Nobody wants another hot take on yesterday’s marginal-yet-special-yet-still-marginal elections, and yet here I am, with a take as hot as a plate of cold fajita meat. Just the same, I use this space to spout off mouthily — or mouth off spoutily? — and so here I am, doing exactly that.
A thousand things vex me about politics today, and that’s right, I said vex, so you know it’s fucking serious. Politics in America is a mess. There aren’t two Americas — there are three, or ten, or twenty, and it’s made all the worse by having only two parties to represent them. (And no, this is not a plea for more third-parties, because at this point, we can’t figure out two of these groups much else accommodate another gaggle of assholes.) The GOP side is — well, listen, I have no idea what’s going on there. I feel like I’m watching a train barrel down one track toward a cliff. A cliff whose valley below is full of biomedical waste and werewolves. They’re doing this all so ineptly, so indelicately, without any awareness or fear. It’s like I’m witnessing adults running around town hitting babies with hammers and we all know it’s happening and we all know it’s bad — and in theory there will be punishment for the baby-whacking monsters, but they seem to be doing it so brashly, so brazenly, that you’re afraid consequences may not be forthcoming? “Who will save those babies?” we ask. “Will anyone demand justice for the hammerstruck children?” And all of us stand around shrugging. “Hopefully? Shit.”
I’ve posited that the GOP either is:
b) compromised / kompromat
d) aware of something we aren’t, like, say, secret vote hacking
e) in possession of a secret moon base to which they will retire
f) some untasty combination of the above flavors
Because they just keep going. They’ve got Trumpcare, which is somehow less popular than anal cankers, and yet they’re like, YEP, WE’RE FUCKING GOOD, WE’RE GONNA PUT THIS OUT THERE AND WE’RE GONNA VOTE ON THIS GURGLING SHIT BUCKET AND I’M SURE IT’LL BE FINE. Further, they continue to tie themselves to Trump again and again, which feels a lot like trying to ride an elderly bison through quicksand. It’s sinking. The old-ass bison is sinking, get off the bison. Get off the bison, you guys. But they whistle and ki-yaa the bison further and further into the muck. Blissfully ignorant.
So, at this point, I dunno what to think about the GOP, except that it’s fucked up and I’m pretty sure at this point they hate us and will rip off their faces to reveal the reptilian Visitors from the ‘V’ TV show. And even there maybe I’m being too optimistic.
On the other side, the Democrats.
The heart and soul of the Democrats are up for renewal.
They need that, some kind of revival.
Problem is, nobody can agree what that means.
Shit, I don’t know what it means. I have no real answers.
Do the Dems move further left? Maybe, but remember, “left” is less a direction and more a gaggle of subjective principles. Bernie is super liberal, until you realize he’s soft on guns and soft on women’s rights and grouses about identity politics, which makes him economically progressive but not socially progressive. So, do the Dems move away from social and identity politics? Sure, if they don’t mind alienating a fantastic chunk of human real estate called everybody who is not white, cis-male, straight. Do they stress Medicare-for-All instead of Let’s-Make-The-ACA-Work? Do they stress Free College despite that sounding like Dreaded Socialism? Where do they focus their efforts? If they move to the middle, to where much of the country reportedly sits, we view them as too milquetoast, too easy, too middling meh bleh poop noise. Do they focus on climate change? It’s essential, mighty essential, because literally nothing else matters if the seas are boiling and the skies are made of lightning, but climate change isn’t sexy, either. “We need to save our increasingly doomed planet” is starting off on a broken foot. Essential as the message is, hey maybe we won’t die, wow, what a sexy-sexy message, god, I’ve got such a voting boner now that I am reminded that we’re sprinting merrily toward our own extinction!
So then, to the soul of the party —
Not the topics, but how they approach those topics —
Do the Dems embrace a more populist approach?
Do they fight dirty?
Do they finally take the low road?
I see that again and again, this plea to the Democrats, do more, do more, fight more, get nasty, break the rules, fuck the system. And I feel that, too. One day I want Kamala Harris to walk into Congress with a shipping container full of bees that she opens like in that essential Oprah GIF (referenced so neatly at the fore of this post). I want them to throw batteries at Santa. I want to hear, Tammy Duckworth sends her regards just before some serious shit goes down. (Never mind the fact that the problem with this all is, asking the Dems to “do more” before we’ve voted them into power is dishonest, at best.)
At the same time, maintaining decorum and walking the high road is… kinda why we like them, isn’t it? At least a little? We like that they’re the adults in the room. It’s kinda part of their brand — it didn’t used to be a thing you had to say, “Hey, I’m not a diaperbaby who will sell the nuclear codes for a handjob by a winking Russian,” but now, maybe you need to say that. Getting down in the mud with the pigs just makes you another pig. On the other hand, politics has become — or perhaps has always been — a nasty pig-wrestling contest, and you don’t win it by sitting in a nice chair two miles from the mud-hole. You win it in the mud. With the pigs.
