Hot Air: Gov’t, Big & Small

If you don’t know all politics is optics and theater by now, you’ll never know.

Case in point: That story last week about the Kansas City health inspector who destroyed a big pile of food that was being served to the homeless in a public park. The people serving the food did not have food service permits so the inspector simply poured a batch of bleach all over the comestibles, thereby putting a stop to their unforgivable sin of feeding poor, hungry souls without departmental permission.

Image: Chase Castor/New York Times

As Matt Taibbi wrote several years ago, scads of people detest “regulations” precisely because of people like that inspector. Most people’s understanding of the concept of regulation does not entail government protection against huge, faceless corporations that are busting unions, putting employees in physical peril, dumping toxic shit into our air and water, feeding us cancer-inducing crap, luring kids into smoking and binge-drinking, and/or outsourcing manufacturing to Third World nations where workers are paid slave wages.

No, when people think regulation, they think of the local petty tyrants who punish them financially and occasionally put small business owners at terminal risk for not following the law to the most minute letter. Being penalized because your business license isn’t tacked on to right wall isn’t protective, it’s picayunish. Getting a ticket and having to appear in court because one of your two rear license plate bulbs is burned out  doesn’t save a single human being from losing her/his life on the road. Making an old geezer like me show his drivers license so he can buy a bottle of bourbon is nothing more than an annoyance.

When Democrats say the word “regulation,” that’s what many — perhaps even a majority of — people think about. See, that’s where Newt Gingrich was brilliant. He put out the infamous GOPAC memo more than 20 years ago, listing dozens of words and concepts Republican candidates should use to describe the opposition and an equal number to describe themselves. Dems were the party of “bureaucracy,” “taxes,” “welfare,” and “criminal rights.” His own party’s candidates, on the other hand, were champions of “common sense,” “opportunity,” “liberty,” and “truth.” Oh, and the Democrats, the memo advised, swam in “red tape.”

What could be more red-tape-y than that Kansas City health department inspector destroying food meant for hungry homeless folks?

So, it’s been almost a quarter of a century since the Republicans taught the county the value of words, since the GOP, as the memo’s title suggested, made language a “key mechanism of control.” And still my party doesn’t get it. Still they think all the right-thinking people are book-smart and no one but backwoods rubes reacts emotionally to verbiage.

Keep pushing those “regulations,” Dems, and keep watching the electorate immediately think of that Kansas city health department inspector. Fingers crossed, the lesson somehow sinks in by 2020.

Inexplicable? Maybe not.

This is the kind of thing that baffles me about Trump supporters. As I’ve written here before, I can’t for the life of me understand how someone could have voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and then voted for Trump in 2018. It’s downright bizarre, bordering on deranged.

Now, here’s a couple of guys, a married gay couple, big liberal-cause donors, darlings of the New York City crowd of moneyed progressives whom the likes of Fox News personalities love to demonize, who in fact were big contributors to and voted for Hillary Clinton in the election two years ago.

And now they’re big Trumpists.


The only thing I can figure is they’re in thrall to pomp and circumstance, they lust for the limelight, and they slobber to be rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful. Other than that, I still don’t get it.

Then again, that sounds like the sum total of the Trump magnetism.

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