The Facts of Life: “Bipartisanship” in Congress

Well, not really Congress, because what follows is from Anthony Trollope’s mid-1860s Palliser novel, Can You Forgive Her? And in this viciously witty passage, he’s describing Parliament, of course.

But as I read it last night, I was tugged at by one of those clichés which seem to remain truth forever: The more things change, the more they remain the same — in any legislative body, at any time in history, in real life as in fiction.

What do you think?

Parliament opened that year on the twelfth of February, and Mr. Palliser was one of the first Members of the Lower House to take his seat. It had been generally asserted through the country, during the last week, that the existing Chancellor of the Exchequer had, so to say, ceased to exist as such; that though he still existed to the outer world, drawing his salary, and doing routine work, — if a man so big can have any routine work to do, — he existed no longer in the inner world of the Cabinet. He had differed, men said, with his friend and chief, the Prime Minister, as to the expediency of repealing what were left of the direct taxes of the country, and was prepared to launch himself into opposition with his small bodyguard of followers, with all his energy and with all his venom.

There is something very pleasant in the close, bosom friendship, and bitter, uncompromising animosity, of these human gods, — of these human beings who would be gods were they not shorn so short of their divinity in that matter of immortality. If it were so arranged that these same persons were always friends, and the same persons were always enemies, as used to be the case among the dear old heathen gods and goddesses; — if Parliament were an Olympus in which Juno and Venus never kissed, the thing would not be nearly so interesting. But in this Olympus partners are changed, the divine bosom, now rabid with hatred against some opposing deity, suddenly becomes replete with love towards its late enemy, and exciting changes occur which give to the whole thing all the keen interest of a sensational novel.

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