If you really want to understand the American condition don’t talk to a college professor, just give some attention to people like John Oliver, Jon Stewart or Lewis Black. The one thing good comedians share is an uncanny ability to see through the haze and strike at the heart of an issue.
Good ones, like Lewis Black, don’t mince words. They speak to truth using easily understood words and they take no prisoners. Black recently appeared on the Morning Joe program where the roundtable topic was how little gets done in today’s Washington, DC. He alluded to how much socializing went on between people in government, regardless of party affiliation, before the political world insanely erupted with Reagan’s election in 1980.
Responding to threats to shut down government by the likes of Ted Cruz and other right-wing Republicans so Obamacare can be stopped, Black said, “No, you don’t get to shut down the government. Nuh uh, we don’t have time, I don’t have energy. What are you going to do? You’re going to shut it down because you’re upset about something?”
Black, who grew up in Washington, said that’s not the way government should run. Instead, “Government works this way: Two drunks, one Democrat, one Republican, two congressmen who are drunk in the ‘50s walk into a bar and figure something out. Now (today) these guys are in the gym, pumping endorphins all day, it doesn’t help us,” Black said. “That’s how I know this government is the worst it’s every possibly been. When I was a kid, drunks ran it better. Drunk people ran it better.”
There is some historical truth to what Black is saying. Congressional history is rife with tales of bipartisan deals cut over few glasses of bourbon and branch water. During the day Congress fought it out on the floors of their respective chambers and at night sealed many a deal at their favorite watering hole. They don’t do that today. Session time is mostly devoted to ideological positioning and when the adjournment hammer strikes the warring sides go their separate ways.
President Harry S. Truman, a man known to take the occasional drink, called the 80th Congress the “do nothing congress.” By comparison the 112th and current 113th Congresses make the 80th look like workaholics. What’s the difference, well, like Lewis Black said, it may be sobriety. The drunks of the 50s rebuilt Europe following World War II and began construction on our Interstate Highway system. They successfully contained the spread of Soviet and Chinese power. They did big things that improved the lives of most Americans. What have today’s gym rats accomplished? Mostly they’ve renamed a bunch of post offices.