The Merry-Go-Round Never Stops

When I was a child, I found merry-go-rounds boring and, as I was wont to dismount the horse and run between the garishly painted beasts and against the turn of the carousel, or, worse, with the turn and get some good speed going, I more than once had the authorities intervene for my own safety. Wisely, my parents stopped paying the dime, or whatever it was, and sought out rides where I could be buckled in. I guess I have always appreciated a bumpy ride. 

There was once a big whiz in the media by the name of Drew Pearson, now long forgotten, along with all the “news” and gossip he reported. (I should note here that he did not play football). In more ancient times he had a syndicated column in all the papers called “The Washington Merry Go Round.” I once read quite a few of those from the late 1930s for a research project. This was hot stuff at the time. The word “shenanigans” comes to mind, but many of the politicos were Irish back then. 

Those were also the days when Walter Winchell was in his glory. Every political move was the subject of breathless reporting. Broadway and politics might appear in the same paragraph. Sexual scandals were de rigueur. Innuendo was the game and between-the-lines was the field of play. A good columnist could sell out both a morning and an afternoon edition and a couple of savvy scribblers could make an evening or “late” edition disappear as well. 

What did they write about? You wouldn’t recognize one name in 10 today and the particular nasty machinations they reported on have long since flowed away under the bridge and out to sea. Deals, brokered deals, broken deals, verbal attacks, verbal promises (always worth the paper they were printed on) and dirty linen were the thing. 

The point being, the politics of any one moment is pretty much the same and unimportant, no matter how deeply the government gets its hands into your pocket. There is always more to come and all of it will be done again, with nothing new under the sun. 

Now, truly, the Roman Empire was a small affair by comparison to today’s United States government. Its population was smaller. Its economy was smaller. Its army was smaller. The government itself was smaller. Even its territory was smaller. And its taxes were minuscule by comparison to what you pay. 

Yet, still there were similarities. The politics hasn’t changed all that much. The elections were rigged. A small percentage of the citizenry controlled everything. The difference between a slave and a citizen was a matter of degree. Bread and circuses were the means of quelling unrest. And so it goes, as Mr. Vonnegut has said. 

“Doomsday Scenario” screams the website news headline. Last week saw another political hack fighting for primacy in the House. The fact that he is Republican is not important, after all. Whatever principles he campaigned on will soon be yesterday’s news. Only, we no longer have it on newsprint to later line the bottom of our birdcages. Web news is not absorbent in quite that way. 

A week out from that kerfuffle being decided, like a barroom fight over a sports score no one remembers, the reason for it will only be repeated by a few hardcore followers who printed out the precious words on their desktop printers, or worse, cluttered their computer desktops with articles headlined “Capitol Chaos,” “Embarrassing,” and “Fiasco Shows Republicans Unable to Govern.” 

This is the way democracy works. It is not a catastrophe! The republic may be gone, but the world will not end. Bargains will be made. There may be no adults left to intervene and take the misbehaving miscreants by the arm and put them out of harm’s way. But if readers persist in following the news cycle as if it means anything more than a backroom deal, larger government, and another loss for taxpayers, then they deserve what they get. Such wheeling and dealing used to happen all the time. Again, this is not new. 

The only interesting thing, and thus the matter you will not find reported, is that for the last 100 years the power brokers (we are calling them oligarchs now) have had such a lock on key positions in government that this sort of thing was not supposed to happen. I mean, what do we have a “uniparty” for, anyway?

About Vincent McCaffrey

Vincent McCaffrey is a novelist and bookseller. Visit his website at www.vincentmccaffrey.com.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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