Governing is the opposite of dope.
It’s real world. It’s working the program. Accepting blame and accountability, breaking with fantasy. It’s hanging out with people who don’t think like you. It’s reminding yourself that life is full of constraints and you can’t just do whatever occurs to you. It’s realizing that you are not perfect and there are others whose opinions matter in this world.
That said, the recent health-care fiasco displayed House Republicans behaving like heroin addicts.
It’s easy to go on Fox News for years, blame someone else for everything when you don’t have to be accountable for finding solutions. It’s easy to rant about the endless failures of those people who do. Ranting is a narcotic; so is outrage; so is complaining and destroying. It gives us a big blast of dopamine to the brain. As does spending a lot of time insisting on all the nifty ways you’d do things better when you are king of the world. Feels so luxurious. Feels a lot like heroin, I suspect.
Being an opposition party means never having to put an idea to a constituent smell test. You get used to it – your tolerance for fantasy rises like an addict’s tolerance for a narcotic. Like addicts, you hang out with folks who think like you, talk like you, and never force you to face anything resembling reality, or the necessity of compromise.
Living without compromise is a nice idea in theory, but it’s possible only when you’re high on, and surrounded by, ideology — or dope.
A heroin addict brooks no compromise. He wants a world his way only. No messy complications, no one telling him no. Ask any parent of an addict.
What I think we saw was people addicted to a warm, euphoric ideological fantasy world in which they’ve lived for the last several years. Addicted to the idea that they could do it alone, didn’t need anybody, didn’t need to compromise. This Freedom Caucus seemed dead-set on depriving anyone but the wealthiest of what most would deem civilized health care: maternity care, ER visits, not to mention addiction-treatment coverage.
It was bizarre to watch them line up to take away benefits needed by so many who had just elected them and their president, and give them to our aristocracy.
Harold Pollack noted in this article in Politico that Democrats working to forge Obamacare held hearings over months and accepted more than 150 Republican amendments to the bill they passed. House Republicans this time took 18 days and “the payout to the top 400 families [in America] alone was estimated to exceed total ACA subsidies in 20 states and the District of Columbia.”
How do you come to the conclusion that thinking like the upper classes of pre-revolution France is okay?
Well, perhaps because House Republicans lived in a bubble for seven years, voting to repeatedly repeal Obamacare knowing it would be vetoed. Then the fantasy ended and they finally had the power to do it. They had nothing to replace it with. (John Boehner is, I’m sure, happy to be away from all that.) What they came up with would have savaged the very people who put them in office.
The word `compromise’ gets a bad rap these days, but it’s actually another way of saying something else. It’s saying, we’re behaving like adults. We’re not going to act like petulant children who want a world run according to their whims alone, which is, in turn, another way of describing how a heroin addict thinks.
Something like this, I suspect, is what Ryan was referring to when he spoke of House Republican “growing pains.” Getting off the dope of viewing compromise as a dirty word.
A big part of addiction recovery is relating to others again, accepting that your views are not the only ones that matter, that you have to modify your behavior, answer to others who may not think like you.
It’s like governing.
It’s messy and ragged; it’s hard and far from perfect. It’s adult, in other words, and it’s the opposite of dope.
This story is cross-posted with permission from Sam Quinones’s “Reporter’s Blog” series, where it ran on March 26, 2017. I read it, and thought it was an important word that needed to be shared. Thank you, Sam, for allowing us to run it.
About Sam: Sam Quinones is a journalist, storyteller, former LA Times reporter, and author of three acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction. His most recent book is Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Bloomsbury Press. His career as a journalist has spanned almost 30 years. He lived for 10 years as a freelance writer in Mexico, where he wrote his first two books. In 2004, he returned to the United States to work for the L.A. Times, covering immigration, drug trafficking, neighborhood stories, and gangs. In 2014, he resigned from the paper to return to freelancing, working for National Geographic, Pacific Standard Magazine, the New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, and other publications.
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