Wowee zowee. It's going to be a busy year for Democrats. According to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the more financially successful of our two major political parties will hold a series of hearings to investigate not only President Trump's treatment of the media but his administration's relatively robust anti-trust policy as well.
Nancy Pelosi, the once and future speaker of the House, wants to be clear that this is not an "investigation for a political purpose, but to seek the truth." Right.
What is "the truth" here, I wonder? That Trump has used his considerable prudential authority to decide that certain reporters and media outlets — Jim Acosta of CNN, for example — will not have in-person access to the White House for a period of time. This is how democracy dies, no doubt. Is that worth an investigation? I can think of one or two reasons why this might have happened, ones that might resemble President Obama's reasons for blacklisting Fox News and harassing — and even prosecuting — newspaper reporters.
Meanwhile, on the shoring up the rights of monopolists front, the premise behind Democrats' position is that it is the duty of American taxpayers to use the perpetually insolvent U.S. Postal Service to increase Amazon's stock price and that suggesting that a company with that much cash might be able to pay slightly more for its outsized use of a public utility is beyond the pale. Then there is the question of the Justice Department's handling of the AT&T Time Warner merger. Schiff is worried that certain political considerations, rather than a commitment to the enforcement of anti-trust law, might have influenced the decision of the Justice Department to oppose the conglomeration of a multi-media communications empire and a telecom giant that just happens to be the single largest contributor to his political campaigns. Those pesky politics, getting in the way of business since 1890.
This is not to suggest that Trump's motivations are pure. He obviously resents The Washington Post and wants to punish its billionaire owner. But it does not logically follow that Amazon is a blameless victim whose profits should continue to be subsidized by the American people. Policing anti-competitive practices is still a good thing, even if Trump is the one taking it up after two administrations of rubber-stamping. And there isn't anything mysterious about the idea of the White House shutting out journalists from whom it expects uniformly negative coverage, certainly nothing that requires the valuable attention and considerable resources of the House of Representatives to root out.
What will actually come of these proceedings? Ask Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is retiring from the House after holding on to his seat for two decades. (His would-be successor lost to a Democrat.) For nearly half a decade, Issa, whom Trump has nominated to head the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, went after the IRS for its alleged targeting of conservative non-profit groups, held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to admit that he had masterminded a narco-terrorist plot to arm the world's most dangerous drug cartels, and insinuated that the murder of American diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, Libya, had been covered up by Hillary Clinton. It was exhausting, expensive, and pointless.
The same thing will be true of Post Office-gate, AT&T-gate, Acosta-gate, and any other gates bored Democrats decide to crash in the next two years. They will have the undivided attention of The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and even a few progressive outfits whose editorial staff should know better while Fox and National Review patiently — and hypocritically — explain their grasping insignificance. Yawn.
Don't get me wrong. For Democrats whipping up outrage on behalf of the rights of the world's wealthiest corporations and white-knighting for self-righteous journos is a brilliant strategy. It is also a nearly perfect expression of the party's identity in 2018. That's why they are winning big in districts within 20 miles of a Whole Foods and losing to Republicans in the poorest counties in America. Democrats are the party of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, elite opinion, higher education, and the tediously amnesiac consciousness of half the country, the half that, as Hillary Clinton helpfully explained in 2017, is enjoying all the benefits of economic growth, investment, development, and stock market gains. They're looking out for their base here.
Three trends have defined American politics in the last 40 years: the break-up of the post-war economic consensus about a mixed economy, the increasing irrelevance of Congress to policymaking, and the proliferation of presidency-defining "investigations" by opposition parties. Does anyone now remember the details of the Valerie Plame affair or care about whether the Clintons cheated in the commodities market some time between Perestroika and the world's introduction to Sonic the Hedgehog? The only feature of these investigations more characteristic than their supposed world-historic significance is the speed with which they are forgotten afterward.
In 2018 no one is trying to stage citizens' arrests of Karl Rove or prove that Obama's secretary of state personally arranged for the slaughter of American diplomatic personnel at the hands of ISIS. In seven or eight years, after Time Warner and AT&T's merger has been confirmed by the Supreme Court and CNN's ratings have returned to pre-Trump levels and Jeff Bezos is fast approaching a trillion-dollar net worth, no one will remember next year's show-boating pseudo-investigations either.