Homo Politicus, page B2

Who will rule Potomac Man?

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Dana Milbank
Sunday, December 30, 2007

Iowans will begin the 2008 presidential voting this week. For those in the nation's capital, this means that there soon will be an answer to the all-important question:

Who will, for the next four years, rule the barbaric tribes that live along the Potomac?

In the tongue of the Piscataway Indians who first occupied these shores, the very word "Potomac" means "where the goods are brought in." To this day, the savages who live here are a breed unto themselves -- Homo politicus, or Potomac Man -- and they continue to bring in the goods in strange and sometimes scary ways.

They steal from other tribes (Jack Abramoff) and hide their treasure in iceboxes (William Jefferson). They adopt war names such as "The Hammer" (Tom DeLay), apply elaborate war paint to their faces (Katherine Harris), give blood-curdling war whoops (Howard Dean) and shave their heads and plot against each other in war rooms (James Carville). They perform frightening fertility rituals in public places (Larry Craig), exchange their services for boats, homes and jewelry (Duke Cunningham) and even engage in human sacrifice (Scooter Libby). The two perpetually warring tribes of Potomac Land -- "parties," in the local dialect -- speak a common language incomprehensible to outsiders ("I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it").

For Potomac Man, each candidate represents a different segment of the Homo politicus body politic. One is a shaman, one a heretic, one a bard, and several are bloodthirsty warriors.

For the inhabitants of Potomac Land, backing the winning candidate in the election is a matter of tribal survival: The victor will determine who brings in the goods over the next four years . . . and who gets scalped.

The Avenger

In primitive cultures, the killing of one individual would set off a cycle of retaliatory murders in which kinsmen of the latest victim would kill kinsmen of the latest perpetrator. Today, this grisly practice is continued by only a few peoples, among them the Yanomamo of Venezuela and Homo politicus.

The presidential campaign of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) can be seen as an effort to redeem the family name -- something Dodd has been trying to do since his senator-father was censured for financial impropriety 40 years ago and left Potomac Land in disgrace. On the Republican side, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is avenging his father's embarrassing collapse as a presidential candidate; George Romney, then governor of Michigan, claimed in 1967 that he had been "brainwashed" over Vietnam.

But the most prominent blood avenger in the race is Sen. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, whose feud with the Bush kin has been going on for more than 15 years. In 1992, her husband, Bill, buried President George H.W. Bush, only to have a Bush scion, George W. Bush, depose a Clinton ally as governor of Texas in 1994. The Bush revenge continued in 2000, when George W. took down Clinton's hand-picked successor, Al Gore. If Hillary Clinton defeats Bush's Republican heir in 2008 and wins reelection in 2012, the republic will have been governed for 28 years by two families -- at which point Jeb Bush can seek blood revenge.

The Deviant

On the Malaysian island of Langkawi, families often feed and shelter children who do not belong to them. Potomac Man has a similar notion of "fictive kinship," defining family not by bloodlines but by political party. This is because Homo politicus sees his own survival as dependent on the survival of his party.

So Potomac Man is surprisingly tolerant of those who deviate from his social norms -- as long as that person is a member of his political party. On the Republican side, Ron Paul would legalize prostitution and drugs and opposes the Iraq war, but his fellow partisans keep him on the stage in debates because they need his fellow libertarians to vote Republican in November. Likewise, Rep. Dennis Kucinich says he has seen a UFO -- but Democrats tolerate his deviance because they need his far-left backers.

The best example of Potomac Man's legendary tolerance is


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity