Our so-called “social media” has been filled in recent days with the totally embarrassing remarks of an Idaho Republican legislative troll during a public hearing the other day. And the state’s reputation took yet another prominent hit in the national media as it so often has in recent times.
This time the troll was Rep. Vito Barbieri of the crazy North Idaho Barbieri’s. Guy’s been elected three times because voters in his district all seem to come from the same shallow end of the gene pool and see nothing wrong. He’s a California transplant who says he’s a lawyer though he’s never taken the Idaho Bar exam. He eats his own shoe leather – regularly and publically – by inserting his foot in his mouth before engaging his brain.
This time, his question of a doctor testifying before an Idaho House committee – a woman doctor yet and in a very public hearing – was whether it would be possible to peek inside a woman’s vagina by putting a small camera down her throat. Now, if for some reason you haven’t heard this, I’m definitely not making this up. I swear!
The cherry on top of this dipstick? He’s a board member of a North Idaho pregnancy crisis group. How’d you like to have him answer the phone when your scared teenage daughter – or any daughter – was reaching out for help?
“Just swallow a little camera, Dear, and see if it’s all O.K. down there.”
Now, I grant the nation’s political bodies aren’t full of PhD’s. And not everyone who chooses to run for public office has the skills deemed necessary to tie both shoes. So, some political vacancies extant are filled in by … well, let’s just say the “intellectually under-served.” Like a Barbieri.
Yes, he’s caught his share of embarrassing shots for the last week or so. Yet again. He’s even tried to say the question was “rhetorical.” Rhetorical? To which one could legitimately respond, “What the Hell’s the difference?”
While it’s easy to make fun of this cretin, there’s a really serious side to this Idaho political mistake. Because, the fact is, he’s no mistake. Elected three times by his neighbors who know him for the empty suit he is, he really does represent a constituency. So did Michelle Bachman. So does Darrell Issa and Steve King and Louis Gohmert and Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and all those other riders on the clown bus. While the rest of us might think these and other self-serving members of that “intellectually under-served” class have no place making decisions for us on issues beyond their understanding, the fact remains they represent people who think they do.
As a nation, both left and right, most of us are bemoaning the ongoing display of childishness in Washington – John Boehner and Mitch McConnell at one end of the playground – the President at the other – a lot of juvenile-acting delinquents in the middle. Regardless of differing political leanings, nearly all of us are tired of the stalemate, the name-calling, the intransigence of the situation.
The state of our national politics is now causing legitimate concern on the part of leaders of other countries who wonder if we’re no longer able to govern ourselves. They’re nervous about us keeping our word on important world matters. And, given the already divisive and guttural level of discourse in the 2016 campaign for the presidency, they’re concerned about what our relations will be with them in the future.
Yep, it’s bad. In fact, we’re a crippled republic. We’ve put the levers of government in the hands of too many unqualified to operate them. Many have no idea what a republic really is – couldn’t really define democracy if they put down their worn Bible’s and took up a dictionary. Failing to understand the real role of government – or their elected role in running that institution – they’ve tried to replace knowledge with dogma – action with inaction – representation of all with representation of a few.
When I see the full-throated ignorance of a Cruz or a Gohmert or a Lee, I see a Barbieri. When I hear members of one house of Congress excoriate (by individual name) the other (or the president) in debate, I hear a Barbieri. When decorum, discipline and protocol are ignored by members or congressional “leadership” on the national stage, I think of the Barbieri’s we’ve sent to Boise – to Salem – to Olympia – to Washington D.C..
The ability of these people to embarrass us – to shame us by their inappropriate behavior – to fail us by their political misconduct – to betray our votes by resorting to flawed religious zealotry rather than common sense – these things too many ill-informed voters have allowed. We did it either by replacing expectations of competence with narrow-mindedness in our choices – or by not educating ourselves so we can make smarter, more well-informed candidate selection the priority of the voting franchise.
We’re the ones who’ve given the Vito Barbieri’s of this world the stage on which to stand – the spotlight in which to bask – and the seat at the head table from which they can embarrass and humiliate with their ignorance. We’re the sponsors that put him where he is. And where they are.
Better informed voters making better informed selections can put better informed people in positions of political leadership. And return the Barbieri’s of this world to the silence of ignominy they have proven they deserve.