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Transitions and Insane Clown Politics

The other day The Wandering Monk commented that even though he’s performed some of the biggest changes as Ye Olde Wreck transformed to Mo Saorise Hermitage, the house now seems “natural” to him. As if it’s the way it was meant to be.

It’s true it’s getting harder to remember the utter horrorshow it was — the odor, the rot, the caved-in roof, the spiders and dead mice, the infamous not-a-garage, the corner of the bedroom that made us both back off from our labors with the simultaneous realization that the structure could fall on us.

It’s now looking more and more like a cozy, well-built (if you don’t take a level to the place) home, to the point of forgetting how it was.

This got me thinking about transitions and how we perceive them.

A major change, even if it’s only in one area of our lives, we notice. For good or ill, we stop cold and look at things as we never have before.

In the Friday Freedom Question about the first lines of our autobiographies, several participants mentioned some big moment of realization, about lies or tragedy, as a pivot point of their lives. A transition.

On a lesser scale, we remember where we were when we first heard The Beatles or Nirvana, when we lost our virgininity, or when we bought our first car … and a small part of our world changed.

I blush to admit that when the Monk and I have changed something on the house, even insignificantly, I can contemplate the newness for hours. Thursday I moved a chair into the laundry room so that I could stare longer at two slabs of drywall we’d just added. Yes, it’s embarrassing; but even mundane newness demands contemplation.

Eventually the “after” ceases to be abnormal. It becomes the new reality, even if the transitional event was tragic or seemingly insurmountable, like losing a child or a limb or some fundamental Truth we’d always believed in. We recall the “before” with increasing unreality.

Gradual transitions are a different animal.


We all know that. We’re so familiar with the dangers of long, slow transitions in the political and cultural world that I could sum up the following section with four words: frog in a pot.

Elsewhere, of course, gradual transitions can be wonderfully welcome. We improve a personal skill or our society gets richer and more educated. We grow out of our acne or into our best selves. Our neighborhood improves or justice becomes more just. But we can’t point to a day or an event where it happened. We might have a breakthrough moment during a transition, but the development was so gradual we mostly didn’t notice it.

In the wider world, especially the political world, gradual transitions nearly always run downward.

The other little event that got me thinking about transitions was the recent babblings of Beto O’Rourke, darling of leftists and the media (but I repeat myself).

When did we reach the point where egomaniacal morons, proceeding with the confident ambition of Mao Tse Tung announcing his next genocidally utopian scheme, are taken seriously as presidential candidates? Or as notable human beings, for that matter? When did drunken college dorm room idealism become standard political platform material?

And when was any candidate stupid and ego-blinded enough to go into Iowa and tell a state full of farmers what he’ll “allow” them to do — as the boundlessly self-admiring O’Rouke recently did?

Our would-be rulers shove foot in mouth and imagine their stinky appendage is a gourmet delight. The media either says nothing or nods right along.

It’s not just O’Rourke, of course. O’Rourke is merely a follower of the demented AOC. But even the nearer-mainstream “stars” of the political scene are morons. Joe Biden? Joe Biden??? A superannuated mediocrity whose dumb statements rival only his notorious handsiness as political “qualifications.”

Ask any Bernie Bro or Biden supporter about their faves’ notable achievements and watch faces go blank. These men have dwelt in politics all their lives while producing not one single outstanding act within their job descriptions. Yet supporters luuuuuuuuv them.


How did we get here? And how is it that many v*ters who presumably have some minor grasp of history (and if not that at least personal memories of “before”) going along as if this is business as usual? How does the media report on any of the current campaigns with a straight face?

These politician creatures are not normal. They exemplify all that’s worst of politicians without any of the other qualification that used to be demanded of the bunch at the top: skill, diplomacy, a real education (not just a watered-down, affirmative-action Ivy League degree), intelligence, and a background of achievement in some field outside politics.

Mind you, I’m not saying the old politicians were any better at their jobs. Obviously, in government, education and experience can be every bit as dangerous as ignorance and arrogance ala O’Rourke. “Brain trusts” and the “best and brightest” built the welfare state and mired us in the Vietnam war.

There’s no such thing as a “good” politician. They are all recipients of stolen goods and chronic other-people’s-business minders. If they achieve any good at all, it’s mostly by accident in the midst of lives otherwise dedicated to committing eternal harm.

I’m really talking about public expectations — what personal qualifications citizens demand of those who aim to rule them, what they will and won’t accept in terms of ideas and behavior.

Sure, there have always been clownish politicians, always a few whack-jobs making their way toward the top. And heaven knows, corruption has always been and will always be the hallmark of success in politics. (Lyndon Johnson, for instance, was both clownish and deeply crooked. And a warmonger to boot. But he was a highly skilled manipulator who knew how his game had to be played, unlike the current crop of presidential aspirants, who appear to imagine that ego and bizarre utopian vision are all they need.)

