America Needs Better Political Theater

Today, Rep. Charles Rangel stood in the well of the House Chamber while Speaker Pelosi read out a resolution of censure.

All three of the Wired Sisters had questions about the proceeding. Jane, being both the most literary and the most easily shocked, kept thinking about King Lear and Oedipus Rex and other fallen monarchs, possibly even including Milton’s Lucifer.

Cyn merely wondered at the apparent disproportionality of the punishment to the alleged misdeeds, and finally concluded that, behind the scenes, Rangel must have been really unpleasant to a lot of his colleagues who welcomed the chance for revenge.

But Emma, who is fond of political theater, found the whole thing boring. The Japanese used to be really good at this stuff, which generally concluded with seppuku. Pope Gregory got to put on a good show at Canossa, with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow to apologize (okay, it doesn’t snow very often in Washington, and probably nobody was willing to wait that long.) King Henry II of England got scourged by monks at Canterbury for having encouraged the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket. Those guys had style. Washington has a perfectly good theatrical community, and could always bring in outside talent if necessary, so why put on what looked like nothing so much as a petulant schoolboy being scolded by his teacher? Congress needs to retain a dramaturge or a ritualist or something, to put some zing into its routines. Slogan for the next election: If you can’t stun, don’t run.

The Wired Sisters, collectively

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