There are a lot of things about our current political culture that is just simply unlikeable. Some things have been torqued so far and to such extremes that it makes for just cartoonish spectacles that make no sense whatsoever. We’ve seen more and more here at home with groups like Canada Proud trying to torque topics into something they’re not, all in an attempt to gain some kind of perceived partisan advantage. We all see these things floating around our social media every day.
Here in Canada, sometimes it feels like our only saving grace is that it’s worse in the United States, where these things are turned right up to 11 and some days, it feels like the knob was broken off long ago. We do see some of that influence spill over here in some circles but in conservative movements we see a lot of this, and a desire to “Own the Libs”. You know what I’m talking about, attempts to try to make more progressive people look silly, hypocritical or just get them upset.
When Pierre Poilievre was being floated as a potential Conservative leader, that was one of the qualities that some factions of the Conservative Party loved about him. Pierre could really “Own the Libs”, regardless if that actually helped them win any more votes. It made them feel good and laugh, which seems to be the most important thing to them. It’s childish stuff that operates on a lack of maturity and a cartoonish view of your opponents that usually involves a complete lack of understanding of where they are coming from, what they are about or why they oppose as issue. Or at least that’s my experience watching these things from a distance. So it was with that in mind that I saw this story from a couple days ago out of the United States that just made me laugh so hard because it was such a prime example of what can easily happen when someone operates in this way:
When I first saw this story, I was reminded of one of my favourite recurring skits from the old Dave Chappelle Show called “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong”. In those skits, we see someone facing a dilemma or problem and instead of dealing with it in a normal way, they decide they’ve had enough and “keep it real”. That comes with hilarious consequences that usually involve something bad happening to the character that does this.
That is exactly how I pictured this case going with Republican Virginia State Delegate Wendell Walker. He was going to “Own the Libs”, who in this case are the Democrats in the state who have been moving to remove Confederate statues across the state. Walker opposes this, as do most conservatives, claiming that it’s some kind of attack on history. So in response he brought forward his own bill that would remove a statue of the Democrat and segregationist Harry Byrd. His thinking was “Ha, Ha!!! Let’s do this to a Democrat and see if they oppose that!”.
To his surprise, the Democrats embrace his bill and pledged their support. You see, he had this cartoonish belief around what this movement to remove these statues was all about. It wasn’t about going after Republican or conservative figures, it wasn’t about political payback or anything like that. It was about not honouring people attached with that racist past, regardless of their political affiliation. So when Walker’s bill came forward, of course the Democrats agreed to it because their whole point was to deal with that racist past. In fact, quite a few Democrats said they looked forward to voting for Walker’s bill. They didn’t give a tinker’s cuss about the partisan affiliation of the people involved, which seems to have come to a complete surprise to Walker.
And when Walker finally clued into that, and it became clear that he wasn’t going to “Own the Libs” on his one, he started down an even more insane and hilarious road. He asked that the bill “no longer be considered.” You see, he didn’t actually want the statue in question to actually be taken down. No, no, no. As he admitted to the News & Advance of Lynchburg, “the reason I put that in was more of a political reason”. As a result of all this the Democrat- controlled Virginia House Rules Committee shot down his request. Instead they asked him to come before the committee at a later date to explain why he wanted to scrap his bill. Yep, that “owing” went so, so well.
I’d like to say that there’s a lesson in here for hardcore partisans or politicians in this, and there surely is. But for most politicians they already know this lesson because they’d never put themselves in this position to begin with. They actually take their legislative duties seriously and don’t view the bills and motions they bring forward solely as an attempt to screw the other side over. They actually believe in their ideas and want to see them passed. They don’t go to all the work to make a bill that they explicitly never want to become law, just to make a partisan point. To do that is childish, disrespectful of their democratic institutions and the people who elect them, not to forget pay their salaries. But this is the kind of crap we’re seeing more and more in our political environment these days, all in an attempt to get a “feel good” moment of trying to own the other side. And when that is your motivation for being in elected office or for your legislative initiatives, you’re already too far gone to understand a lesson like this one. You obviously could care less about that and while yes there is a lesson there for that small segment to learn, they never will because they see nothing wrong with what happened. Sure, they didn’t “Own the Libs” this time, but they eventually day and for them, man that day will be sweet. Who cares if they look like idiots in the meantime, they’ll feel good inside, and that’s their sole apparent motivation. And in doing so, they are oblivious to who really owns them.