Many years ago I read an article in Scientific American that has stuck with me through the years. The thrust of it was as follows: If you want to change someone’s (or a group of someones, e.g., the Republican Party) behavior, the best approach is tit-for-tat. That is, neither the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) nor the silver rule (Do not do unto other what you would not have them do unto you), however noble the sentiment behind them, is particularly efficacious. What works is what you might call the bronze rule (modeling ourselves on the Olympics here): do unto others what they have done unto you. No more and no less mind you. According to that long ago article, this strategy works, and the author, whoever it might have been, made a compelling case.
What brings this to mind is the recent actions of one of the more prominent riders in the Republican clown car:
There is just no way to square this circle. None whatsoever. After witnessing the serious destruction that major flooding just caused in his home state of Texas, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz made an iron-clad promise to his constituents:
“Today, Texans are hurting. They’re hurting here in San Marcos. They’re hurting in Wimberley. They’re hurting in Houston. They’re hurting across the state.
“Democrats and Republicans in the congressional delegation will stand as one in support of the federal government meeting its statutory obligations to provide the relief to help the Texans who are hurting.”
It would be an eminently reasonable assurance to make, if only Ted Cruz were a reasonable man. But he’s not. We all know he’s not. When Hurricane Sandy wreaked even greater damage across the Northeast in 2012, Cruz told his suffering fellow citizens to get bent:
“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington—an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”
Cruz voted against Sandy aid, of course, but now that it’s his own backyard that’s under water—and not some wretched blue states half a country away—he’s all for federal disaster assistance. There’s absolutely no way to reconcile these two stances, even if you were to violate the laws of physics.
via Daily Kos
Now, unfortunately, in situations like this, Democrats and other reasonable people almost reflexively follow either the golden rule or the silver rule, doing unto others what they would like those people to do unto them, even knowing full well that those very people won’t do so unto them when the tables turn. Clearly the wrong way to go. This situation calls for some tit-for-tat. Our congresscritters could be snarky about it, perhaps, and tell the
good people of Texas that they would hate to be complicit in making them compromise their ruggedly individualistic principles and lower them to the level of us addicted to federal funds northerners who still, by the way, manage to export a good deal of our tax money to the go it aloners down South. But they truly needn’t go that far. They could just filibuster the money until Cruz apologizes to the Sandy victims and admits that he was wrong. I would be willing to bet that the next time our region is hit by a natural disaster we wouldn’t be getting any more lectures from Cruz or his ilk. Obama, by the way, could probably achieve this on his own; he could, after all, simply refuse to designate the state as a disaster area until Cruz and Abbot make a request that includes language that amounts to a recognition that they were wrong.
Some might say that it is wrong to punish the people of Texas for the actions of their Senator and governor. At this point the proper response to that is to point out that the people of Texas voted for these people with the full knowledge of where they stood on issues precisely like this. They should be happy to get what they voted for.