So much of what we consider “politics” is really just policing people’s use of language, mostly under the guise of correcting that cardinal sin, impoliteness. To a certain kind of political animal, that’s the most important thing—not ideology, nor policy, but that we all play by the same set of long-agreed-upon rules of how to conduct oneself, like politics is the royal court, and every time you use the word “fuck,” you’re basically saying it to the face of the god of democracy.
This brings us to Thursday’s trumped-up controversy, around remarks Jen O’Malley Dillon, Joe Biden’s campaign manager and incoming deputy White House chief of staff, made in a recent interview with Glamour. In conversation with the author Glennon Doyle, O’Malley Dillon was scoring yet another point against pessimistic progressives who criticized Biden for promising a return to bipartisanship. Here’s the exchange, per the magazine (starting with O’Malley Dillion, the bold is Doyle speaking):
I also think, as in love, compromise is a good thing. The atmosphere in the world now is like, “Oh, if you compromise, you don’t believe in something.” No, it’s: I believe in it so much that I’m going to work to find a path we can both go down together. That feels to me like the heart of relationships and love and success across the board.
That might be what we’re missing—is that redefining of compromise. That it is or it can be the ultimate victory.
Yes, exactly. And frankly, that’s what we need. The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity. In the primary, people would mock him, like, “You think you can work with Republicans?” I’m not saying they’re not a bunch of fuckers. Mitch McConnell is terrible. But this sense that you couldn’t wish for that, you couldn’t wish for this bipartisan ideal? He rejected that. From start to finish, he set out with this idea that unity was possible, that together we are stronger, that we, as a country, need healing, and our politics needs that too.
Classic use of a double negative to make an affirmative statement that also happens to be true! The Republicans, Mitch McConnell in particular, are a bunch of fuckers. So it was predictable, if mildly disappointing, that O’Malley Dillion almost immediately walked back her remarks after people—Republicans!!!—got mad at her strong language.
As Politico reported (emphasis mine):
The mea culpa came in a virtual conversation Thursday with veteran Democratic operatives Stephanie Cutter and Teddy Goff, during which O’Malley Dillon acknowledged she “used some words that I probably could have chosen better” when speaking with author Glennon Doyle for a Glamour magazine interview published Tuesday.
Addressing the controversy Thursday, O’Malley Dillon argued that “the point that I was really making” in the Glamour interview “is an incredibly important point. And that really is about the president-elect and why he was supported by over 81 million people, and what they were looking for.” She went on to restate Biden’s “belief that we can get things done, and we can get them done if we come together.”
First of all—come off it. “Bipartisanship” and “compromise” are words that sound nice but are code for Democrats sliding (further) to the right to win over an imagined Republican lawmaker, a rare beacon of statesmanship who’s willing to cross the aisle if you just appeal to them with enough platitudes and make enough concessions so that your policy barely even looks Democratic anymore. Biden Democrats love to hold up the few “good,” supposedly persuadable Republicans, the ones whose offices we’re always entreated to call when a critical issue is up for a vote—Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Joe Manchin (lol). When push comes to shove, they almost universally disappoint the liberals who appealed to them so personally (see: the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett).
Let’s look at who was so offended by O’Malley Dillon’s remarks. My, what a lineup of good faith actors whose protestations should definitely be interpreted in that light!
Definitely people worth apologizing to! Now that’s bipartisanship!!!!
It bears repeating every time something like this happens: It’s OK, even good, to call mean people bad names. You can use bad words! (As an aside, the funniest thing about all these people mad about O’Malley Dillion’s remarks is that they can’t even say the real word. You’re adults!! You can say fuck!!) These people don’t want to give Americans another measly COVID relief check. They have no interest in extending relief to those who rent homes and now, without a source of income, are facing evictions just after Christmas. This is as good as saying they want a vast swath of Americans to die as part of the economic aftermath of this pandemic, after they already sentenced hundreds of thousands to die of the actual virus. If you can’t use the word “fuckers” to describe the public figures who’ve made this ethos their reason to get out of bed in the morning, what are you left with?
I’ve never much cared for the backlash to things like calling Trump “fat” or deriding Hillary Clinton as having “cankles,” even though I personally think it’s also a waste of perfectly good breath. Tell me with a straight face that you really care about cheap shots taken at two extremely powerful, wealthy powerful people who have shaped your life and the lives of people around the world in irrevocable, heinous ways. In doing so, you only confess that you view politics is a game of manners without life-or-death stakes for millions of real people. In other words: Spare me your fake outrage, fuckers.