Truth in Politicking? Hahahahaha!

What might that sound like?

A section of the May — July 2019 exhibition, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, And Green, by Rirkrit Tiravanija, at The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Photo taken by author.

What if politicians told the truth? Try to imagine it. Hilarious, right? Not funny haha though, angry funny. Our fury has no other outlet. We’re in sheer disbelief, but sadly, not surprised to find ourselves in the current situation.

What if Senator Joe Manchin (D, West Virginia), told everyone that he makes his real money from the coal industry and that’s why he consistently fights against things that would actually help West Virginians? Or what if he said he enjoyed the power that comes with being one of two swing votes in the Senate? Wouldn’t it be incredible if, instead of The Intercept or the New York Times or some other news outlet, having to uncover his not-so-secret secrets, he just announced them on the floor of Senate chamber? “Hi, I’m Senator Joe Manchin. I’ve made over five million dollars in income from the coal-related companies I founded in the 1980s and I hold stock that’s valued between one and five million dollars.[1] Yes, my stakes in the companies are held in a blind trust, but my family runs the companies so the blind trust is more of a technicality than anything else. And hey, on a tangentially related note, I keep opposing legislation from my own party, that would absolutely benefit my constituents, because I want to keep getting richer and because I love the power that I have. Y’all, I literally feel drunk with the power. I’m never giving up this feeling.”

What if Glenn Youngkin (R-Virginia), the new governor-elect of Virginia, told the voters that he was pandering to the lowest common denominator? What if, in one of his speeches, he’d said, “Not only do I not know what Critical Race Theory is, I don’t care. I don’t care even a little bit that it’s not taught in K-12 schools. I also don’t care that some high schoolers have to read Beloved, an award-winning novel, by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison (who also happens to be Black). I don’t care about any of these things, but I’m screaming about them as loudly as possible because I want to scare white people into voting for me.”[2]

How about the least favorite of your mom’s friends, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona)? Even your mom doesn’t really like her anymore; she just doesn’t know how to get rid of her. She seems to possess no clear stance on almost any topic. Her objections seem to be based solely on optics and she refuses to directly answer any questions about them.[3] What if she went to the press, that she both courts and scolds, and said, “Here’s why I object to seemingly random bills, reforms, legislation. I like being oppositional. It’s who I am. I like being difficult. I’m one of those people you can’t stand to be around because I’m consistently awful, and try to pass it off as just playing ‘devil’s advocate.’ My self-worth is tied up in being an outsider so I play into it instead of doing anything meaningful.”

And, last but not least (though possibly the least likable), Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas). What if Greg, much like the soon-to-be governor of Virginia, just made his ambitions clear? What if the man who courts racists, bigots, misogynists, and xenophobes put out a statement that said, “I, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, do not care about Texans. I definitely don’t care about people at the borders, begging for help and asylum in our country. I am a member of the party of family values, but I do not care about families. I steadfastly promise to not only do nothing for families, but to actively work against any legislation that would help them. I say the things I say, and do the things I do, because I want to make a name for myself. I want to be President, and I need the votes of the willfully ignorant to do that so all of this is just a means to an end that far outstrips state government.[4] Good luck with the power grid, too. I’m not fixing that horror show because I simply don’t care.”

Ok, time to wake up from this fever dream. But, what a glorious dream it was! And, as we rub the sleep from our eyes, we immediately hang our heads in shame as we confront the reality of our fractured society, the chasm growing ever wider by the hideous people we (largely white people[5]) have elected as our country’s leaders.


[1] Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire, The Intercept (https://theintercept.com/2021/09/03/joe-manchin-coal-fossil-fuels-pollution/)

[2] Glenn Youngkin’s Complicated History on Critical Race Theory, The Daily Beast (https://www.thedailybeast.com/glenn-youngkins-complicated-history-on-critical-race-theory)

[3] What Does Kyrsten Sinema Want?, Time (https://time.com/6103516/kyrsten-sinema-democrats-spending-bill/)

[4] Greg Abbot and Ron DeSantis Are Competing to Be Trump. Who’s Winning?, Texas Monthly (https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/greg-abbott-ron-desantis-primary/)

[5] AP VoteCast: Youngkin win built by small gains in key groups, AP News (https://apnews.com/article/virginia-election-ap-votecast-survey-75520c5c9a245bee384526abc138a61a)