I've done my level best for some months now to stop obsessively following politics in America. I still think it's important (being that this is the game that determines the shape of the field and the rules of the game we all play by), but I've been trying to concentrate on other things, for the sake of my sanity as well as many other good reasons.
But I still keep my ear to the ground, if for no other reason than that obsessions die slowly, and one thing I keep hearing in the run-up to the midterm elections this November is about the enthusiasm gap between those on the left and those on the right. The story I keep hearing goes something like this: the wingnut right is in ascendance, making lots of noise and getting lots of coverage, because their side lost last time and so they've decided it's the End of Days, and as a result they've gone even crazier (or just gotten louder about it). And since apparently very few of them work they spend a lot of time protesting and driving up Glenn Beck's TV ratings. They hate Barack Obama and everything he stands for, even when he stands for the same things they do, and they're all really excited to go to the polls and elect like-minded ignorami who believe things that are completely crazy, like that doctor visits should be paid for with chickens, that social security ought to be privatized or abolished, and that tax cuts will solve the budget deficit.
On the flipside you've got the left, who're upset because Obama hasn't completely reversed the world-historical fuckups of the Bush Administration and because the political realities of actually governing (especially when the opposition party doesn't negotiate in good faith or actually want government to work) require compromises that are disappointing to them. And apparently many of them are so upset that they are considering staying home en masse come November in order to punish the Democrats for not living up to their dreams and making everything better in the two years or so they've had control of the White House and both Houses of Congress.
Now, I have every sympathy for people who find the Democrats maddening.
They are, in general, hapless, feckless, overly-compromised hand-wringers who've been slapped around so much the past few decades that I'm starting to think they kind of like it. They routinely fail to manifest the integrity to stand by their avowed principles, even when they have both the moral high ground and the numbers to do so. They often give the impression they'd stand to the side trying to have a reasonable discussion with a raging lunatic who was in the process of raping their mother after emptying their liquor cabinet and shooting their dog. It's enough to drive you crazy just watching it happen over and over again.
Believe me, I understand. And there's a part of me that would like to see the Democrats punished for their failures and shortcomings, not least their seeming unwillingness to throw a goddamned punch at their abusers. It would be downright cathartic, and they might even learn something (they wouldn't, but it's nice to think they might).
But here's the thing: politics is not therapy. As much of a game as it appears to be, elections have consequences. Back in 1999, a bunch of folks thought that Al Gore was insufficiently liberal (I might even have been one of those people), and a small but telling percentage of those people voted for Ralph Nader (I was definitely one of those people)*. As a result, we got George W. Bush's Presidency, and I think we all know how that worked out.
And now here we are, heading into midterm election in which several certifiably crazy people are poised to be elected, and the balance of power is poised to shift back over into the hands of the political party who nearly wrecked the country the last time they were in charge. And it's not like they learned any lessons from the disasters they wreaked. Listen to them talk, and they're promising to do exactly the same thing they did before, only with less forethought and more feeling.
Say what you will about Democrats, but they at least have a plan for getting us out of the ditch and back on the right track. It may not be fast enough for some people, and there are some genuine failures that will need to be addressed (probably in an ongoing fashion for many, many years to come). But at the end of the day, you've got to move the ball down the field. The raging right nearly took the whole country down the last time they were in charge; we'll be cleaning up that mess and restoring our honor, integrity, economy, moral stature, and armed forces capabilities for many years to come as a result. Now is not the time to give these people even a little bit of power back. They will not use it responsibly, because the Republican party has been overrun by fucking lunatics.
Tempting though it might be to teach the Democrats a lesson by staying home come November, that warm fuzzy feeling of catharsis will be short-lived when the government grinds to a halt, the economy continues to stall, and the entire business of the House of Representatives becomes a series of competing investigations into Barack Obama's birth certificate, while worthwhile programs and extensions of jobless benefits for teachers, cops, and working people languish in committee and the top 1% of earners get another tax break so more of their wealth can trickle down to bankers in Switzerland and the Caymans.
And to those who think that maybe if it gets bad enough, there'll be a backlash, and the pendulum will finally swing back to the left, all I have to say is this: this is the pendulum swinging back. This moment, right here, right now. And the only way it'll continue to keep moving in the right direction is if all the grownups show up come November and pull the lever for the good guys, even if by good guys I mean the less-bad guys.
And really, that's the crux of it right there. At some point in everybody's life, they realize that they will have to forego present satisfaction for future gain; it's all part of growing up. And sometimes, when presented with a choice between not-great and godawfully horrible, you have to pick not-great, because if you don't, you could end up with godawfully horrible, and even if you didn't pick it and it's not your fault, it's still your problem.
*As for that vote, I cast it knowing that Al Gore would carry Washington with no problems (he was up four or five points in the polls), and I hoped that the Green Party might win five percent of the vote nationwide, which would have opened up all manner of government matching funds and things to them, giving them more of a chance to become players on the national scene, which I believed at the time and continue to belive would be a good thing. As for Ralph, frankly he leaves me cold, and I think he'd be a terrible President.