Like everything else that goes on in Washington, the perpetual reruns of the government-shutdown circus are nothing more than diversions. But to anyone addicted to phony drama, “debates” over “stopgap funding measures” and raising the debt ceiling to avoid government shutdowns are like watching the Super Bowl.

What’s good about these theatrical debates is that they shine the spotlight on just how weak-kneed and unprincipled politicians are as a result of their insatiable thirst to hang on to the good life that membership in the Capitol Hill Mafia affords them.

We’ve seen this spinelessness on display in issue after issue – Roe vs. Wade, the Iraq War, global warming (now known as “climate change”), gay marriage, amnesty for illegal aliens … the list goes on and on.

Of course, just in case a politician’s words come back to haunt him at a later date, his ace in the hole is the old reliable flip-flop. To be a respected member of the Capitol Hill Mafia, one has to be able not only to change his stance on an issue quickly, but to do so with a totally straight face.

Who in the world would be taken in by all this flip-flopping, weak-kneed silliness? Most Americans! Why? Because they are intensely interested in the answer to only one question: “If I vote fer ya, whataya gonna gimme?”

Hey, it’s what we call democracy – at least democracy in its sunset stage (or should I say on stage?) It’s also what prompted H. L. Mencken to describe an election as “an advanced auction of stolen goods.”

Of course, if government’s powers were restricted to those specifically set forth in the Constitution, lack of principle would become a moot point. For example, the details of a “crisis” on the other side of the world would be irrelevant if the government was not able to usurp the power to use your tax dollars to roam the earth and stick its nose in other people’s business.

This is true whether such snooping involves invading foreign countries with bombs or invading them with humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid is a wonderful thing, but it should be left to humanitarians. In case anyone has bothered to notice, the Founding Fathers never put anything about humanitarian aid (or thousands of other activities today’s politicians engage in) in the Constitution.

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What we need in Washington today is a modern-day Socrates. Socrates may have been shortchanged when they passed out good looks, but he was handsomely endowed with principle. He was a rare man who stayed true to his convictions even in the face of death.

Socrates would not do anything he did not believe to be right, regardless of what was at stake. His chief interest was the pursuit of virtue and truth. And then, as now, truth was abhorred by those in power, because they were all too aware that truth is not well received by the masses.

The fact that Socrates was a man of conviction and principle irritated politicians no end. He believed that the greatest wisdom is to be aware of one’s own ignorance, and that people who know nothing but believe they know much are fools. Can you imagine what he would think of the members of today’s Capitol Hill Mafia?

Socrates was philosophically, morally and politically at odds with his fellow citizens, and his views did not play well in Athens. If he were running for office today, his handlers would be whispering to him, “Shhh … Soc, cool it or they’ll be bringing out the bucket of hemlock before you know it.”

And indeed they did. The official charge: “corrupting youth by questioning tradition.” Of great importance in this saga is that even after the power holders threw Socrates in the clinker, he could have saved himself by recanting. But he was defiant to the bitter end.

Can you picture a modern-day politician, when being given an opportunity to change his stance or be put to death, saying, “Thanks, fellas, but I think I’ll just stick with my beliefs. Pass the hemlock, please.”

So, Socrates died – but he died with dignity, maintaining the courage of his convictions to the bitter end. He preferred death over the endorsement of B.S. Do you know any politicians today who would be willing to die for their convictions?

Socrates has always been an enigma to historians in that he seemed to be a patriot, while at the same time disagreeing with much of what he saw and heard around him. Socrates was, in fact, a patriot of the highest order, because a true patriot is someone who has the courage to disagree with immoral actions.

In today’s America, if you love the founding principles, why wouldn’t you disagree with the lies, the decadence, and the unconstitutional policies that have metastasized throughout our once-proud culture?

The problem with the United States is not the national debt, the deficit, illegal immigration, or foreign entanglements. The underlying problem with the United States is that politicians are willing to say – and vote for – just about anything in order to maintain their status in the Capitol Hill Mafia.

And so, my fellow Americans, the dramas acted out by politicians in the multiplex D.C. Political Theater live on. But regardless of political-theater to the contrary, the majority in both wings of the Demopublican Party agree on the major, underlying premise that the State has a right to ignore the Constitution. Their differences lie only in how much of the Constitution it has a right to ignore, and to what extent.

Luckily for politicians, a majority of Americans still don’t get this – including many in the conservative media who claim they do. And so long as the D.C. Political Theater dramas continue to dazzle the masses, they never will.

Where is Socrates when you need him?

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