I THINK I've finally been able to codify the worst thing about one of these Earth-shaking Political Moments of the Moment: they turn the whole friggin' country into Slate.
In the eighteen hours following the close of the Massachusetts polls I've seen: What It All Means, What It Doesn't Mean, Why It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means, How It Might Turn Out to Mean Something Else, What Obama Will/Won't/Might Do Now, What He Didn't Do Then, Why It Kills or Doesn't Kill Health Care, The Amazing Revitalization of The Republican Party, So Recently Deceased, Why Democrats Will Move Rightward, Why They Shouldn't, Why They Shouldn't But Will Anyway, Why "Progressives" Should Be Troubled, Why "Teabaggers" Should, and, my personal favorite, Why The Dems Will Now Focus On Jobs. And that was without trying. Or reading Slate.
The worst thing is not the blather. Hell, if you don't have the means to survive blather in this age you're already dead. It's the demonstrable truth and the justifiable fear that the Blather Congregate, having travelled two or three times around in a massive game of Telephone, returns, misshapen, warty, and indistinguishable from the original to the half-assed observer and becomes Conventional Wisdom emeritus, like the McGovern candidacy, Vietnam, or Melina Mercouri's eyeglasses. Because all of this crap, so seemingly dichotomous, is just the Twitterizing of the CW. The deviation between people who're saying Now Health Care Has Been Teabagged and those who think Now The Democrats Will Act To Distinguish Themselves isn't worth mentioning, even if you think you spot it.
The barking madness of the previous generation becomes the sweet melody of unconventional truth for the next. Sixty years ago, when Richard Nixon defeated his first Commie and embarked on a distinguished career as a Federal officeholder, he won despite, or perhaps because, he and his constituents knew it to be a bald-faced lie; today his rightful heirs think stop signs are a mark of creeping Socialism, and the mass market media doesn't dare laugh, because somebody sent it an angry letter back in 1971. So too the Democrats, who've been eschewing liberalism since 1972 because someone called 'em yellow for opposing 1000 US casualties a week in a military fiasco that was lost before it started. An' besides, the Pope thinks abortion is murder. This would lead to "Progressives", a generation later, eschewing that same liberalism because it was too closely associated with men with porn 'staches.
The loss of a Senate seat is supposed to fucking matter? Has the whole country forgotten that the loss of an actual Senate majority didn't slow the Republicans down one whit in 2001? For damn near forty years the Democratic party motto has been Our Principles Are Sound, But People Throw Things When We Try To Put Them In Action, So Whaddya Gonna Do? After which they passed whatever Defense budget came down the pike at 'em after six hours' debate, with an implicit promise to fund all the really important stuff off the books. Yes, yes: as Jay B has been forced to point out on numerous occasions, the worst Democrat still worthy of the name is preferable to the average Republican. Sure, the gang at Wonkette can call this Defeatism Forever and I'll still love 'em, but then th' fuck's the Democratic party ever done for me in forty years? Or you, unless you work for it? Is it worth the gas money to vote for a 5% improvement in Titanic deck chair arrangements, and a 300% increase in excuse mongering? What use is a "good first step" when the next Teabag President writes it off with a signing statement? (By the way: I've reached the age when I excuse youthful ignorance of history, unless it's displayed as wisdom, but th' fuck did everyone under the age of 35 think was the lesson of the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress? Let alone that, no thanks to themselves, party wigs had been granted a triple-high political biorhythm chart courtesy of George W. Bush--who'd gotten everything he wanted from them before his poll numbers went South and stayed there--being the poster boy for the Disaster of the Naughts, and they still ran--and convinced people--as the Party That's Too Afraid To Be Rude To The Howling Drunks Outside Its Window For Thirty Years Of 4 A.M.s. Also, and this is a bit tardy, but th' fuck was Ana Marie Cox ever a wonk?)
