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In Defense of Abby Broyles

If calling a bunch of annoying teenagers names is beyond the pale, then we are much further down the road to ruin than even I had guessed.

Last week our city water was yellow again. This has been an issue on and off for several years now, and the days when the city pretended that it was because of unscheduled hydrant flushing are long gone. No one really knows what is happening. The staff at the regional “underground” newspaper are too lazy or too stupid to do anything except solicit comments from a city official, who assures us that it is quite safe to drink. That’s not nothing, of course: In dozens of attempts, I have never even gotten the water treatment people to pick up the phone during business hours.

My wife has been more fortunate. After she left a comment on the city’s Facebook page last week, a helpless-looking functionary appeared at our front door, explaining that the problem was chlorine chipping away at the ancient iron pipes, leading to the significant discoloration. This, he assured us, did not meaningfully affect its potability, but he expressed his sympathy and even offered to turn our meter off for a few days so that we could enjoy the icteritious liquid to our heart’s content (e.g., in dyeing all of our sheets the color of Marlon Brando’s face in Apocalypse Now). We politely declined, and instead we are decamping to another part of Michigan for a much-needed family vacation (a working one for Papa, alas).

I mention all of this not only because the hilarious admixture of incompetence spread across all of the relevant institutions—from elected officials and their technocratic lackeys to the self-aggrandizing fools who pretend that their job is to make the previous two groups “accountable”—is a more or less representative picture of how local government in America functions today, but because I would like to blame something else on the water: For the second time in as many weeks I have found myself paying close to attention to Congress.

Specifically what has caught my attention is the story of Abby Broyles, a Democrat running for a House seat in Oklahoma who made headlines after it was reported that she “verbally accosted [sic]” several teenagers at a sleepover being held at the home of a friend. According to a liberal journalism nonprofit not unlike the one that can’t figure out what is wrong with our water, Broyles spent the evening drinking wine in her friend’s kitchen, making TikToks with the kiddos and calling them names like “acne fucker” while they all watched Titanic. She also puked at least twice, once in a laundry basket and once on another guest’s shoes.

You can probably imagine where this is going. The Daily Beast is calling Broyles “deranged.” She is being accused of having “verbally and emotionally abused” the teenagers in question because she called them “judgy” after they refused to sleep with a blanket she had previously employed for cleaning up spilled booze and insisting that they would never be as “successful” as she is. Meanwhile, Broyles, after being caught trying to deny that she had been at the party in the first place, is blaming the medication she was on at the time and making vague references to “stress and anxiety and insomnia.”

This is why we can’t have nice things. If calling a bunch of annoying teenagers names, especially after you have had a lot to drink, is beyond the pale, then we are much further down the road to ruin than even I had guessed. In my own not-so-remote childhood, hearing the father or mother of one of my friends drunkenly refer to me as an ingrate because I demurred at snuggling up with boozed-soaked linens would not have ranked among even the 500 most agonizing experiences (though it would probably have been among the most amusing).

Here in the heartland, this kind of thing is still a time-honored tradition: After watching the refs hand Michigan State their only meaningful victory of the season and seeing my own (very small) children off on their trick-or-treating adventures with their grandmother, I spent last Halloween drinking beer on my front porch with the lead male cantor of my parish choir, exhorting the 16 and 17-year-olds who showed up dressed as various Japanese cartoon animals to get a job. When I was their age, at the onset of the Great Recession, I would have walked over broken glass to make half of what any of them could flipping burgers and would have purchased an entire bag of Tootsie Pops (or, more realistically, an entire log of Skoal from the gas station that didn’t check IDs, but de gustibus, etc.). At the very least, they should have enough self-awareness to realize that if, despite being legally eligible to drive, they have nothing better to do with their time on a Saturday evening than put on anime elf ears and demand children’s treats from their neighbors, a bit of mild heckling is probably in order.

Much to its credit, the Oklahoma Democratic Party is refusing to put its thumb on the scale. As the state party chairman told the Daily Beast, “Regarding the party’s stance on Ms. Broyles candidacy, the party is not in the habit of running candidates off. Should Ms. Broyles continue in her pursuit of Oklahoma Congressional District Five, the party will not get in her way.”

Thank goodness for that. An America in which someone like Broyles cannot represent the good people of Oklahoma in Congress seems like a very dreary place. And the fact that she is forced to invent absurd excuses rather than acknowledge the truth about what amounts to an ultimately harmless evening of one-sided embarrassment is a serious obstacle to the “female empowerment” promoted by Broyles during her campaign. If, as Hillary Clinton has been reassuring me for virtually my entire adult life, women are just as qualified to reduce the Middle East to a pile of rubble as men are, surely they are equally capable of getting lit up occasionally and taking the piss out of the neighbor kids.



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