Politics Imitates Life

Jim Jordan, a careerist boob who would sell his soul (or rather has already sold it) to help Donald Trump win the presidency and Vladimir Putin win the war — two sides of the same coin — is vowing, as his primary pledge in seeking the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives, to support no further financial aid for Ukraine. Rand Paul, a non-boob quasi-libertarian who as a senator is not officially part of the debate, has publicly declared his support for Jordan on the specific grounds of their shared desire, which Paul has recently detailed on the senate floor, to hurry up and help Putin win the war before it is too late…er, I mean their shared desire to “stop supporting other country’s [sic] wars and fix our fiscal mess.” 

I have written in the past that I would give far more credence to the global warming narrative if I could find any leading representatives of that narrative who were simultaneously consistent defenders of liberty, as this would reassure me that expanded government power was not the prime motive of the narrative. After all, it is certainly possible to believe there is a critical problem without necessarily believing tyrannical government expansion is the only acceptable response to that problem. On the contrary, tyrannical government expansion has never been the leading proposal in response to even the most serious problems the world has faced, so why does it seem to be the only prominent proposal offered by the most vocal crusaders against this alleged crisis.

Similarly, I would give more credence to these Republican arguments for defunding Ukraine at the very moment when the war seems to be turning decisively in its favor, if I could find even one such Republican simultaneously expressing sympathy with Ukraine’s plight, showing moral support for their cause, and summarily rejecting the overtly pro-Putin smear campaign against the Ukrainian government’s alleged corruption and illegitimacy, when that government’s very existence and their own lives are in immediate peril under the threat of an infamously bloodthirsty and conscienceless tyrant. Or even, for that matter, if I could find a few Republicans adopting these overtly anti-Ukraine talking points who were not also supporting a second presidential term for the most blatantly corrupt, conscienceless, and compromised president in their own country’s history.

The will to destruction that embodies these tattered though still influential remnants of the Trump movement. The dismissive hatred of the “losers,” and the radicalized hero-worship of the “winners” who pound on and mock them. The easy will to encompass everyone who doubts or dissents in even the slightest degree within the categories of “the deep state” or “the Trump-deranged.” The brazen defense and promotion (far beyond mere moral equivalency fallacies) of the Putin regime, on the grounds of its appearance of likemindedness to themselves — which is in truth a consequence of the fact that the Putin regime had an active hand in fostering the anti-American social psychology of the “Make America Great Again” movement — a perfectly Orwellian name for a fraudulent nationalism that denies the very premises of the nation it alleges to be defending, and that foments mass incivility and intolerant disengagement as though these were civic virtues. 

But…it is what it is. Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Good advice, which taken to its darkest extremes would apply well to today’s American situation. As much as I regret the sight of America yet again on the brink of abandoning allies in dire straits, or beleaguered peoples she had previously buoyed and encouraged with empty promises of support; as ugly as it is to consider the practical reality of what the U.S. Congress appears to be about to do to Ukraine and in favor of a madman who is playing them (the MAGA morons) like a fiddle; as much death and oppression and future war as these hideous amoralists and destroyers are willing to inflict on the world for the sake of their blind hatred of all things not Trumpian — as awful as all this is, I believe there is a bigger picture forming, and one which is likely to give consolation to those of us who will still be alive after this Trump idiocy plays itself out, or rather burns itself down. The very desperation and anxious sense of immediacy in the pro-Putin pleas of Congressman Jordan and Senator Paul, of Elon Musk and the “conservative media” fools who play to the mob for cash, is suggestive that they are beginning to sense something, whether Donald Trump himself will ever be capable of sensing it or not.

What is it that they are sensing? Allow me to explain by way of an analogy. In the mid-1970s, the Philadelphia Flyers won two Stanley Cup championships. Popularly dubbed “the Broad Street Bullies,” the Flyers’ success was due only partly to hockey skills. In large measure, they won by intimidation. Exploiting the NHL’s absurdly self-destructive leniency towards the periodic interruption of play by fights (which appealed to the habituated bloodlust of their sport’s small fan base while perennially alienating the wider sports audience), the Flyers were a team made up disproportionately of thugs, rule-breakers, and very successful fighters. This shock and awe tactic, simply turning every game into an on-ice bullying session, to the delight of the famously unsportsmanlike Philadelphia sports fans, worked wonders for a couple of years. But once the league got used to it, and more importantly once the vastly more talented Montreal Canadiens powerhouse of the late 1970s crystallized and assumed dominance over the game, the Flyers began to fade. Still playing the Broad Street Bullies game, but with far less effect, they would fade precisely to the extent that other teams learned not to fear them — much as Mike Tyson’s boxing career collapsed precipitously the first time another fighter (James Douglas) stood up to him and refused to show fear.

One of the stars of that Canadiens championship team of the late 1970s was goaltender Ken Dryden. After retiring, Dryden wrote what is probably the most articulate and thought-provoking sports autobiography ever written. In it, he discusses this very issue of the fall of the formerly-intimidating Flyers team. Describing his impressions formed on ice during a game against this team during his final season in the league, Dryden writes:

Their points totals may improve, they may move up in the standings, but it’s all illusion. They have a fundamental flaw, and can’t win. Each year since 1976, since their two-year hold on the NHL was ended, they have been the “new” Flyers. They are faster, more talented, more versatile, less goon-like than their predecessors. But each year, they show they are not. They are simply the Flyers. It is an attitude, and a tradition, that will not change. They have the same swagger. They play as if with the same impunity, as if penalties, fines, and suspensions are mere costs of doing business, to be served, paid off, killed without consequence. But things are different now. The costs are too high, the consequences too certain. The style that won them two consecutive Stanley Cups only guarantees that they will win no more. The irony is wonderful.

It changes the mood of our games. It makes each less threatening. Knowing the ending, the rough parts are easier to take. So when Paul Holmgren beats up someone until my stomach turns, when the Spectrum crowd roars its approving roar, when Behn Wilson, Ken Linesman, and other “new” Flyers file by him in tribute, I smile. It is what we never got to feel as kids. What never happened to the bully on the block. For Holmgren, Linesman, Wilson, and the others, there is no more impunity. They will get theirs. [Ken Dryden, The Game (1983, 2005), p. 267-8]

And so, with all the damage, much of it irreparable, that the MAGA crowd has already done, and with all the damage, some of it truly horrific, that they are now threatening to do, there is a part of me that can smile. I think I see what is coming. And the best part is that I think they are beginning to see it too.

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