Documentaries of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin often contain film clips from the 1930s and '40s of Stalin's speeches to Communist Party members who would interrupt the oratory with applause that would last 20 to 30 minutes.
The films show party members looking around at each other while they clapped and clapped and the applause would seemingly never end because, as explained in the documentaries, no one wanted to be noticed as the first to stop clapping.
Stalin's intimidation and murderous regime that viciously eliminated anyone the leader felt was disloyal are infamous in the annals of history.
I bring up the applause story today because of the spectacle of Sen. Mike Lee's rally in South Jordan last week.
Now, I am not saying Lee is like Stalin in any way and I am not implying any similarity in their character or governance. Lee is a decent man who, I'm sure, sincerely believes his uncompromising adherence to principle is the proper conduct for a U.S. senator, even though the majority of his constituents disagree.
I make the comparison for one reason: Lee and his tea party cohorts have bought into the idea that a staged hysteria over his policies and actions will mask his misguided attempts to bend government policies toward his will, damaging the country and crippling his own popularity.
Lee's approval ratings in Utah have plummeted since he led a fight to defund President Obama's health care reform that forced a government shutdown.
So rather than second-guess his own role in that debacle and consider a better way to change a law he doesn't like, he manufactures a false image of immense popularity for himself.
Like I said. Lee and Stalin are nothing alike. But they share the tactic of staged adoration that places show over substance.
The same goes for Lee's partner in demagoguery, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He staged a similar rally in the Lone Star State after he and Lee failed to stop Obamacare with their budget holdup tactics and were harshly scolded by members of their own party for hurting the country and damaging the Republican brand.
So how do they react to that criticism? They gather their sycophants and play like they are idols.
Cruz' rally in Texas began with a staged eight minute standing ovation, as though the rest of the country would be fooled into believing that showed some kind of groundswell populous support.
Then Lee comes along with his rally and the order to the few hundred supporters urged to attend is to start the event with a 10-minute ovation beating Cruz by two minutes.
Now the attendees of the Cruz and Lee rallies didn't have to fear for their lives if they stopped clapping like the Communist Party flunkies did at the Stalin carnivals.
But it was still a charade and a disingenuous attempt to create a false image through carefully manipulated theater.
The orchestrated applause was to make it appear Lee and Cruz are wildly popular with the masses when, indeed, they are not.
These two U.S. senators embody a trend in modern politics that show is more important than tell.
In other words, don't worry about doing the hard work of negotiating and persuading to get to a meaningful consensus. Just create a pretend scenario and everyone will think you have succeeded at something.
Lee and Cruz didn't fool anyone. The problem is, they think they did. So they'll keep treading on the same silly and destructive path that got us in the shutdown mess in the first place.