Skeletons and Debt Ceilings

Photo by Chris Charles

Few people may know that the body of 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham is propped on a chair in a glass display case at University College London. His fully clothed skeleton and waxen head serve as an eerie greeter to anyone who enters the Student Centre.

Fewer still may know that the motives for Democratic Party leaders displaying the body of Diane Feinstein in the halls of the Senate are far less utilitarian. Nancy Pelosi, when on hiatus from publicly yearning for “a strong Republican Party,” wants Adam Schiff and not the Progressive Barbara Lee to get the seat. All other party officials seem content to place the decrepit condition of one of their eldest elders on the pile of plausible excuses for inaction that currently includes CBO scores, Parliamentarian rulings, the lobbyists on Joe Manchin’s yacht, and just plain running out of time to file motions which they’ll then oppose in court anyway.

In fairness, neither the Democratic Party nor Nancy Pelosi has ever shared Bentham’s core belief that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong,” primarily because the Democratic Party has no core beliefs while Pelosi’s are confined to ice cream, applauding weirdly, theatrically ripping bits of paper, and her stock portfolio (though not in that order).

And while at some point it seems a political party, by definition, ought to stand for something, anyone who has listened to Joe Biden prattle on about deficit reduction as a means of addressing the latest bipartisan-manufactured crisis over the debt ceiling knows there’s a better chance that Bentham’s corpse will stretch its legs.

The problem is that since the dawn of the grifting Clintons, Democrats have found it profitable to err on the side of money. This casual and continuing acceptance of the premise of Reaganism has forced them to craft legislation like predatory lenders. They seek to message a way between decency and their donor base.

But it is well past time to realize that the social compact has utterly imploded and no PayFor or balanced budget will sway people who think life begins at erection and ends at crowning, or consider rock ribbed centrist Republicans such as Chris Coons, Mark Warner and Hakeem Jeffries to be Trotsky, or find Tucker Carlson sincere. If Democrats were a serious party, they would start by permanently abandoning the negotiating style of their great sayer of words, aspiring billionaire Barack Obama, who on any issue of lasting consequence drove himself to the cleaners in lieu of being taken there.

Failing that, Dianne Feinstein’s unfortunate condition is an almost perfect metaphor for the condition of the Party she appears to occasionally represent.  Defiantly unsure of what they are saying they remain openly contemptuous of any who question their right to say nothing. In fact, when Feinstein does finally go to that torpid Senatorial cooling saucer in the sky, Democrats might as well just leave her in her seat for all the difference it will make.

Jerry Long is a writer, actor, podcaster and political satirist who, with his brother Joe, has worked with Adam McKay on numerous projects. He can also be reached at