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I’m writing this before the polls have opened, but — by the close of the day — either Republicans will control Congress or the entire modern polling enterprise will be understood to be a complete fraud from top to bottom. I’m pretty sure it will be the first, though the second would certainly be interesting.
My interpretation of this putative victory — and I don’t think this is controversial — is that we’ve got a nation of disgusted, fed-up Americans on our hands, not an electorate that’s suddenly enamored of gloating Republicans. In other words: we’ve got one shot at this. If we screw it up, it’s the last shot, and not just for us.
I spoke this morning to an American, Uncle M., whose judgment about life and politics is sound. I said — cautiously — that perhaps there might be some movement after the election toward solving a particular absurdity in US tax code, though we’d been alluding to a wide range of problems. Uncle M. said, in his calm way (he is not prone to drama), “Nope.”
“You don’t think anything will change if Republicans win?”
“Even though pretty much everyone agrees that things are going in the wrong direction?”
“Nothing will change.”
I was surprised to hear him say this quite so categorically, as he is careful in his speech. “So you’re saying, in effect, that democracy is broken.”
“It doesn’t work. Democracy doesn’t work. That’s what you’re saying.” There was silence for a moment on the phone line. “If that’s true, you sure sound awfully calm about it.”
“Nothing will change.”
He didn’t budge.
I strongly suspect that many Americans feel just what Uncle M. feels.
There is something worse — quite a bit worse — than Republicans failing to take over the Senate today. It’s their taking it over, then confirming Uncle M.’s judgment: they’re all the same, the whole lot of them; just a bunch of power-tripping fools; nothing’s going to change, and democracy’s broken.
If Republicans can’t deliver quickly, with maturity, and without gloating — or if they fail to realize just how much is at stake — then liberal democracy is at the end of the line. That’s not hysteria, I don’t think: it’s just the way it is. It’s a lot to hope that a bunch freshly-minted and inexperienced congressmen will fully appreciate this. But it’s true, so they’d better grow up fast.
Nothing about this makes me feel like gloating. I would hope, if I were a politician, that I’d say “I’m grateful to the electorate for giving me a chance. I know that if I screw it up, it will be the last chance: for me and for a lot of people who are hoping, against all odds and expectations, that I can get something done. Thank you. I’ll skip the celebration party. I’m heading straight to the office. I’ll let you know when I’ve achieved something, and I won’t leave that office until I do.”Published in