There's a Fundamental Lie That All Politics Is Based On
There's one whopper out there that people rarely acknowledge, but self-confessed "cynical libertarian" Dave Barry isn't shying away.
Dave Barry has been a professional humorist ever since he discovered that professional humor was a lot easier than working. His is the co-author of For This We Left Egypt, and author of Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland.
For many years he wrote a newspaper column that appeared in more than 500 newspapers and generated thousands of letters from readers who thought he should be fired. Despite this, Barry won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, although he misplaced it for several years, which is why his wife now keeps it in a secure location that he does not know about. One of Barry's columns was largely responsible for the movement to observe International Talk Like a Pirate Day every year on September 19. This is probably his most enduring achievement.
Barry has written more than 30 books, including the novels Big Trouble, Lunatics, Tricky Business and, most recently, Insane City. He has also written a number of books with titles like I'll Mature When I'm Dead, which are technically classified as nonfiction, although they contain numerous lies. Two of Barry's books were the basis for the CBS sitcom Dave's World, which can probably still be seen on cable TV in certain underdeveloped nations.
Barry lives in Miami with his family and a dog that is determined to urinate on every square inch of North America. You can follow him at @rayadverb on Twitter and learn more about his work at davebarry.com.
Dave Barry: I do think politics is very funny, and I think politicians are funny. And the fundamental reason I think it is that it's all based on a huge lie, kind of like professional sports is based on a lie: that it matters whether this team wins or not, and it really doesn't. In the end if you would just accept that it was all just kind of a silly entertainment, politics is based on the lie that they actually care about you.
And I say this, I’m a deeply cynical person and a libertarian, but I've been watching politics fairly close for a long, long time and nobody in Washington cares about you. I don't care which side of the aisle they are on, they don't care about you. They care about keeping in office, having whatever perks and powers involved in it, and they care about winning.
And especially today in America winning is much more important to everybody than ever advancing any particular agenda or ideology, certainly helping people is way down the list because—you could argue any given issue—both sides can tell you why it will help you to do what they want you to do, but in the end I don't believe that's what they are trying to do.
The higher you rise in politics the less likely it is you're actually trying to help anybody but yourself and your immediate cohorts.
I don't think Trump supporters did get conned. I think they got what they want. They want a guy who – I know a number of Trump supporters, people he you would not necessarily guess were Trump supporters. They're not all white males, and they're not all straight white males, but they supported Donald Trump and they still do.
I think they don't believe that he is some kind of great statesman, they don't believe that he is well versed necessarily on all the policy details that a president should be versed on, but they think that he doesn't like what they don't like and he pisses off the people that they want to be pissed off.
Basically the Trump supporters, a large part of it, it wasn't racism, it wasn't sexism, it was [gesture] that to the people that they don't like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the political establishment in general, MSNBC.
They're tired of those people. They got mad and so they voted for Trump. And his behavior since he got elected hasn't really done anything to diminish that support for him.
And I think when the people who don't like Donald Trump, and I'm one of them, finally figure out that the way to beat him isn't going to be to keep saying, “He's a dope! He doesn't know anything,” but to find an alternative person who will present something that people—who are kind of resentful of Washington, resentful of the elite establishment—can support but in an intelligent way, then they'll do better.
I would love to see the Democratic Party come up with a candidate who can appeal to people in Wisconsin and Michigan.
I would like to see them come up with somebody who will represent more of a threat to Trump. But so far it just seems that it's kind of like the Hillary campaign continued, which consisted of saying, “He’s an idiot, he's a sexist, he's a dope.”
And all the people who like him say, “We don't care what you say about him, we like him because you don't like him.”
Donald Trump does seem to be humor impaired in that respect. And I think the easy psychoanalysis is to say he's insecure.
Usually when people cannot laugh at themselves that's what I assume is what's causing that problem.
But I think maybe he doesn't seem really to be that insecure; he's perfectly willing to be President of the United States, which he's obviously not qualified to be. I think he doesn't have an insecurity issue, I think he just doesn't have a sense of humor. I really don't.
And yet he can be funny—that's the weird thing. When he was doing his campaign rallies he was way more entertaining than any of the Republican candidates running against him and way more entertaining than Hillary Clinton. He was just entertaining.
But it was mainly because he would just say any damn thing and people liked that. I mean people love that. I wish we could find somebody who could say any damn thing and be competent. That would be a great combination, however that is not, I believe, his combination.
If you think lies are funny, you might be a cynic. If you’re a cynical libertarian, you might be Dave Barry. As a humorist at the Miami Herald for more than 20 years, Barry kept a close watch on state and national politics. What he saw, and continues to see, is a great lie perpetrated on the voting public: that politicians actually care about you (they don’t). But much like the lie of professional sports — that it truly matters which team wins (it doesn’t) — we depend on the lie so that we feel good about participating, whether in politics or in sports. Hilarious, right? Dave Barry is the co-author of For This We Left Egypt?.
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.
- Polarization and extreme partisanships have been on the rise in the United States.
- Political psychologist Diana Mutz argues that we need more deliberation, not political activism, to keep our democracy robust.
- Despite increased polarization, Americans still have more in common than we appear to.
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30 minute intervals everyday to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
The choice of flavor may be up to you, but the number of scoops will depend on your friends.
Imagine you're dining out at a casual restaurant with some friends. After looking over the menu, you decide to order the steak. But then, after a dinner companion orders a salad for their main course, you declare: “I'll have the salad too."