Monday, November 14, 2022

Send in the clowns

The papers are full of articles proclaiming that the mid-term election was a victory for democracy or some such similar nonsense.  It was nothing of the sort.  The Democrats hold the Senate by -- quite literally! -- the slimmest of possible margins, and as I write this the jury is still out on the House, with the Republicans favored to win a majority there.  I was going to wait until that had been decided before writing this post but it looks as if it's going to take a while so I decided to go ahead an just go with a prediction: the Republicans will take the House, Kevin McCarthy will become speaker (though that bit hardly matters), and the Republicans will impeach Joe Biden.  What will they impeach him for?  I have no idea, and neither to they, because there are no legitimate grounds for impeaching Biden.  But they will come up with something.  If there is one thing one can confidently say about Republicans nowadays is that they do not let a little thing like reality stand in the way of their ideology.  It is true that things are not as bad as they might have been, and the outcome of the election does present a small glimmer of hope.  But it was not a victory, any more than having an artillery shell land 20 yards away rather than directly on top of you is a victory.

I came of age in the 1970s and 80s.  My earliest memory of American politics is the 1972 election where Nixon stomped McGovern into the ground.  Watergate and Viet Nam were the topics of the day, and the cold war was still in full swing.  I was only dimly aware of these things or what they entailed, but there were two invariants in American politics during these formative years: first, the Democrats had a iron grip on Congress, and second, nothing really bad ever happened despite the threat of disaster that seemed to be constantly looming over the world.

I was vaguely aware of the fact that there were crazy people in America, but my parents were both well-educated and I grew up in their bubble.  Everyone I knew was comfortably well-off and reasonably sane and very, very liberal.  The Civil Rights Act had recently been passed (though I did not realize this at the time) and I grew up believing that racism and prejudice were things of the past.  Social progress was as inevitable as rain.  And at the end of the day, reason seemed to prevail.  Nixon resigned.  The clean-air and clean-water act were passed.  Relations were opened up with China.  The USSR fell.  This new thing called the micro-computer was looking kind of promising.  I had never heard of global warming.  The future looked very bright indeed.

In the early 90s I stumbled across Rush Limbaugh's radio show and I was stunned to learn that such a thing even existed in America.  The slogan of his show was "America held hostage" -- by liberals.  Liberals were the root of all evil.  Eceonomic problems?  Liberals.  Social unrest?  Liberals.  Crime?  Liberals.

For a while Limbaugh was an interesting (if somewhat disturbing) side-show.  I really believed that people like Limbaugh were going extinct.  But in 1994 I was roused from my political stupor by the news that the Republicans had swept the congressional elections and now controlled both houses of congress for the first time in my life.

I remember thinking: this is going to be bad.  And it was.  Newt Gingrich shut down the government and impeached Bill Clinton because he lied about getting a blow job in the oval office.  (To be sure, getting a blow job in the Oval Office was a pretty stupid thing to do, but Clinton was probably not the first.)  Fast-forward 28 years and here we are, in a situation where I can confidently predict the impeachment of an American president before anyone -- even the people who are going to impeach him -- has any idea what they are going to impeach him for.

Getting ourselves out of this mess is going to take a lot more than a razor-thin victory in a mid-term.

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