“They suck up and punch down”

The above quote struck me yesterday when it was uttered by conservative pundit David Brooks on his PBS Newshour weekly recap with Jonathan Capeheart. “They suck up and punch down.” What does he mean by that?

Brooks was defining too many politicians who have isolated themselves from others. He was speaking about Andrew Cuomo not having many friends he could call upon to help him in this time of the sexual harassment claims. Brooks noted some aides said Cuomo is acting toward subordinate women as he has always acted.

Brooks noted there are politicians who do good things, but there are too many that isolate themselves. They are good at sucking up (my guess is to donors and more senior officials), but they don’t have as many lateral relationships. This may be due to the lack of working with people across the aisle. It may be due to the elimination of common eating areas for legislators.

Yet, one thing too many do is punch down. They treat subordinates of both genders poorly, which disturbs me as well. I have long detested seeing people treat subordinates or perceived subordinates poorly, while sucking up to others. I added the term “perceived subordinates” as I have witnessed in many organizations someone who became surprised that perceived subordinates had more power than presumed when they put them down. It reminds me of the advice “beware of the quiet one.”

This was one of the many things I did not like about the former president. He sucked up to autocrats and donors and punched down to subordinates, reporters and legislators. One of the best metaphors about the Trump presidency was during a global summit, he was wandering the reception area alone after dinner. Others had grouped together and were not too interested in chatting with him. He eventually wandered over to Vladimir Putin’s table and spoke without an interpreter or aide close at hand. Since Trump is self-described as not a well-read or studious person, Putin likely felt as if he was a spider with a fly in his web.

So, Brooks’ term is interesting. They suck up and punch down. Two characteristics that I detest. And, I don’t think I am alone.

What would happen if…

The Mamas and the Papas sang the lamentation “Monday, Monday.” It is the least favorite day of the week, poor Monday. People do not want to go back to work and the snooze delay on the alarm gets a workout. So, let’s brighten this Monday by asking a few what if questions. What would happen if…

  • All the money used to house, protect, garden, compensate and communicate for royal families with no power was instead used to provide scholarships or housing to people in need. Queen Elizabeth, you have been grand, but your role is not really that needed to run the country and being a ceremonial mascot (as my Political Science professor termed it) is an expense we do not need.
  • Legislators, presidents and other elected officials had term limits. OK, will give you senators and presidents two terms, three for Congress members. And, no lobbying immediately following your tenures. If donors knew there is a time limit on their investment, they may be less inclined to fund candidates. With limited time, the candidates may devote more time to doing their jobs – right now two Senator terms counting twelve years amounts to less than eight years of work given the estimated fund raising time.
  • Fact checkers at a press conference are armed with super-soaker water guns and each time the politician lied more than a little, he or she would get soaked. By the end of one of the former president’s press conferences, he would have one wet suit.
  • Politicians who name call or label folks are sent to a corner to sit in time-out. Ted, go back in your corner. Not that one, that one is reserved for Donald. When you can debate without name calling, we will let you back into the discussion Of course, we may need more corners to rooms.
  • Politicians should be like pro golfers and wear their funders’ logos on their shirts and visors. In fact, they should shed the suits, as that gives the appearance of more gravitas than many deserve by their words and actions. We will then see that said politician is funded by these six organizations. And, none of the euphemistic PAC labelling – tell us who really supports you. NRA, Exxon Mobil, Dupont….

That is enough for now. In my view, the world would be a better place if we did any of the above. It would be more fun and truthful, as well.