Some Who Wander Are Lost

I borrowed the caption too: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks during a news conference with fellow House Republicans outside the U.S. Capitol December 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

One of my Friday, sometimes Saturday, activities is to read, after the fact, a live chat with an advice columnist in the Washington Post. I doubt very much that she plans a “theme” to the questions she receives each week, but yesterday she found herself advising several people to get out of relationships with narcissists.

In response to one person seeking advice, she posted a link to a 2009 essay (perhaps a blog post) by someone named Merrill Markoe, who was sure she was doing something wrong when she couldn’t make her mother happy no matter what she tried, and who dated a man who would get furious with her if she wanted to stay up late and watch a movie when he wanted her to turn in at the same time he did.

She went to therapy to try to fix herself, and learned instead that she had been raised by two narcissists and thus was seeking the same of dating partners. What it came down to, she wrote, was that she learned to “stop trying to please un-pleasable people.”

I am left wondering, in the wake of that simple yet obvious advice, why today’s Republican party can’t see the train wreck that awaits them as so many of them persist in trying to please one unpleasable person. It takes so incredibly little to displease him, and is so easy to run afoul of his foul nature, that I would have let him board that midnight train past Georgia and just let him go raging quietly into that dark night.

He could roam the halls of Xanadu like a bloated Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane (recently replaced atop the Rotten Tomatoes heap as the all-time greatest movie by Paddington 2 — I kid you not), blundering into the occasional wedding where he could take the mic and ramble about how an election was stolen from him, and start listing all the loyal yet horrible people who abetted this theft and yes, I certainly mean you Mike Pence — do not even think for a moment about running for president four years hence.

But you, members of the Republican party, would be safely far away in your fenced-off enclave in Washington, D.C., and you would be able to turn your attention to your former favorite business, obstructing Democrats as they try to enact the Will of the People who all like free stuff.

That’s what Liz Cheney wanted to do anyway, but when she said, “C’mon who’s with me?” very few raised their hands, and of those that did, some did that hesitant half-raise as if to say, Maybe I mean, probably not though, to agree with this?

This is what I don’t get about Liz Cheney’s lonely quest, which has made her a darling of the Democrats she despises with all her being and appears to have assured her a seat at any table she wants, except the table she was already at: the people who are turning themselves into knots to assure us this is not really at all about her taking a principled stand on the very definition of democracy.

Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen can’t seem to decide, from day to day, where he stands on the bloviate now of New Jersey but who ought to rush himself back to Florida immediately to hide behind the governor’s skirts in the impending event of an extradition order compliments of the State of New York, or possibly even the aforementioned Georgia. So the other day Mr. Olsen cheered himself with this thought, which keeps trying to gain traction among those still trying to ride the Republican rails: It has nothing to do with Jan. 6, Liz, but you are hopelessly out of step on the Republican platform.

Which is true, considering that the platform is as amorphous as the one that boards Harry Potter for his train ride to school. You can’t stand on thin air unless you are Alec Bing of The Phantom Tollbooth.

But everything Rep. Cheney holds as an old-school value has now been decreed, not by Mr. Olsen alone, as just that: old school. However, lacking any clear ideology, that leaves the majority of Washington Republicans falling back on idiotology, trying to please an un-pleasable and unpleasant person.

I assume the reason for doing this is because all they apparently want out of life, rather than a sense of values, honor or moral outrage, is to be re-elected long enough to become either a lifetime power broker or a lobbyist, which is pretty much the same thing. Power must be much more seductive than Rep. Cheney or her fellow Adam Kinzinger realized.

Except I don’t think this stance is really likely to lead to lifetime power. Idolatry only works as long as the idol is there to be idolized. I suppose martyrdom is always a possibility if a former president gets landed in prison, but poll watchers — and we keep learning each election cycle just how useful poll numbers really are, but we keep relying on them nonetheless — say his popularity is already slipping, and demographers tell us the inflection point is already upon us: there are more Americans of color age 17 and younger than there are white kids.

When Corporate America realizes its bread is no longer buttered by Republicans but by the consumers who are going to buy their products– and take a look at who is featured in commercials these days to see which way that corporate windsock is turning — then all that is left is to hope that small-amount donors don’t notice that you are raiding their piggy banks on a monthly, perhaps weekly, basis when they intended a one-time donation.

Pollster Frank Luntz, once a solid Republican who may or may not be mired in a housing scandal involving Kevin McCarthy (it was very hard to tell from the article), told Trevor Noah the other night that to get the Republican vote you have to show allegiance to American Idol, but to get the American vote you must not.

So Rep. Cheney is playing the long game — although I’m not convinced she is playing. I’ve read every speculation out there, including that this is a careful calculation on her part. But I’m going to take it on face value: that she, like me and most Americans, was aghast at the “simple tourists” who “visited” a building closed and locked to the public on Jan. 6, and at the rhetoric coming from the very top that directed them there — and it was a place she wasn’t willing to go, even for someone she voted with 92 percent of the time.

She found her bottom, her red line, her line in the sand, and instead of drawing it and then vacillating, she just drew it. And is standing firm, head held high, her mission clear. Meanwhile, the people around her, mostly white men, flail, equivocating and making deals with devils who will never live up to their end of the bargain. That much has been painfully obvious for years from out here in the cheap seats, but apparently not so much when you go swimming with narcissists.

I’m sure none of them are familiar with Merrill Markoe (I wasn’t), but her advice, while it took a long time for her to get to personally, is clear and would make their lives much simpler: Stop trying to please un-pleasable people.

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