A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Okay, you won the election — mostly. You took the best Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann and the girls on The View could throw at you and you won. You beat the elites. You’re dancing in the streets. Hold it! Stop! Alto! You didn’t do anything. Despite whatever you folks were telling each other last night in the euphoria and the moonlight, this is the morning after, so let’s all get outta bed and go catch the reality bus. Last night was an off-year, off-speed, mid-term election. People are angry. The country is in the middle of one of the worst recessions (dare I use the D-word) in history, and just about everybody has taken it in the goonies. And besides all that, 2008 and Obama’s coattails served you up a Democratic majority in Congress that had no business being there. So, if you hadn’t won last night — and won big — we’d all be writing the eulogy and digging the hole by now.
But before you start doing the happy dance and repainting the Oval Office just in time for 2012, let me let you in on a little secret: Barack Obama wasn’t running for office in 2010. He was likely sitting at home, in the White House, watching the results on his presidential big screen TV — and so were his troops. There’s a room full of boring CNN stats that prove this, but here’s the only one that matters. In 2008, 126.4 million people voted; in 2010, only about 95 million did. Duh! The kids saw the avalanche and stayed home. They’re not going to make that same mistake twice.
“But we’ve won a great victory,” you say. “We must keep up the pressure,” you say. “We must march on the White House and beat those champagne glasses into beer mugs,” you say. ”No retreat! No Compromise!”
History teaches us something different. In 216 BCE, Hannibal won a great victory over the Romans at Cannae. The road to Rome was open. His Nubian cavalry could have been there in a day – two, at the most. His generals urged him to march. Hannibal wisely turned away. He knew if he took his war elephants to the walls of Rome, they would be useless, and he would be trapped and annihilated. This isn’t just a cute story. If the pissed-off and the profane take these Republican war elephants to Washington and try to fight the campaigns that are coming up between now and 2012, they’re going to be trapped and annihilated. The bottom line is this: it’s politics — not righteousness — that’s going to carry the day – and politics starts this morning. This means that — angry or not — the Republican caucus better quit being indignant and start working with the Democrats. If they don’t, and Congress goes into cardiac arrest early, they’re the ones who are going to be hit by the Blame Train — not Barack Obama.
Right now, we’ve all been invited to a tea party and Sarah Palin’s pourin’. But just in case you didn’t notice “You betcha” is not a policy statement! If Palin drags this crowd into the race for 2012, she might make it through the primaries, but in a national campaign? Jon Stewart, Barbra Walters and the New York media are going to eat her alive — just like Katie Couric did last time. They are going to make her look like The 3 Stooges — except this time she’s going to be 2 Stooges short.
There’s no doubt that this president is all hat and a teleprompter. But you don’t go from After Dinner Speaker to the White House in 4 years if you don’t know what you’re doing. People are learning that Barack Obama just isn’t a very good leader but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good politician. Don’t confuse the two. He can and will rally the team for 2012, and all those folks sitting on the sidelines this year are going to get back in the game. Remember: 58% of voters under 30 still think Obama is the best thing since Bill Clinton, and young people prefer Democrats by over 20%. These people aren’t angry; they’re not frustrated; and they don’t give a damn how much money the champagne socialist elite throw at the economy, healthcare or each other. They just think the Tea Party is a collection of knuckle-dragging racists who have the misfortune of being old. You, me, Fox News and Harry the Talking Penguin can call them irresponsible, immature or even imbeciles. It doesn’t matter. They vote: Obama wins. It’s that simple.
The Teabag people and their allies better temper their message right now or run the risk of being just another bunch of Glenn Beck whiners on the road to obscurity. It’s one thing to seize power; it’s another to use it, and use it properly. Like it or don’t, the American people (some of them anyway) have said “Put up or shut up!” Now it’s time for these new Republicans to, first of all, learn how to govern — so America can dig itself out of the mess it’s in. And secondly, think up a coherent plan to take back the White House in 2012 — so the sinkhole doesn’t swallow them up again. If it’s Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, so be it. But they’re going to need more than outrage and a loudspeaker, or they’re going to end up with nothing.