How far We the People have fallen — and how quickly. Yet invisibly.


Yet this is our new normal. And nobody can point to a moment when it somehow happened to us. Fewer and fewer seem to get that this is extremely abnormal. Next step is that one of these mad would-be rulers will appoint a horse to the Senate (and no jokes, please, about Congress already being full of horses’ asses). It’s only a myth that Caligula did it, but I wouldn’t put it past these new, strange folk.

They already appear to believe themselves gods — another famous (and not so mythical) trait of mad Roman emperors.

How did we fall so low? And with hardly anybody noticing?

Rhetorical questions, really. Frog in the pot, history as usual. So it goes. Forever and ever, world without end, amen.

But the real question isn’t the what or how of tyranny approaching. The real question is why most people don’t even notice, how they blandly accept mindlessly dangerous rot as their everyday reality.

Is it that “we” ourselves (present company presumably excepted) have also become so much less than we ought?


Last week while we ate lunch, the Monk read me a political discussion from his phone. The participants were a friend of his who shares his conservative viewpoint and an opponent making now-standard “progressive” arguments on immigration.

The Monk was incensed at the opponent’s viewpoint and character and (I think) expected me to be, as well, though he knows my views are more libertarian. But the only thing that struck me as he read the exchange was that both participants were being civil and rational. They were presenting their arguments, however right or wrong, with the facts and figures as they understood them. When expressing pure opinion, they both appeared to have thought their positions out, and were not merely being reactive or spouting slogans.

In the entire exchange, neither hurled a single insult. No one screeched “hater!” or “bigot!” or “airhead!” They let their ideas speak for themelves.

I found it so refreshing — because it was so unusual.

I’m not one who longs for good old days that never really existed. I get that political issues have always roused passions — up to and including sparking murder. But the worst of that was out on the fringes. Now, it’s a surprise to encounter anything in politics that doesn’t feel fringeoid in one direction or another.

That’s bad enough. But that the loudest and most notable representatives of the New Fringe appear to be as impulsive, thoughtless, and disconnected from reality as drunken teenagers is scary.

Why are even the supposed adults in the room accepting this? And when, in our long, gradual transition into an all-controling authoritarian state did it come about that “we” decided to accept government by the lowest of the low? To accept rule by people who are so stupid or ego-blinded that they don’t even know what dunces they are?*


You can make an anarchist argument that it’s a good sign — that politics have fallen into such disfavor that only the worst of the worst want to be involved. The highly qualified, skilled, experienced, and brilliant go elsewhere these days. The aware turn their backs on offices and institutions they recognize as hopelessly damaged.

I’ve made that argument myself.

It’s true in its way. But at the same time, it’s frightening that we’ve gotten to such a state in such a short time with so few even recognizing or caring what’s happening.


* And yes, I know I’m calling names. So be it. I’m not discussing issues with opponents, but contemplating onrushing rule by messianic clowns who’d destroy the world to “save” it.


  1. Bill T
    Bill T April 14, 2019 11:01 am

    There is no embarrassment at having satisfaction in your work and looking at it while thinking I did that. Right now, I am in my youngest daughters room. It has been years since I gutted it to the studs and redid it. Now that she has moved out it’s a office/second spare bedroom. Even now though, I still look around the room and think wow, this came out great.

  2. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal April 14, 2019 12:59 pm

    When it comes to politics, there are no adults in the room. Not ever. Telling others what to do is childish; accepting is as the “adult” thing to do is insane.

  3. MP
    MP April 14, 2019 4:52 pm

    “they blandly accept mindlessly dangerous rot as their everyday reality.”

    I think that mindlessness is increasingly how most people approach most of life, Claire. It is work to think about things. It is even more work, after thinking and seeing how things really are, to effect a positive change. Most people don’t want to do that work, they just want to “enjoy” their lives. Nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy life, per se, but it is a recipe for exactly what we are seeing if it is the sum of one’s approach to life.

    Entropy is the natural order of the world. As you saw with your house, things left to themselves (even those that start well and don’t have idiots building/modifying it in the first place) fall apart. The only reason your house has become the charming home it has become is because you fought the entropy and expended the energy (and funds) necessary to counter and overcome it. The political sphere is no different. Too few are willing to expend their energy to stop the decay and rebuild the rot. I’m not convinced that there aren’t those who are actively and intentionally trying to foster it, in fact, expending their energy to increase the decay.

    Sadly, it takes far less energy (though it still requires it) to prevent the decay than it does to overcome it after it has arisen. (Quite a while ago, you addressed this well when you said it was too early to shoot the bastards…) At some point, things get beyond the point of being reparable and they just must be torn down and something new built.

