Why American Politics Has Finally Jumped the Shark

It all started with the USA PATRIOT act.

Do you remember where you were on 9/11? Most of us do. Wrapped up in the fear and panic of that most terrible of days was a sense of unity, of national pride in the way we all banded together in the face of tragedy—whether in the streets of Manhattan and Washington, D.C., or comforting friends and neighbors in some neighborhood tappy. It really made you proud to be an American, even if you’re not generally the flag-waving type.

Do you remember where you were when you learned that the Patriot Act was actually a contrived acronym—the USA PATRIOT Act—and that it stood for “Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism”? Do you remember feeling just a little less patriotic because your government:

a) wrapped a bunch liberty-restricting regulations up in law they may as well have called the USA WITTLE BUNNIES AND KITTENS Act (because, really, it’d be political suicide to oppose either)

and worse

b) had added acrostic fucking poetry to its legislative toolkit?

Yesterday, Nate Silver’s New York Times political blog FiveThirtyEight took a break from its usual data-centric analysis to call attention to the scourge that the USA PATRIOT Act hath wrought: the backronym, or backwards acronym, which has become the de rigeur naming convention for legislation and political action committees (or PACs—see, that’s how an acronym is supposed to work).

FiveThirtyEight’s Micah Cohen trotted out the indignities, both in PACs:

MICHELE PAC, Michele Bachmann’s Many Individual Conservatives Helping Elect Leaders Everywhere
RAND PAC: Rand Paul’s syntactically troublesome Reinventing A New Direction
ERIC PAC: Eric Cantor’s Every Republican Is Crucial

And in legislation:
-HOME: Hardship Outlays to protect Mortgagee Equity Act
-DIAPER: Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery Act.

(Point of information I: The good backrostic poet avoids repeating the poem title in the verse. Remember: You can’t define a word by using that word.)

(Point of information II: Why did the Stop Online Piracy Act fail? Not because it was draconian, but because people insisted on calling it SOPA.)

It’s as if we as Americans simply cannot get behind a law or a movement unless we can feel smugly self-satisfied in doing so (which I believe historians have identified as harbinger of the fall of Rome). Imagine if the Civil Rights Act were actually the Consider Implementing Very Important Legislation Regarding Inequality Getting Humbler Today Act.

But the late age of American politics is nothing if not a slippery slope, and what’s slipperier than hack poetry with a populist bent?

As Obama vs. Romney heats up, here are six political action committees you should definitely (editor’s note: probably not) expect to see in the coming months:

  1. Rights (for) American Citizens Instead (of) Spanish Talkers: RACIST PAC. The xenophobic right would likely not be clever enough to come up with this on their own, but they’d be bigotted enough to wear the mantle with pride. Let’s call a spade a spade, so to speak.
  2. My Income Tax (is) Tiny: MITT PAC. Supporting the inverse of the Buffett Rule (the Romney Rule?), this PAC supports codification and the extreme deepening of the Bush tax cuts for the hyper-rich.
  3. Barack Isn’t Really The Hawaiian Everyone Recognizes: BIRTHER PAC. Yes, this acronym is stupid, but so are its donors. Not to be confused with:
  4. Still Talking Up (the) President’s Identification Document: STUPID PAC. A radical splinter group of No. 3.
  5. Penis Ass Cock: PAC PAC. Yes, at long last, the political action committee for those suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome (and, interestingly, supporters of Rick Santorum).
  6. Womens Rights Overturned Now, Girls: WRONG PAC. The action group for women who find voting stressful and think they make too much compared to their male counterparts. Formerly: ANN ROMNEY PAC.

Have a backronym of your own? Share it in the comments.