The Lesson of the Wolf

Let the right howl.

 It never gets any less surreal for me, watching the right-wing fever swamps denounce the FBI and the CIA as hotbeds of radical, liberal, socialist instigators under the thumb of the Democratic Party.

It's also a little unnerving to watch proud resisters declaring the intelligence community to be made up of honorable patriots whose only concern is keeping every American safe, but that may be the subject for another letter.

But not only is law enforcement an industry that attracts conservative and reactionary people and then rewards and encourages their thinking, but the top levels, the federal levels, tend to be overwhelmingly conservative because of the differences in how the two parties approach them, when it's their turn to be in charge of staffing them.

Did I say difference? Because now that I think about it, they both approach it with the same goal: to make sure there's no sign of liberal influence. Republicans have no qualms with the idea that winning an election (with or without winning the vote) means they are in charge, and to the victors go the spoils. George W. Bush lost the popular vote, was handed a divided Electoral College by the Supreme Court, and then lost no time in declaring he had been given a mandate to rule. 

To the Republican Party, it makes sense that at the very least the party that is charge of the branch that enforces the laws should have personnel in the top positions who reflect their beliefs and policies, and besides, everyone knows Democrats are soft on crime and weak on enforcement. So they will put in hardliners, work to move the institutions to the right, shore up loyalty.

Democrats, when they are in power, concede that the Republicans have a point about Democrats and crime. They look to overcome that criticism by appointing Republicans to key positions, try to earn some goodwill and model bipartisan cooperation by appointing Republicans to key positions,and show that these venerable agencies are above petty party politics by leaving Republican influence in place.

Then the Republicans get back in power, denounce the Democrats as a bunch of soft on crime crooks, and ratchet the agencies further right.

It's not that there's never any leftward progress, but the backlash it provokes always carries them further right, as future Democrats become even more fearful of being accused of injecting bias into the top agencies and being soft on crime or weak on national security

The spectacle of the conservative outrage machine denouncing the FBI and the intelligence community in general as being controlled by Democratic operatives should (note: not will, but should) have the effect of inoculating future Democratic leaders from being so worked up over fear of accusations of bias or softness that they instead fill the top law enforcement and intelligence agencies with officials who will reflect the policies they themselves advocate and the values they themselves espouse, instead of deciding that no matter who wins the election, the Republicans get to call the tune we all have to dance to when it comes to law enforcement and national security.

We all know the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Perhaps for brevity or perhaps for drama, most tellings of it assume that the very next time the boy called for help after the villagers decided they were done with his nonsense was the time the wolf really came, and so usually when we talk about moral lessons from the story we think from the boy's point of view. 

Imagine the lesson for the wolf, though: if the alarm's going to be raised the same no matter what you do, eventually it loses its potency, and at that point you can do exactly what you set out to do.

This has implications beyond the alphabet soup of the executive branch. Even the most anodyne, center-right Democratic candidate gets denounced as a radical leftist extremist if they seem to have a chance of winning anything important. Policies that are broadly supported by the electorate and which have been made in consultation with Republicans are denounced as creeping socialism when Democrats try to announce them.

And lifelong Republicans who have dedicated their careers to deeply conservative institutions are now denounced by the right as Deep State Democratic operatives, here to overthrow the country and institute Communist Sharia.

If they're going to cry wolf no matter what we do... we might as well do it anyway. Bills that prop up banks are called wealth redistribution, ones that ensure the insurance industry maintains a healthy profit margin are treated exactly the same as if we proposed and instituted national universal healthcare.

So... why not just do it?

Why not do everything?

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