OPINION: It is comical to listen to people complain about the loss of reverence in the Legislature, how things were better once upon a time, and how things are so much worse now than they were “back when I was a staffer.” People seem to think that political snark is something new and exciting. It is not. Snark has existed for a long time.
Most recently people have been complaining about Twitter being something that has made society worse because the snark is sometimes anonymous and right out in the open. I argue that it is really just the same snark that existed before, just in a different form.
Alex Vassar, source of all things legislative at the California State Library, shared this quote from Assemblyman Don Allen. Allen said this about the Governor, “If Pat Brown had been a woman, he would have been pregnant every 15 minutes.” That would be quite the tweet.
Even further back in history John Adams, our second president, said, “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two become a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.” He would have gotten some major retweets on that.
Snark has been present in the US Supreme Court for ages but somehow the 2023 term stands out, but it was not on Twitter. Supreme Court Justices do their “tweeting” of snark in the footnotes.
The snarkiest current Supreme Court Justice award clearly goes to Elena Kagan from footnote 2 in the Kagan dissent in the recent Warhol case that was joined by Chief Justice Roberts.
“First, when you see that my description of a precedent differs from the majority’s, go take a look at the decision. Second, when you come across an argument that you recall the majority took issue with, go back to its response and ask yourself about the ratio of reasoning to ipse dixit. With those two recommendations, I’ll take my chances on readers’ good judgment.”
That is quite the snark from a Supreme, but more than 280 characters.
For a reminder on the king of black robe snark, here is Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent on the Supreme Court decision on the legality of Obamacare, “Could you define the market – everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” This would have been an amazing tweet from an amazing legal mind on the subject of healthcare and broccoli.
People at high levels of political success have ways of being able to send a message with words in a way that others can’t.
For those of you still believing that past political leaders would not have been displaying snark the way that leaders do today, think about what Willie Brown, Trice Harvey, Quentin Kopp, or Dick Floyd would have been tweeting 40 years ago. They all would have been snarky and we all would have loved it. 100%.
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies,” according to Groucho Marx. That would have been an amazing tweet.
Matt Rexroad is an attorney and political consultant. He is snarky on X at @MattRexroad.