CONVERGENCE IN THE CITY

The Empress Theodora.

^ the role model for a politics of “queens” : Theodora, resplendent co-ruler of Constantinople in the 6th century, a politics now coming to you because it’s what you want

—- —- —-

The lede for Boston Herald editorial of Ayanna Pressley’s winning Congressional District 7’s nomination read thus :

This was not about Michael Capuano.

Well ? If it wasn’t about Capuano, why was his name on the ballot ? Boston Herald, you know better than this.

The nomination contest was absolutely about Mike Capuano. Whenever an office holder is challenged by a ballot opponent, the contest is always about him or her — and his or her record. The voters, more than 100,000 of them, decided by a 59 to 41 percent margin that they did not like Capuano’s record.

So what is Mike Capuano’s record, that 59 percent of his District’s voters did not like ? I think it’s fair to say that they did not like how he presented himself: his style, his presence. Capuano is the quintessential workman-like, nuts and bolts legislator working on what legislators are supposed, Constitutionally, to do : hold hearings of bills, amend them, enact them if possible. And to tend to needs of the District, the individual situations that seek the intervention of an ombudsman who can remedy the difficulties. In Capuano’s District, these  situations include immigration prominently among other, more topical concerns; and Capuano’s office worked wonders to address these matters, rapidly and effectively. A Congressman’s job also involves advocacy for the reforms his or her voters care about, and Capuano did that, too, unfailingly. By every standard, Capuano epitomized what the Framers surely envisioned Congress people being : tribunes of the people, as were the tribunes of republican Rome.

Yet for 59 percent of the District’s voters, Capuano’s exemplary record had no juice. They voted for something else : a fresh voice, as their candidate said; for “change” because “change can’t wait.” I have already written about this change that “can’t wait” : what I said then was, “why is change even needed ? If change isn’t need, the question of waiting does not even arise.” I say this again now. Why was change needed at all ?

The answer is easy ; change wasn’t needed, indeed was a mistake. But the 59 percent of voters who voted for “can’t wait” had, I assert, something else in mind that could not wait : they did not want a workman-like doer and legislator. They wanted a star a radiant, photograph-able, elegant and elegantly dressed STAR. They wanted a QUEEN.

THAT — having a queen — was what could not wait.

Some also wanted “Black girl magic.” During a week when Aretha Franklin, the ‘queen of soul,” was laid to rest with adulation well deserved, especially by people of color, for many of whom Franklin the singer was a role model, here was a chance to vote for a new, rising Queen demanding “R. E. S. P. E. C. T.” and wearing the clothes and bearing of an entertainer, an Aretha reborn.

Meanwhile, many voters who are conscious of enjoying “white privilege,” as the saying goes, spurned Capuano because, in their view, it is more just to have a representative of color than an “old white guy,” as one friend of mine called Capuano and ( 2 ) more effective to have a star power voice, a beautiful woman (and that Ayanna most definitely is), a national media attention-getter, representing them than a mere doer, an uncharismatic, paunchy, greying guy who looks like your electrician or grocery store manager.

And this is the convergence I am writing about : a coalition of two interests, the social justice world with the politics as entertainment interest. I find this convergence not all that different from Mr. Trump’s coalition of social reaction with politics as entertainment. The issues oppose, but the addiction to entertainment is the same.

In my opinion, the Constitution can only work when those who claim to live by it work at it. It is a Constitution for electricians ad grocery store managers, for artisans and entrepreneurs, for police officers and lawmakers, for policy advisors and debate and compromise. But it is NOT a Constitution for kings and queens.

Politicians like Mike Capuano, as with the majority of is colleagues and of those who preceded them, embraced that participatory model, the ideal of “doing the people’s business,” as did their voters. Unhappily,. this ideal, this classical republican idea, is losing its hold on our nation.

I sincerely hope that Ayanna Pressley gets down to business, sheds the queen pose and puts on her political electrician’s habit. Yet the opposite is more likely. If ” voice” is your tool of choice, attention is what you seek. Our politics has devolved to an anarchy of attention-seekers, each outdoing the other in outrageousness, in clickbait and battle cry in a sandbox peopled by enemies wrestling like WWE actors. And why not ? The WWE makes millions of dollars from suckers for vicarious fakery, and “E” television draws many times more viewers than does C -Span covering Congressional debates. Roman republican government, which demanded citizen participation, gave way to an Imperium and arena entertainments; to spangles and ceremony on the one hand and ugly death sport on the other. It was not pretty, and neither will our nation be cute when entertainment and queens become the epitome.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

One thought on “CONVERGENCE IN THE CITY

  1. his is utter nonsense, Michael. AP is more than capable of being a fantastic orator & star (queen as you put it) while at the same time “do the people’s business” or be a “workman-like doer and legislator”.

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