If by Whining


OPINION — People sometimes ask me who my favorite politician is, as if everyone has a favorite, the way people have favorite football players, or favorite writers, or favorite actors, or favorite shoes. It seems like a strange question, but in fact I do have a favorite politician. Noah Sweat. He died almost thirty years ago, which is not a bad endorsement for a politician, but that’s not the only reason he’s my favorite. His nickname was Soggy.

Noah ‘Soggy’ Sweat was a judge, law professor, and Mississippi state representative back in the day, but his primary claim to fame is a speech he made before the Mississippi legislature in 1952, when he was only 29 years old, concerning prohibition. Now, prohibition was a pretty controversial subject at the time. Some states had ended it, some hadn’t, some were thinking of ending it, and some were thinking of bringing it back. Or sentiments to that effect. Politicians of that time were often asked for their opinion on the matter, and their answers could make a huge difference at the polls. Prohibition was sort of the immigration issue of the day.

Noah ‘Soggy’ Sweat was a judge, law professor, and Mississippi state representative back in the day.

Noah ‘Soggy’ Sweat was a judge, law professor, and Mississippi state representative back in the day.

Soggy had evidently decided not to run for reelection, and he made his famous speech at the end of his first and only five-year term in office. It’s known as the ‘If by whiskey’ speech. He started by saying he did not shun the controversy, and would therefore present his opinion on the prohibition issue. Here’s the gist:

‘If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children,’ etc., ‘then certainly I am against it.

‘But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes,’ etc., ‘then certainly I am for it.

‘This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.’

And that’s why Soggy is my favorite politician. Most issues fall clearly within or without the Overton Window, but prohibition was controversial. A politician’s stance could get him reelected or fired. Soggy managed to clearly and decisively come down on both sides of the issue. Bless his heart.

Overton Window

Overton Window

The Overton Window, the overriding model of policy change, describes which ideas are politically safe and which are too radical for public acceptance. For example, school lunches for kids is well inside the window, and is a safe thing for pols to endorse. Providing free guns and ammo for motorcycle gangs and Hunter’s crack dealer would probably fall outside the Overton Window, and most reps likely wouldn’t endorse such a plan. But you never know.

The window, though, can be shifted. Sometimes a brave pol will endorse an idea that’s outside the window, and will manage to sway public opinion and gain support for a policy which moves it into the realm of acceptance. Most of the time that fails, though, like when Beto championed violating the US Constitution, federal and state law, and common sense by announcing he wanted to take guns away from Texas citizens. That’s why there’s no Governor Beto. And never will be.

Activism can also shift the scope of the window, as we’ve seen in recent years. Not long ago you’d have better luck getting a chicken to vote for Colonel Sanders than you would getting a pol to endorse opening the southern US border to illegal immigration. People like Chuck Schumer, Barak Obama, and Joe Biden violently supported strict immigration laws. Now that illegal immigration is inside the window, they’re all for opening the gates as wide as possible. As long as none of the immigrants move to their cities, of course.

The window, of course, constantly shifts. Patriotism used to be inside the window, now it’s outside. Stealing used to be bad, now it’s good, as long as the thieves fit a certain demographic. Rioting, looting, and destroying public property has shifted from the no-no column to the OK side, as long as it happens in blue states. And then there’s environmental activism.

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden

The tree huggers and oil haters try to move their agendas into the Overton Window through whining, and they’ve gotten pretty good at throwing tantrums, acting like spoiled three-year-olds, and annoying adults who are attempting to live their lives as responsible citizens and contribute to society. The whiners not only don’t produce anything but problems, they also don’t realize they’re actually causing the rest of us to use more fossil fuel. Bless their hearts, they’re too dumb to pour oil out of a boot with the directions written on the heel.

The problem is that, like a toddler pitching a fit in an otherwise quiet restaurant, the whiners get a lot of attention, especially from politicians so obtuse they think noise is only caused by righteous indignation, and emotions matter as if they were facts. So now, in contravention of all that is good and right and beneficial, supporting environmental terrorists groups like peta and Save the Whales and Earth Liberation Front and Just Stop Oil has become accepted policy, firmly ensconced inside the Overton Window. The ludicrous has become the norm.

PJ O’Rourke once said, ‘Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.’

Maybe we should just spank the whiners and tell them to hush.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who knows you think he’s wrong. He doesn’t care. Write to him at [email protected]

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