Not so long ago, I was calling such dire predictions nonsense. After all, the Republican Party has offered nothing of substance in terms of policy proposals to explain why they deserve to be allowed back into power. The Tea Party insurgency on the GOP's right flank has knocked off a number of very electable Republicans in primary races all over the country and replaced them with candidates with views so extreme as to make Dick Cheney look measured and reasonable by comparison.
More to the point, I simply refused to believe that the American people in general could possibly be bumfuzzled enough to forget how bad things were in this country not even two years ago due to the pestilence of Republican rule. I couldn't imagine that the very people who have been suffering the economic consequences of that pestilence, who suffer it today and will suffer it tomorrow, could be damnfool enough to let the wolves back into the yard.
Well, if the prophesies of the "mainstream" news media are as self-fulfilling as they appear, the damnfool bumfuzzles are gearing up to rule the day on the first Tuesday in November. As astonishing as it may sound, the very people who have been getting ruthlessly and deliberately pummeled by the politicians and policies of the GOP are, by all reports, preparing to deliver an axe into the hands of the very headsmen who put them on the chopping block in the first place for fun, profit and power.
I'm sure there are plenty of explanations for why this appears to be happening; political scientists, sociologists and scholars of abnormal psychology will have a field day parsing the whys and wherefores of this phenomenon if the deal does indeed go down. In the end, however, I think Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post got closest to the bone last week in a column titled "The Spoiled Brat American Electorate." In it, Robinson wrote:
According to polls, Americans are in a mood to hold their breath until they turn blue. Voters appear to be so fed up with the Democrats that they're ready to toss them out in favor of the Republicans - for whom, according to those same polls, the nation has even greater contempt. This isn't an "electoral wave," it's a temper tantrum.
In the punditry business, it's considered bad form to question the essential wisdom of the American people. But at this point, it's impossible to ignore the obvious: The American people are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats.
The nation demands the impossible: quick, painless solutions to long-term, structural problems. While they're running for office, politicians of both parties encourage this kind of magical thinking. When they get into office, they're forced to try to explain that things aren't quite so simple -- that restructuring our economy, renewing the nation's increasingly rickety infrastructure, reforming an unsustainable system of entitlements, redefining America's position in the world and all the other massive challenges that face the country are going to require years of effort. But the American people don't want to hear any of this. They want somebody to make it all better. Now.
Chalk it up to the vagaries of the ceaseless revolutions of the 24-hour news cycle. Everything proffered by the "mainstream" news media comes in instantaneous fashion, and their screaming in-the-minute coverage of epic, long-term dilemmas ably serves to create the kind of dull-witted, memory-deficient angst that leads people who have been badly screwed to volunteer for a whole new round of screwing. Chalk it up to fear, to impatience, or to the fact that the GOP and their media allies are Jedi Masters when it comes to crafting political messages that appeal to the gut while being a shortcut to thinking at the same time.
Chalk it up to whatever you like, but unless the political pundits in the "mainstream" and independent media are pulling the 21st century version of "Dewey Defeats Truman," this electorate appears to have every intention come November of hanging itself with its own hair like Rapunzel when the Prozac runs out, and it is, frankly, sickening to contemplate on any number of levels. Mr. Robinson's use of words like "brats" and "tantrum" may be harsh, but it is hard to say he is wrong.
Contemplating all of this is hard enough on the soul and the stomach by itself, but amazingly enough, it gets worse. A new poll was released on Wednesday by Democracy Corps that, quite simply, makes me want to eat my own teeth. It re-re-re-reports the oft-repeated "generic ballot" refrain, i.e. in these upcoming midterm elections, a generic Republican leads a generic Democrat by a seemingly insurmountable margin. But within the layered questions in this poll, there is a data point that literally makes me want to throw up on myself. According to Democracy Corps' survey of "drop-off voters" - a term referring to those who voted in 2008 but are unlikely to vote in 2010 - the Democrats are finally and disgracefully in the lead. By a margin of 47% to 40%, Democratic voters are more likely to refuse to show up at the polls in November, despite everything that is at stake.
47%? I don't even begin to know what to say. Perhaps there is something in the genetic makeup of Democrats and liberals that makes being in the minority an irresistibly attractive option. I can understand that. Being in the minority in politics is easy; you aren't responsible for anything, because it's the other guys who have all the power, and so you can stand on your soapbox and be unbending in your "resistance" without having to deal with pesky nuisances like leadership, compromise, or long-term goals. Perhaps 2008 was nothing more than a temporary power trip for a bunch of self-righteous ego junkies who felt like they needed to be on the winning team after eight years of George W. Bush, but who cannot now stomach the realities of majority control, because it might tarnish their so-called liberal credentials.
I know this much: anyone - be they straight-line Democratic, liberal, progressive, Left or what have you - who believed the election of 2008 would be the final cure for all that ails this nation and this world needs to find another hobby besides national politics. Because if you thought 2008 and Obama would fix everything - in two years! - then politics is just that to you: a hobby, a masturbatory exercise devoid of context or comprehension that makes you nothing more than cholesterol clogging the arteries of progress.
"Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards," said German sociologist Max Weber. "It takes both passion and perspective." At this point, it appears that far too many Democratic and liberal voters in this country - 47%? Seriously? - have plenty of passion, but little perspective, and the word "strong" describes them not at all when it comes to dealing with the political difficulties of the day. Could the Democrats in Congress do better? Yes. Should they do better? Yes. Should the same be said for President Obama? Certainly, yes. Is that reason enough for 47% of Democrats and liberals to sit on their hands in November and deliver the nation back to the very people they supposedly would oppose with all their might? If your answer to that question is also "Yes," then shame on you.
If Democrats and liberals are incapable of summoning the will to keep these right-bent fiends out of power after the eight-year demonstration of what they're about that we just endured, then they don't deserve to be anywhere near political power at all. Obama has not fulfilled our hopes and aspirations, and has in several cases betrayed them egregiously. The same can surely be said for Democrats in Congress. But if you've allowed yourself to forget how bad things can truly become, then do the nation and the world a favor and follow my advice: find another hobby, and take with you with the 47% who share your lack of conviction. The rest of us will do our best to take up the slack, and God help us all if November turns out as badly as is predicted.
You can do that, or you can suck it up and dig in. There is no alternative.