George Romney's political career was destroyed because he used the word "brainwashed" to describe what US leadership in Vietnam tried to pull on him. Gerald Ford lost an election because he said something about the Eastern bloc which, if held up to a broken light bulb in a dark cellar could be made to look like he didn't know what he was saying. George H. W. LS/MFT Bush vomited on a guy. It's interesting to me that the hung-over Barney Frank of the Cold Light of Day has to apologize for what the irate drunken Barney Frank said about health care the night before, when it's the drunk who made sense. I'm with that one, at least philosophically: political cowardice and graft brought us legislation that didn't address the real problem, and then it was car-bombed in the Senate; if some major tectonic shift has taken place as a result, if the Democrats really can't pass legislation with 59 votes, just like they couldn't with 60, well, withdraw the piece of shit and let Republicans do it. And maybe the President could, like, wake-up and announce that Federal monies will be doled out as starvation rations until he gets what he campaigned for. Reagan left office twenty years ago with us on the road to bankruptcy, and he's celebrated for fiscal responsibility; maybe what you say you stand for is more impressive to people that how good a listener you say you are. And in the interim we've seen a continuation of the Strategic Kid/Candy Store Defense Appropriations Synergism and spiraling medical costs which are going to bankrupt us all. In exchange we've created a military which can blow up the fucking Moon but can't defeat a goatherd with $20 worth of explosives and a model airplane controller, and we've got a healthcare system that's the envy of the 18% of the world that has none. How much longer do you think this fucking continues? If the minority holds the whip hand by virtue of shouting the loudest and most incoherently, then let it write the legislation, or drop it altogether. How much worse can it be than "tailor-made to the demands of the insurance industry"? Let employers take the opportunity to stop insuring people, let every tenth middle-class homeowner who hasn't lost his house to financial shenanigans lose it to medical necessity; let's let emergency rooms throughout the country become the only recourse for 70% of the population. I don't say this because I imagine the Teabaggers, or the Republican party, will be rendered sadder but wiser by coming face to face with the logical consequences of their "beliefs". You'd have to be a moran to believe, at this point, that there's any capacity for learning there whatsoever. No. I say this because the United States has become the only island nation in the history of the world that isn't surrounded by water. I say it because our politics is somehow dedicated to preserving what we don't have, and to hastening the return of perpetual serfdom in the name of Ayn Rand, and I say it because I was raised a Christian, and a little part of me still believes your ideals aren't shit unless you've been impaled for them.
Meanwhile, this blog modestly offers a couple lessons for the week which it hopes rearranges the Convention Wisdom in new and exciting ways:
1) Y'know, if a Teabagger can win in Massachusetts, maybe an actual liberal could win in Kansas, say, or Montana, by actually being a liberal. Okay, so maybe not Montana. I'm not an expert. But how many have lost while Not Being Too Liberal For the State in the past forty years?
2) My favorite local pseudo-story has Mike Pence, the Altar Boy of the Indiana Congressional delegation, now pondering a run at Evan "I Surrender, Dear" Bayh in this year's beige-on-ecru Indiana Senate race. Which maybe he will, maybe he won't, but the idea that it suddenly occurred to him after Tuesday's Special Election is like the idea that he'd have never daydreamed about buggering the Pastor's wife except he innocently tried to google up some advice on getting the family organ out his back door. Why in the world does anybody trust a self-aggrandizing Christian when it's obvious right off the bat that his reading comprehension is damn near zero? Anyway, the thing that struck me when I saw the headline was, "Why isn't he running already? If Bayh voting with his 'fellow' 'Democrats' nearly one-third of the time is such a grave threat to the Republic, why aren't you already out there?"
3) Finally, consider that the "Conservative" columnists in the New York Times have both made their bones "opposing" the "radical elements" of their party. Doesn't Brown's victory mean it's time to cashier both, and replace them with "real" "Conservatives", Mr. Keller?
Meanwhile, to reiterate a pledge I made elsewhere, if Uncle Sugar figures out a way to force me to watch a full hour of this Sunday's Meet the Press I will give up al-Qaeda's #2 man in fifteen seconds, tops.