Now showing: The theater of the absurd

There is a place, ladies and gentlemen, where magic happens.

It is a place where men and women parade around on a stage and recite lines they memorized in their head, and try to make you feel like what they are saying is natural and spontaneous.

A place where people are playing characters for the benefit of a viewing audience in the hopes of attaining fame and applause.

This place is one where the whole story you are seeing play out has been predetermined ahead of time, and the characters you are watching are carrying out that constructed story simply by going through the motions expected of them.

People pay money to see this facsimile of real life happen, and the participants in the presentation of this fiction are paid well for the performance they are playacting.

You might think that I am talking about a group of actors performing a play on a theatrical stage, but I am of course talking about something equally fictitious — our elected officials executing their duties as our representatives in government.

A Senate page brings the first question to presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts  to read during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate on Wednesday. (Senate Television via AP)

It can be quite hard to tell the difference, I grant you. In fact, the only difference I can really identify out of hand is that the audience watching a play knows what they are seeing is fiction, whereas the audience watching politics seems to see it as real.

I grant you that some things our elected officials in Washington do are more genuine than others. When a vote doesn’t threaten the entrenched interests that they fear, or risk producing much backlash, you will occasionally get a lawmaker’s real opinion on something. And I further grant that some lawmakers are more brave than others in taking off their mask from time to time.

But for the most part, what you see when you see a congressman on television is an actor. An actor in the middle of a performance for your benefit.

There is no moral high ground from any one party or ideology, either. They’re all doing it. True, some are more craven about it than others, but everyone is playing to an audience. Everyone.

There is likely no better example of that fact than the current goings on circulating around the impeachment and Senate trial of President Donald Trump.

Every day, I am forced to endure as I listen to countless politicians discussing the impeachment on the news. There are calls for investigations. There are calls for witnesses. There are calls for motions and amendments and procedural votes, and always the justification is the same. “We need to learn more, so we can decide what we believe needs to happen.”

Don’t let them lie to you like this. Don’t you dare fall for it. No one cares what information is gathered beyond the usefulness said information can be to their desire to argue their pre-existing opinion. No one needs to hear anything from witnesses to decide the facts they have already decided on. No one cares what John Bolton might say, or what Hunter Biden did.

The end goal is all that matters to all of them. Democrats want to end the Trump presidency by any means necessary, and view this as a legitimate way of either removing him or damaging him for the upcoming re-election campaign. Republicans want to prevent that from happening, and hurt the Democrats in the process.

That’s it. That’s all you need to know. It is a play, and they are the actors. They have their script, and they are well rehearsed in the delivery of their expected lines. So why any of you even think it is worth watching or following, I will never understand. Nothing you see matters. The outcome is already determined.

Sadly, this observation is nearly universally true. There are only a few people it doesn’t seem to apply to. One of those people is Sen. Susan Collins, who has consistently shown in her career a stubborn willingness to read the script, and throw it in the trash while refusing to take direction from the stage manager.

Such uncooperativeness is unbelievably rare, though, and at the end of the day, you and I are stuck watching the second act of a three act play, whose ending we have all known from the very beginning. Maybe it is time to turn it all off.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.