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Lower the Curtain on This Sick Political Theater

By John Rolfe / Red Hook, N.Y.

The faces of the Republican Party ain't pretty
The faces of the Republican Party ain't pretty

Just like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it’s always election season in America, and awfully hard to see the difference between that long-running, rambunctiously vulgar sitcom and our nation’s politicians.

As soon as one set of campaigns ends, another begins and one wonders how these “public servants” find time to actually legislate and govern. Some don’t seem to bother. They’re too busy spewing insults and throwing attention-getting controversy bombs for the sake of buffing their credentials with their base and enhancing their chances of being re-elected.

My nausea and dread grow with the midterm elections approaching in November. Voting systems are in disarray in states where new restrictive laws have caused confusion and redrawn districts are in legal doubt with scant time to correct them, all of this with the customary slate of loathsome morons up for office.

Ordinarily, politicians are the very definition of phony, and it has long been painfully obvious that anyone who reaches any height on the political food chain has sold their soul to the special interest devil. But the current breed barely makes even the slightest effort to hide their hypocrisy and self-interest. Facts, reality, knowledge, even simple decency no longer matter to them.

Democrats, who are done no favors by shameless creeps like Andrew Cuomo, usually infuriate by talking a good game and delivering crumbs. The Republican Party, however, has become breathtakingly brazen and even incoherent in its Machiavellian quest of power.

Spearheaded and personified by the mind-numbingly self-absorbed and abysmally ignorant Donald Trump, the GOP’s “stars” such as (to name just a few) Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, Kevin McCarthy plus elder statesmen Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham and Rand Paul have become perverse celebrities. They seem to exist simply for the sake of being appallingly outrageous, like the cast in the photo below.

Unlike many members of Congress, the scoundrels who populate It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are perversely lovable
Unlike many members of Congress, the scoundrels who populate "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia" are perversely lovable

It was with great horror that I realized several years ago that these so-called “leaders” are actually a reflection of millions of Americans and not just nefarious shepherds leading an innocent flock off a cliff. And it became increasingly clear to me that the GOP has no plan.

Trump’s great new healthcare program that he handed to 60 Minutes anchor Leslie Stahl after an interview in 2020? It turned out to be a box of random documents, or maybe it was frogs.

Sen. Rick Scott (R.-Florida) recently announced his “Plan to Rescue America” (from what, sanity?) that would require Congress to re-pass all pieces of federal legislation every five years. Now, that is a brilliant idea when bitter polarization has turned the House and Senate into WWE steel cages. Can’t you just see the gristle and feathers flying each time Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid come up for a vote? As a way to get rid of government programs conservatives have targeted for decades, Scott’s plan is pure genius.

From where I sit and scratch my head, the GOP seems mainly interested in obstructing any high-profile thing Democrats favor, even when such things are popular with most of the American people. Republicans spend most of their time trying to make life miserable for certain groups by nixing important things for women (abortion rights) and the LGBTQ community (gay marriage, transgender care) while squashing common sense public health protections like mask and vaccine mandates, social justice and economic relief programs, and discussion of America’s troubled racial history.

It’s remarkable to watch a political party work overtime to protect our right to destroy ourselves, others and our environment. Even if Democrats and sensible Republicans try to help average Americans, how many of us care about or even look at the details of boring things like infrastructure and paid family leave proposals? We’re encouraged to focus on bogus culture war issues like Critical Race Theory.

So we get a 24/7/365 clown show of rallies and conventions, pandering to wack-a-doodle QAnon conspiracy theorists, and pithy pronouncements like Taylor Greene’s, “Not only do we have the D.C. jail, which is the D.C. gulag, now we have Nancy Pelosi’s Gazpacho Police spying on members of Congress” as well as her warning to transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten to “stay out of our girls’ bathrooms.”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is a rare beast: a popular Republican in a blue state. Of course, he’s not seeking re-election
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is a rare beast: a popular Republican in a blue state. Of course, he’s not seeking re-election

Yes, there are still reasonable Republicans out there — Governors Charlie Baker (Massachusetts), Larry Hogan (Maryland) and Phil Scott (Vermont). I like and pity them for the lonely figures they cut. I disagree with Rep. Liz Cheney’s policy positions but I admire how she is courageously defying her party and standing up for democracy after the Trump faction’s Jan. 6 insurrection.

Unfortunately, the GOP’s best are buried in the miasma of buffoonery that the media and contemptible talking heads like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson keep on a boil by focusing on childish antics. An independent, I don’t dare vote for even the most rational Republican because I fear they will have to kowtow to the party’s dominant lunatic faction that will make the Jan. 6 and Trump investigations vanish if the GOP reclaims majorities in Congress.

Yeah, I actually believed that a violent insurrection based on a repeatedly debunked lie, and a president flouting our laws and rules at every turn, would be a bridge too far for nearly all Americans. Apparently not, and that means the worst is likely to come.

What a revolting farce our democracy has become: a cast of charlatans and thieves in a theatre of the absurd. It now costs more than $10 million to win a Senate seat and with it comes the rewards of celebrity, influence and lucrative backroom connections. It truly sickens me that the most vital business of ordinary citizens is decided by such awful people.

I totally agree with the assertion that politics is now mostly performance art, a form of entertainment, a largely scripted reality show. To quote the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s famous line, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” With the November elections coming fast, that show is the political equivalent of Jackass.


John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website ( with the meter running.



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