“Dear Mom and Dad, I’m doing fine. You guys are on my mind. You asked me what I wanted to be And now I think the answer is plain to see. I wanna be famous.” — Graeme Comies and Dawna Toews
Nobody goes to Washington completely selfless. Oh sure, everyone loves to talk about how they want to be a service to the people. Some will put on the humble pie act. Others will speak longingly about how they want to do the people’s business and make the lives of their constituents better. I’m sure a large part of them actually believes that.
At some point, they realize they have to gain more power to do the things they want to do. There are multiple ways to do this. The less ambitious bide their time. They actually work day to day for their constituents. They figure it will get them reelected and with every passing election they will gain more power. Such thoughts are so quaint.
A second kind comes in with big ideas. They gain notoriety quickly with those big ideas and it can be somewhat difficult to distinguish them from the glory hounds. Obviously, most people immediately think of AOC, but Bernie Sanders fits under that category as well. They usually don’t get what they want but they help steer the conversation in a productive way.
Then, there are the Thomas Massie’s of the world. John Pavlovitz already covered serious ground on the picture above. I’ve enjoyed his writing for some time and he is one of the few people I would love to have a conversation with. Maybe someday it will happen. He is usually on point, but I suspect he knows he is being used in this instance.
See, Massie doesn’t really love guns this much. Sure, I suspect he likes his guns, but this picture wasn’t about his love for guns. This picture was about performative politics. It was about the fact that Matt Gaetz, Majorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert are getting all the headlines. How do you get yourself in there? Well, you take a picture days after a school shooting with timing so crass you can’t help but get your fifteen minutes of fame.
Or should we say infamy? As Martin Short’s character in the Three Amigos said, “infamous means more than famous.” Well, Massie certainly qualifies. Except he’s bringing a butter knife to a gun fight. Greene, Gaetz, and Boebert are pros at this. They’ve made a living of getting people to know who they are without actually accomplishing anything.
That’s the difference between performative politics and what people like AOC do. They become famous and powerful and yet no one can name a single thing they’ve actually done or actually proposed. The idea is to own the liberals. Massie has certainly won this round. He’s provoked outrage. He’s inspired a number of writers to condemn his stupidity. He’s dumb, but he’s not so dumb.
The trouble comes when the performative politics reaches critical mass. If enough people figure they can earn a quick buck and make a name for themselves by simply shocking the masses then nothing ever gets done. It can’t possibly get done when enough people are too busy looking for their next opportunity to care about governing. We just went through an entire administration where only one major piece of legislation was passed. There was a lot of talk but not a lot of action. Even the day to day stuff that’s supposed to be easy wasn’t. Look at where we are now. That’s where performative politics takes us.