Last night’s healthcare vote brewed up unexpectedly, with a hastily written bill introduced to a vote in the dead of night. If you were watching cable news, of course, you knew all of this; they treated it like the goddamn Super Bowl. Otherwise, you found out by going online, where people were poring over body language on the Senate floor, reading the runes of who was talking to whom and in what order to get a bead on whether or not the disastrous bill would be passed. It was pure politics—Republicans didn’t even like what they were voting on, merely hoping to form ranks in a vindictive show of force against President Obama’s legacy—and so also pure theater. And within that tableau, there was no question who the star was:
Yes, it was old man McCain, having freshly ambled from his sickbed to vote in favor of these votes, now in a coin toss will-they-won’t-they fight over his immortal soul. Which of the doggedly held images of himself would he reinforce—the centrist “maverick” or the cowardly far-right grandstander? McCain, for his part, milked it, telling reporters on his way to the floor to “wait for the show” and then pulling this season-cliffhanger shit:
Here, let’s add some Stone Cold Steve Austin:
The dramatic hand-out, the interminable pause, the thumbs down, and the ice-cold glare at Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell—the maverick was back, baby! Pay no heed to his history of party-line politics, hawkish bloodlust, or the fact that he introduced Sarah Palin to the national discourse, thus paving the way for a certain nationalist know-nothing presidential candidate of the future. This was a goddamn storyline!
Hell, yeah, conventional narrative! Today we are awash in takes on McCain’s maverick-ness, as well as reminders that he is getting credit for single-handedly killing a bill that two female Republican colleagues have stood firmly against for weeks, weathering intense criticism along the way. And all of this is, of course, totally abstracted from what was actually at stake, which is nothing less than the right to live for our country’s most vulnerable populations. It was another moment of political theater viewed massively and simultaneously online, the sort of thing that will always be cleaned up into tidy narratives and viral stars. Sometimes it takes the form of Ken Bone or a binder full of women. This time it was a thumbs-down, a “maverick,” and at least for now, a humiliating defeat for the Republican party’s campaign against the lower and middle classes.
Thus it is with something of a full heart that we invite you to watch a pink-faced Mitch McConnell eat a pile of shit:
Sometimes political theater is good. Look at how sad he is!