Politics & Policy

The Circus Returns

Democrats parade their policies through Washington.

With the Democrats back in power here in Washington, it’s like the circus is back in town. The Republican flea market, which promised better deals and less paperwork but eventually (and unfortunately) got involved in a little bit of shady business with the crowd they were supposed to replace, has closed up for the first time in twelve years. The townsfolk have grown weary of the chaos and occasional underhanded dealings of the market, and change is in the air. Enough with all this business. What we want is entertainment!

Thankfully, that’s what the Democratic circus has brought by the caravan load. And what a show! What a spectacle! Two rings this year, and they’re hoping for a third in 2008. Come out and watch as the Democrats parade their policies across town (just try not to mind the smell of elephant dung). Bring the kids — it is, after all, For the Children — and make sure to arrive early. This is a circus that values equality; there’ll be no paying extra to reserve seats.

Once you get in, you’ll be showered with a dazzling array of wonders and mysteries, follies, and foibles, attractions not witnessed since, well, since the circus was run out of town way back in 1993. But don’t worry, these old stunts will seem fresh again — at least that’s the hope.

Over at the minimum-wage tent, for example, you can watch in awe at a masterful display of economic prestidigitation. The wages increase but employment doesn’t go down. How do they do it? They’ll never tell, but you can bet it’s only an illusion.

The brave souls in the crowd can get their scares at the Global Warming Room of Doom. You’ll have to shell out big time to see what monstrous creature is hidden inside, but they promise it’s worth it. “By far, the scariest exhibit you’ll ever see!” the portly announcer warns, and the sign outside reads “Not for the faint of heart!” A handy graph on the door charts the average rise in individual fear after seeing the exhibit (though it conveniently omits large groups who reacted with yawns). But don’t worry. Despite the screams you hear emanating through the walls, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. Like so much at this show, it’s just a ploy to get your money, and the screamers are just foreign tourists trying to convince themselves that paying up was worth it.

At the children’s booth, you can fill up on rhetorical cotton candy — sugary fluff that promises wonderful things for the little ones but delivers barely any substance. Like the balloons getting passed out, everything here is full of hot air.

Perhaps the most disturbing, controversial exhibit is in the stem cell tent. This freakish display of cruel science has aroused jeers from many for its ethical lapses, yet the goons running this show intend to continue performing it — even when non-gruesome methods might produce the same effects.

If you’re looking for a strongman, don’t bother. This crew hasn’t got one (though occasionally some poor schlub pads his suit to look as if there’s strength within).

During the foreign-policy high wire act in the main ring, you can watch as a troop of wobbly sad clowns (including a few of the folks drafted from the old flea market) attempt to show off their balancing skills. It looks dangerous at first, and the ringmaster will surely praise their courage, but there’s little real risk: A safety net is stretched out below. Nor will this unpracticed bunch ever get all the way across the rope. They’ll step out, do a trick or two, and then hop back onto the safety of the platform. What they don’t want you to know is that they’ve no idea how to get across — and they’re resentful of anyone who wants to give it a try.

Speaking of the ringmaster, running it all is — no, not the bearded lady — but a woman nonetheless, and for the first time too (this is, I hear, a big deal). Her name is Nancy Pelosi, and at 66, she commands, cajoles, and captivates with the sprightly effortlessness of a woman half her age — which, at least from the bleachers, is about how old she looks. She’s forgone the top hat, but her hair is bolted on like a helmet. Behind the scenes, she’s brought in the cash and the crowds, declaring victory when her show returned to town in two-ring glory. No doubt she’ll want to claim credit if that third ring appears in 2008.

Any day with this crowd is likely to be hot and tiring, so be careful not to get sick. Some of the drugs at the medical tent are a little cheaper this year thanks to some tough negotiating, but the selection is far smaller, and instead of the many conveniently located tents of circuses past, they’ve crammed everything into one tiny hut at the far end of the parking lot. But hey! It’s open to everyone. So come one, come all. Just remember: There’s a sucker born every minute, and the crew running this circus is hoping you’re one of them.

Peter Suderman is managing editor of NRO.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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