Nemesis List: Congressional Taunting
Occupation: Instituting an escalating system of verbal assaults and reprisals that places name-calling, mockery, and accusations of “playing politics” at the top of the Congressional agenda.
Crime: Gridlock in the two-party legislative branch of the United States government, which in theory serves the United States citizenry.
Experience: A study by Harvard University Professor Gary King, as reported by the Washington Post, found that 27 percent of all communications by members of Congress are taunts of the loyal opposition. The unrelenting finger pointing and blame gaming, from both the Democrats and the Republicans, is “jarring and surprising,” said King.
Fallout: This wholly nonproductive, time- and energy-consuming tendency to taunt, concludes King, seems to show Congress distracting itself from its most basic mission: to find common ground to solve national problems. “The entire government may go bankrupt, I guess. This week, right?” King told the Post. “We probably want our representatives to be listening to each other rather than calling each other names.”
Most Despicable Achievement: Rather than compromise on a national budget, the current U.S. Congress is slouching toward a government shutdown. Why? A major obstacle is that the two parties refuse to lose face by appearing to agree with one another. The shutdown will be largely symbolic, except to anyone who is employed by the government, or does business with the government, or works for a company that does business with the government. Also, are you planning to take the kids to visit a national park or museum? Set them back down in front of the TV. Just make sure they’re not watching C-SPAN, unless you want them to grow up to be churlish, arrogant and divisive adults.
Second Most Despicable Achievement: Past congressional taunting has led to actual government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, and contributed, to a large extent, to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
Countless Despicable Runners-Up Achievements: Health care, a climate bill, the financial crisis, a child nutrition act, and foreign policies that cost thousands of lives and countless dollars are all insufficiently addressed due to an entrenched culture of childish cross-aisle jibes.
Extenuating Circumstances: U.S. lawmakers could be worse. They rarely, if ever, are caught on video brawling while in session, unlike some governing bodies. Then again, a brisk round of fisticuffs might be what’s needed to bring about a civil exchange of views, ideas and solutions.
What You Can Do: The cardinal rule of American politics is that you will never successfully shame an elected official; however, many of them still employ staffers to read mail addressed to them. So pay attention, and write some letters and hold your elected servant accountable by phone.