  4. Steve Watt
    Steve Watt April 15, 2019 4:47 am

    One of the many reasons we have sunk so low is the impoliteness factor. Someone thought “Hey, I’ll make fun of so and sos name, aren’t I cute ?” and it got popular. Soon we didn’t treat anything as sacred or even important enough to treat with respect. It’s so easy to decide you don’t like a persons politics and so they are “stupid”. We’ve dropped to “lowest common behavior” in our dealings with others. Remember “Miss Manners”, that used to be important enough to be in daily newspapers and people actually read the things to try to get along. Now, it’s no longer attack the idea, it’s attack the person. My thoughts on the matter, please and thank you.

  5. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge April 15, 2019 9:23 am

    “The media either says nothing or nods right along.” – “[Reporters] … print rumor and gossip as truth … I would have them all shot but it would be of no use for there would be news from Hell before breakfast the next morning. Vox popul’? Vox HUMBUG!” – General William T. “Uncle Billy” Sherman.

  6. larryarnold
    larryarnold April 15, 2019 10:38 am

    Well, the slide has been a long one.

    OTOH, I think the current crazies are a result of Donald Trump saying, “Screw it. I’ll be the clown and the left and media can hyperventilate all they want but people will still vote for me. Bad stuff will out, but it’s already discounted because I’m The Donald.”

    A lot of voters went along, and a lot of voters pulled the Trump lever because Clinton was so much worse, and Trump got elected.

    Hillary blamed everyone else. It was all “If the Conservatives and Russians and Media hadn’t leaked all the bad things I did, I would have won.” There’s no comprehension from her or her camp that maybe she shouldn’t have done the stuff that was leaked.

    As a result, the Democratic clowns have taken center stage, with full-bore media coverage, trying to out-Trump Trump. Trump is in “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mode, with full-bore outraged media coverage. Nobody else, on either side, is loud enough to be heard.

  7. deLaune
    deLaune April 15, 2019 10:44 am

    To notice slow deterioration, you must have a standard of reference.

    It might not be apparent, to me, that my house is slowly becoming run-down. But if the house next door is being maintained, I’ll eventually notice. If not, the neighbors will try to shame me into taking action.

    On the other hand, it is unlikely that I will make any effort if my entire town is going downhill. My standard is deteriorating at a rate similar to my house. Even if I realize what’s happening, I will hesitate to make repairs. That would make me stand out; I might even be shunned as an elitist. It is much safer to campaign for a government beautification plan. Which will go nowhere.

    During the late 19th century, western society began to believe that received (religious or traditional) morality could be replaced by science. The “powers that be” (cleverly) forgot to mention that modern science is value-free. Morality is completely irrelevant to scientific research. The slow decay began. It continues today. Yes, it can get much worse.

    Few remain who remember the concepts of “right” and “wrong” as absolutes. They are now relative: “if it’s good for me, it’s good for America.”

  8. just waiting
    just waiting April 15, 2019 1:39 pm

    I blame it all on disco.

  9. Ain't Tellin
    Ain't Tellin April 15, 2019 2:04 pm

    I believe just waiting has something there…

  10. Ain't Tellin
    Ain't Tellin April 15, 2019 2:07 pm

    “Few remain who remember the concepts of “right” and “wrong” as absolutes.”

    There you have it.

  11. coloradohermit
    coloradohermit April 15, 2019 3:42 pm

    DH blames it all on the hippies.

  12. larryarnold
    larryarnold April 15, 2019 11:57 pm

    “if it’s good for me, it’s good for America.”

    Actually, that’s a valid argument.

    If everyone v*ted in their own interest, the result would clearly indicate the People’s will. “No, I don’t want my taxes spent to help the poor and disadvantaged. I want those who truly need help to get it, so I’ll do it myself, much more efficiently. And I certainly don’t want my Army poking into every third-world country you can find.”

    It’s when the politicians con us into v*ting for other folks that we get into trouble. “You’ve got to pay for Light Rail because those poor California commuters neeeed it.”

  13. Michael Stone
    Michael Stone April 16, 2019 6:54 am

    I think about this question a lot.

    This bloke thinks we’re actually getting dumber:

    I’m not sure. It could be that.

    On the other hand, maybe things are just more visible now. The more I read of history the more I see that politicians have always been bad but it was better hidden. For instance, being an ex-Limey, I was always taught that Churchill was a brilliant leader. Now I know that he was bloody awful.

    Same goes for Lincoln and even Washington.

    This might be the first time in history that a sizable minority has enough information to judge these creeps in real-time. This means we’ve really got no idea what that will do to us over the coming years.

  14. Comrade X
    Comrade X April 16, 2019 11:26 am

    Politics has become a cartoon and maybe disco was the turning point; personally I thought it was the twist.

    How does an empire end, methinks we are witnessing that first hand.

  15. Myself
    Myself April 16, 2019 11:32 am

    How does an empire end, methinks we are witnessing that first hand.

    I tend to think we are witnessing a republic (all though a fascist one) morph into an empire, think of Rome in 31BCE

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