the same for both of them. You have to get re-elected to do anything.

Now, normally, this would mean getting along with party officials, supporting the right people, and using what influence you have to help some influential people. And, of course, taking credit for everything. “Violent crime in my district went down 11 per-cent in the past two years” works well. Just don’t tell people the only big factory in the district closed and 18 per-cent of the people who used to live in the district have moved away.

Our upcoming election is, certainly, about the President. He made it that way, and Republicans in Congress supported him in doing it. Loyalty to Trump was not something optional.

But now, some districts have a Republican electorate which is split. Some love Donald Trump. Some would love to see him go away.

That means incumbents are doing some very important re-calculating. Are they better off sticking with Trump — keep holding that Tiger tail — or upsetting his supporters and going in a new direction?

Those are the ones who are starting to take out ads which don’t use the name of their party. Or running for office and running ads that don’t mention the President.

It’s not just a bunch of balky Senators and member of Congress deciding to suddenly buck Mitch McConnell. It’s a bunch of incumbents who know what their voters want and don’t want.

Campaign strategy is different in different places, and the “one-size-fits-all” approach the President is using doesn’t always play well in specific districts across the country.

Let’s test it. Quick — everyone who wants federal police patrolling their streets raise their hands. Quick -everyone who wants to see their local taxes go up dramatically because the federal government has cut back on aid to municipalities raise their hands. Quick — every soldier who can’t get base housing because the military budget was cut so Trump could build his wall and likes the idea raise their hands.

So, we have lots of elected officials running in lots of different directions, and a political party that can’t name its priorities, can’t put on a convention that President Trump was touting for months, and no clear road map for November.

So, you can see why I’m having problems in deciding how to explain all this running around, or seeing members of Congress claiming some things at the top of their lungs and running away from reporters the next day.

To try and be fair and balanced, the Democrats are having some problems with a consistent message as well. But, Joe Biden is doing remarkably well in not stirring the pot.

What does it all mean? I can’t tell you yet. I’ll just have to keep watching the Animal Fair.

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