I’m well aware that the term contrapuntal is reserved almost exclusively for the field of music. It describes two tunes or melodies which are played at the same time, fighting against each other. To oversimplify it, it is as if you are playing “Mary had a little lamb” with your left hand on a piano and Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” theme with your right hand. It might make for an interesting composition, but the fact is that the two melodies are competing against each other. To some, it might be jarring. Others might think it to be clever.
Well, I want to take the concept of contrapuntal to another whole level. I want to apply it to the realm of American politics, 2013. That probably doesn’t surprise you, but some might be intrigued how I’m going to make the word work for me in this conversation.
The inspiration for this idea came from listening to the rather terse dialogue that took place yesterday in the Republican Party. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, had just finished his nearly 24 hour harangue in the Senate. Some called it a filibuster, but it didn’t really fit the definition. There was a prescribed ending to the period of time he could speak, and it wasn’t really aimed at ending a piece of legislation that was on the floor. He was hoping to influence his fellow Republicans to refuse to allow funding for Obamacare to continue if there was to be an approval of the increase in the federal debt and indebtedness. Both are on the line. The Republican-led House of Representatives had already approved legislation doing exactly what Cruz wanted, and now it was being considered for a vote in the Senate.
Everyone knew that the Democrats in the Senate would not allow this to happen. And President Obama had alread said that if such legislation came to his desk he would veto it.
But the reactions from Cruz’s fellow Republicans was not anticipated…at least not in its volatility. Leaders of the party spoke out against Cruz and even some of his more conservative colleagues denounced his harrange. Some found it embarrassing; others found it irrelevant.
I found it to be contrapuntal.
The Republicans have a party line, and yes, for most of them the issue of rescinding Obamacare is on the list. But the idea of fussing with the debt incrase or the budget…at least in this way…was not on their agenda. There is a great concern among Republicans that if they push too hard on these issues it will affect their plan for the 2014 elections. If there is ever a chance for Republican agenda items to reach fulfillment, it requires a successful 2014 election. Too much animosity (such as there has been for several years!) will paint the Republicans in a bad light.
Listening to the national news last night was like a contrapuntal piece of music being played. It caused the listener to bounce back and forth between Senator Cruz and his detractors. On one hand there were some claiming that Cruz was setting himself up for a 2016 presidential bid. On the other there were some (including powerful Republicans) who were including language like “fool” and “clown” in their commentary. It didn’t sound much like an endorsement for the presidency.
I like this use of the word contrapuntal. It describes the situation in a way that one can really get the picture of what was happening. I’m sure I’m not the first to use the word in this capacity. But it felt like an original thought to me. I like that feeling.
BPhoto Credit: Coveyclip