And that really is the only thing I think that I know:
Government is complex and full of nuance. Like life. Like most things.
And politics is complicated, too — it’s a filthy, overgrown pubic tangle. It has lice. It has an old lollipop stuck in there. It has early, sinister, truly Satanic drafts of the Constitution tucked up under its snarl, along with the bones of Nicolas Cage from National Treasure.
But people are fundamentally dumb.
I don’t mean individual people.
I just mean people-people. The collective. The aggregate.
An ant colony is as good as its best members. But humanity is only as good as our worst, and we will always have the worst among us. Those people are loud and dumb and they vote.
Politics needs to look simple, for the simpletons. And it needs to look simple even for us smartletons, too, because sometimes we don’t like nuance. Sometimes we want to pretend that everything really is Black and White, Good and Evil.
We don’t want nuance. We don’t want all the fiddly bits.
It comes down to this, I think:
The Democrats are playing a chess game.
The Republicans are running a carnival.
Nobody likes chess, and everybody loves the carnival. I don’t want to watch Knight to Fuckface 4, I want to eat cotton candy and ride the Gravitron until I vomit on a small child. I want to eat fried foods until I shit my pants. It’s not smart. It’s a bad instinct.
But chess is dumb and the carnival is fun.
Trump is a carnival barker.
He gets up there, and he yells and he claps his hands. Clap, clap, clap, yaaaaaay. Look at me, look at me, he says. He tells us, this way to the great egress, and we follow, doo-dee-doo.
The Dems are telling us about their chess moves. They’re explaining to us, in great detail, the many moves they could make — they’re strategy nerds. Min-maxing D&D players. They’ve got decks of Magic cards and deep thoughts about Excel spreadsheets.
And we tune out.
(Okay, I don’t tune out, because I once had a red-blue deck that was aces, man.)
But here’s the trick:
We need that.
We need smart people running this government.
We don’t need carnival barkers. A carnival barker doesn’t run anything. He just looks like the guy who runs the carnival, but really, he’s the guy who convinces you to spend your money at the Games You Can’t Win booth. The carnival barker is a con-man. We love him even as he cons us.
And yet, we also need carnival barkers.
To win elections.
That’s the twofold fuckery of this process — we need someone to both win elections and then run government. Clinton didn’t win the election (though to her credit, she, uhh, won the entire popular vote), but could’ve run the hell out of our government. Trump won the election, but runs the government the way a baby runs a diaper: which is to say, he just cries and fills the white sack around his hip with shit. Trump can’t read a memo that isn’t written on a fridge in magnetic letters, for fuck’s sake — but he could talk, and he could lie, and he could promise the sun and the moon and the sky, all delivered on the backs of coal-crapping taco-bowl-eating bald eagles. Ossoff didn’t win an election because he didn’t have that carnival-barker hook*. Handel did, or at least, had more of it — and the circus of PAC propaganda bought around her filled the gap.
We need someone who sounds like a carnival barker, but who is really a chess player. I don’t know who that is, mind you. I know that Bill Clinton was that guy: a car salesman but also a strategist. Obama was that guy: he had the cadence of a preacher but the mind of a Star Trek captain. I think someone like Kamala Harris has that. Cory Booker, too, maybe. And here I’m not even getting into their politics or their platforms, only who they are and if they have that right sausage mix of charisma-and-cleverness. I don’t know. I don’t know a damn thing**, honestly, except that I’m ready to find a cave to live in until either the world blows up or voters come to their senses. I do know that all of us, of each party, is looking for the heart-and-soul of who we are and where we want to be, and until we find it, until we find both unity inside our groups and unity between the groups, this train is gonna continue toward the cliff. And if we’re not careful, we’ll all be drinking biomedical waste as we’re getting mauled by werewolves.
Good luck to us all.
Fight on. Find our heart, find our soul.
* okay, Ossoff also didn’t win because of gerrymandering and dirty tricks, which is to say, more con-artist chicanery, and we need to address that shit post-haste, lest it keep on happening — and maybe this speaks to the ace that the GOP have up their sleeve — they can continue to play dirty and we expect it and worse, we allow it.
** I know nothing, Jon Snow, except the fact that if you were only able to change one thing ever about our political system, the biggest thing is not climate change, but rather, Getting Money Out Of Politics — the moment you stop money from literally purchasing the affections of our politicians and the system, the sooner we can start having uncorrupted efforts to make things better for all and not just better for the selfish motherfuckers holding the biggest checkbooks.