Darwin didn’t see this much evolution on the Galapagos.
Sean Hannity is evolving. Dean Heller is evolving. Even Harry Reid is evolving.
Hannity, whose FOX scripts often seem written by the Republican National Committee, now says he sees the need for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Heller, who sneered about Obamacare and the president’s economic plan, now marvels at how Barack Obama connects with the middle class. And Reid, who all but said a President Romney’s agenda would be dead on arrival in his house, now is hopeful both sides can work together.
You don’t need an anthropology degree to pinpoint the origin of this moderation by the political species exemplified by that trio but encompassing many phyla below. This isn’t the slow development of opposable thumbs; you could see this evolution happening in real time.
The watershed moment came the morning of Nov. 7, when Republicans and Democrats awoke to a brave new political world, one in which demography threatened the GOP’s viability and a House unchanged prevented Democratic hegemony.
Republicans were warbling Mermanesque tunes: “There’s no people like Hispanic people like no people I know. Everything about them is appealing, especially if we can get their votes.”
Can you hum a few bars? Hannity sure can, as will many other GOP leaders, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, promising a comprehensive immigration reform package.
Meanwhile, Harry “No Budgets” Reid, who spent most of the election cycle bludgeoning Mitt Romney on his phantom tax returns and pummeling Republicans for blocking legislation, suddenly is talking about working with both sides. No one does this kind of metamorphosis better than Prince Harry, who can play the role of attack partisan or bipartisan dealmaker with equal aplomb, hardly missing a beat.
Mr. Hyde, it seems, was left behind on the campaign trail by Reid, now presenting his best Dr. Jekyll as he has to deal with the same speaker named Boehner. Reid's rhetoric was echoed by President Obama today, who crowed about his victory in muted tones but talked about reaching out to Republicans, even tossing in a few kind words for Romney.
And so, the week after the election, the clouds of despair over Washington have cleared. It is a new day. Let the sun shine in.
Of course, this kind of obvious calculation, resisted by some thinkers in both parties, only cements the cynicism that courses through the electorate. Few take these post-election conversions seriously, knowing these actors will soon revert to type.
And, sure enough, by the end of today, Graham was joining John McCain in all but accusing the president of high crimes and misdemeanors on Libya. And Reid was issuing a news release accusing the Republicans of appeasing special interests over national security by blocking cyber security legislation.
Darwin might have been puzzled by this blazing evolution and equally fast devolution. But veteran political anthropologists have a name for it: Natural deception.