Sunday, November 02, 2008

I am not worried about Election Day

About a week ago, I moved on to worrying about what happens after.

We face astonishing problems. The scale of the missed opportunities and bumbling mistakes and grave moral sins our nation has committed since 2000 boggles the mind. When I think back to how America felt in 1999, when I was graduating from college, how full of thrilling promise and possibility, and when I consider where we are today, I wonder if some colossal prank has been played upon me by the universe. Welcome to adulthood, boy; now watch this bright and shiny world of your youth rust and rot with corruption from top to bottom.

So, eight years later, here we are. But where is that? On the net, I see pictures and videos of massive cheering crowds; everywhere I read of hope, and a barely contained undercurrent of relief, sometimes exultation. Suppose that the election goes as all these people wish. What's going to happen, really?

In all likelihood, the Democrats will hold not only the Presidency, but both houses of Congress. And K Street and Wall Street have seen this coming for some months now. Meanwhile we see the Republican Party both discredited and divided against itself, abandoned by virtually all those who would provide it either the moral fiber or the intellectual rigor to reform itself. I suspect it will be a long time in the wilderness for Republicans.

And far from being exultant, I am stone cold sober about what this means. It means that anybody who wants to have power or influence for the next few electoral cycles already knows that they need to get close with the Democratic Party. It means that the fate of the nation will hang on how well the Democratic Party's immune system neutralizes the parasites drawn by that power: the legions of influence-peddlers, along with amoral narcissists of all stripes burning with ambition and nothing else. Does this make you optimistic? If so, you haven't been paying attention to Congressional Democrats for the past two decades.

Meanwhile, consider what will happen to the Republican opposition. For nearly half a century, the plutocratic Republican leadership has been carelessly cultivating the jingoistic, theocratic, and crypto-racist elements of American society for political advantage. What has emerged is a stupid, snarling, egotistical beast, twenty-odd percent of the electorate that is confused, bitterly angry, fearful of change, utterly disconnected from reality, and boastful of a national patrimony that it sees as exclusively its own. I find it hard to imagine what this beast will become as increasing political marginalization and economic upheavals feed its resentment. The twenty percenters will not shrivel up and die; they will stew in the juices of their rage. How will that rage transform them?

All in all, I fear that we will soon witness some truly ugly times in American politics, of which the current campaign is only a foretaste.

Now, my fears are not predictions. I'm merely stating possibilities. I still hope that all my anxieties are misplaced. But nonetheless these are the anxieties that plague me. If you're worried about the election, put those worries aside; they're hardly worth the trouble. Far bigger potential problems lurk beyond it.

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