Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Eric Cantor, the One Ring of Power, and my Virginian High School

Part One

Once upon a time, I attended the The Collegiate Schools in Richmond, Virginia, a somewhat prestigious private high school in the region. We had a number of people from Virginia society in our school, or their children at least, as well as some well-established outsiders. I propose to describe something about this High School because it affects all of us as citizens of this country.

You may ask, why would Michael's High School be important to all of us as citizens?

Because Eric Cantor is now the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives in Congress and Eric went to Collegiate. 

And Collegiate is a somewhat amusing, somewhat peculiar place. It definitely has a culture all its own, and its place in Virginia society.

But first I want to review with you how our imperialist superpower works because you need to understand this to understand why Eric Cantor matters. Although the president gets the helicopters and the airplanes, and gets to say who gets a drone missile up his ass on a day-to-day basis, it is in fact Congress that allocates the money for those missiles and helicopters. And in general, the executive branch abides by the law, most of the time at least, we hope, and those laws must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.

But to bring a bill up to a vote is not a trivial matter, and it requires the machinations and scheming of the two political parties to do so. Every time there is an election, the House and the Senate reorganizes itself into a majority and minority coalition, and each of those coalitions has representatives on the important committees that are preparing the legislation and the budgets. So if the Republicans have a majority of the House, as they do, their representative is the chair of, for example, the House Armed Services Committee. Seniority in the House and Senate also plays a role in determining who can get things done.  The standing committees take the lead in preparing legislation for their branch of Congress, House and Senate, and when passed by the committee it goes to the floor of the House or the Senate for a vote by all the members. (1)  (2) 

the smoke filled room

So the House and the Senate are each a complicated network of smoke-filled rooms, each filled with power, self-entitlement, influence, obligations, history, villianry, idealism, and hypocrisy and having been driven mad by power, push each other around with their large software packages, working with great vigor to get nothing done.

But one stands above these smoke-filled rooms whose job it is to coordinate their actions and bring it to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

Eric Cantor is the Majority Leader for the House of Representatives, and Eric went to Collegiate.  The mind reels.

End of Part One

Eric Cantor on Wikipedia

The smoke filled room on Wikipedia


1. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences works in a similar way. The various subsections nominate films in their respective categories, e.g. acting, screenwriting, costume design, film editing, cinematography, etc, but then the entire Academy membership votes on who receives the award that year.

2. If you think about each of those representatives and senators having constituents, each with their own strongly held beliefs, and multiply out the different agendas, then it becomes clear that most bills in Congress must be wild compromises almost by definition to "get out of committee".   Thus, having a major party that does not compromise throws a wrench into the system like you would not believe.

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