Preston Xanthopoulos: Politics as bad performance art

I sometimes like performance art. It’s always unique to and dependent upon the actor(s).  Generally, it is making a point, while telling a story for its audience. Performance art can often offer a message that I may disagree with, but I appreciate it as a distinctly creative form of political protest.

Of course, several of the TikTok challenges we’ve witnessed and every episode of “Jackass” is also a form of performance art, and I think they are moronic. But my point is: I’m fine with performance art, I’m just tired of those big marble and sandstone, columned building in Washington D.C. being used as the theaters for it and our elected officials the actors. Don’t they have better things to do?

Alicia Preston Xanthopoulos
Alicia Preston Xanthopoulos

We are inside of six months until a national election and true governance has completely stopped in D.C., in exchange for campaign theatrics on our dime and our time.

This week, the Democrats in the U.S. Senate brought forth a poorly worded and constructed bill with a “vote-winning” title, the “Right to Contraception Act.”  Well, of course we need to protect the right of women’s access to contraception! Do we? Is there actually a threat to access? No, there isn’t and there won't be. This legislation was drafted to put Republicans on record voting against it, which all but two did, so it can be used in campaign ads and materials. It achieved nothing that isn’t already achieved now.  It was worded so loosely it could apply to other things, including abortion medication, and regardless of where one stands on abortion medication, the two issues should never be conflated.

Now, I don't think that was the intention of the Democratic drafters, it’s just the result of whipping together a bill, not to enact a law, but to fabricate an issue to use on the campaign trail. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) admitted such, while denying it before being asked during his press conference immediately after the vote, “Today was not a show vote. This was a show us who you are vote.” I wonder which clever campaign communication staffer came up with that. Sorry, Chuck, it showed us who YOU are. Someone willing to waste our government’s time and energy to plant another “women’s issue” into the campaign playbook.

To be clear, the right to access birth control has been enshrined since 1965 by the Supreme Court.  Those that counter that if Roe V. Wade can be overturned, so can this, well, sure.  But, what lower court ruling is currently making its way through the judicial process that would get to the Supreme Court? Further, even if that were to happen − which it won’t − what states are putting in laws to ban contraception?  Why would they? Therefore, what's the rush, Chuck? The 2024 election.

How about border security? Joe Biden just signed an executive order to slow border crossings. It’s got no teeth, it does very little, and I hate the use of executive orders to simply counter the fact Congress isn’t doing its job, which is what this is. Biden is polling lower on the issue of illegal immigration so he had to do something , so he did this. Theater.

Now, of course, he wouldn’t have had to sign this order if it weren’t that Republicans in the House blocked a bipartisan border deal at the behest of candidate Donald Trump, so that Biden couldn’t get a “win” on the issue. That was quite the performance Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) put on defending that one. What a show! So, now we don’t have border security, but we have a talking point saying the other guy is worse than our guy on border security, so if we are unsafe because of mass border crossings, we’re still unsafe because our elected officials would rather withhold a political win from the opposing party than protect Americans? This script is hard to follow.

There’s more to come. Senate Democrats are proposing “The Right to IVF Act." I think most of us would agree that the right to IVF to assist with pregnancy for those with fertility issues should be allowed, but it already is.  This is “allegedly” based on an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that correctly interpreted the very narrow and arcane language in a law that was written long ago, and the Republican-led legislature has already fixed it and the Republican governor signed the bill into law. So, what’s the problem? Ticket sales must be down or ACT II not written.

Now we’ve got the House Judiciary Committee hauling in Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding investigative materials they have no right to and its chair, Jim Jordan, (R-Ohio) is trying to haul in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg before his committee because he doesn’t like the result of the jury trial against Trump.  None of this is for "we the people." If the “hearing” with Merrick Garland is any indication, if Bragg does show up, it’s just more theatrics. I’m waiting to see if one of the screamers and fist pounders on either side of the debate admit they turn so the camera catches the good side of their profile.

So, we’re in campaign silly season, at the expense of good governance, and, I wouldn’t print the playbill yet — expect more scenes to come before November.

Alicia Preston Xanthopoulos is a former political consultant and member of the media. She’s a native of Hampton Beach where she lives with her family and two poodles. Write to her at

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Preston Xanthopoulos: Politics as bad performance art