Republicans will be the first to tell you that this November, the very future of our country is at stake, and that you should vote accordingly. I could not agree more. Although every election cycle brings about the same hyperbolic lectures about how crucial and key and dire everything is, the stakes truly have never been higher. For at the very least, the viability of an opposition party to Bush’s unchecked madness will rise or fall on the outcome of November 7th’s casting of the ballots. For if the Democrats fail to capture at least one house of Congress, or, even worse, do not gain a significant number of seats overall, they are utterly finished as a political force. Their death, it is true, has been sounded before (I’m pretty sure I’ve declared them dead every two years since Reagan’s first term), but never before has a minority party had such a golden opportunity to provide an alternative to the flailings and failings of the boys in power. It is that moment in time politicians dream about; that day of decision that comes but once a generation, if at all.
We all know the score: Bush’s popularity rating is stuck firmly in the mid- to low-30s, the overall favorability of Congress is sagging in the teens, Mark Foley has — like it or not — become the standard bearer for Republican hypocrisy and flesh-peddling, and above all, Iraq is a brutal, ugly meat grinder getting worse by the day. So far in October, seventy soldiers have been killed, though based on the media silence, you’d think it was closer to seven. It’s a near-record tally, and not a single lick of progress has been made in any area to distract us from the increasingly distasteful body count. Bush’s message, as expected, is “stay the course”, which means little more than the avoidance of overt cowardice until he is safely back in Crawford, despite the fact that even hard-core conservatives have stopped trying to invent reasons to stay. We’ll remain because we’ll remain, and the day has long passed when any thinking American believed a stable, democratic regime was possible in any of our lifetimes. Though, of course, it never was.
But all that we know. Bush is a colossal idiot, easily the worst, most destructive president in the history of the republic, and Republicans in general seem adrift for the first time in many years, as if their mantra of “guns, God, and tax cuts” isn’t enough to resonate with a usually compliant and easily manipulated American public. I believe “the people”, as they are called, are still appallingly ignorant and numbed by their illusions, but they appear to be pissed, which is fine on my end so long as they vote for Democrats. I don’t even care if the votes are motivated by the usual short-sighted selfishness, such as losing a son in Iraq, or finding out that the administration privately hates the very Christian base that has been so flattered in public. Whether it be despair, the lesser of two evils, or even an outright mistake at the ballot box, it is imperative that these otherwise unreliable creeps turn out the heinous, abusive louts who have turned this country into a pit of shame so deep that usually thoughtful, anti-religious folks such as myself have considered donations to the radical Islamic group du jour in order to send a real message.
And sure, I’ll take the House — perhaps the most winnable of the two — but in fact, the Senate stands as the body most in need of change. Consider that Bush has two full years left in his sandbox; a seemingly infinite stretch of time before him during which one, maybe two Supreme Court appointments could be made. John Paul Stevens, the last of the great liberal Justices, now 31 years on the bench, will not live forever, even though his health is said to be quite good. But as a man in his eighties, each day is borrowed, and no one could be surprised if one black, awful morning, he simply did not wake up. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg, another light of reason on the Court, has been ill in recent years, and could decide to retire at any time, certainly at the end of one of the next two terms. These possibilities lead to a far more repugnant scenario: Summer 2008, Bush hands two names to the still-Republican Senate for ratification, and the lone bastions of Constitutional liberty remain but two: David Souter and Stephen Breyer. Anthony Kennedy is a swing vote at this moment and could be our new O’Connor, but at best, he constitutes a third voice in the darkness. More than an uninterrupted string of 9/11’s; more than the 50,000th military death in Iraq; more than an unchecked North Korea running amok on their southern border; and more than Iran pointing its nuclear missiles at Israel with its fangs bared, this is the nightmare that should keep us shivering in our beds.
The Court, then, is it. Nothing matters more in American life, and if ever there has been a reason to get off your ass and vote (wisely, not just to do it), the increasingly precarious state of that last bastion of justice is the only motivation you’ll ever need. We desperately need 51 Senators in that august body, as unlikely as it sounds, and if we fail to achieve that goal, the next 800 days should be spent in a state of nervous exhaustion, hoping against hope that those two figures on the bench stay alert, involved, and of course, alive. And as much as the Court itself means more than any single issue before us, remember also that Stevens is the most important human being now alive. Keeping him upright in the shower and those hips strong and unbroken? I’d sacrifice the whole of Africa. Tucking him away for the night, kissing his dry cheek, and ensuring the steady drumbeat of that mighty heart? Child after child onto the ConAgra assembly line of your choosing. Allowing for his sufficient motivation, morale, and joie de vivre? I’d do his every bidding, from brewing his coffee to servicing his flaccid member. All day and every hour, his comfort would be my only calling.
Sure, there are numerous state houses to win, gubernatorial campaigns of note (New York, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, among others), and the usual ballot initiatives that run the gamut from inspired to insane. Anti-gay marriage amendments will no doubt continue to carry the day, even in the midst of a Democratic sweep, and toothless pro-marijuana bills will also see safe passage, only to be gutted in their implementation. These things also matter. In Colorado, for example, we are voting on a minimum wage increase, the legal rights of domestic partnerships, and the asinine notion that judges should be subjected to term limits. And yet, they’ll all be swept away by the national agenda, and what America collectively says to the rest of the world about its legitimacy as a people. Have we given up? Do we secretly crave one-party rule and an unchecked chief executive? Is war for profit sufficiently inspiring? Will we, in the end, bow to phony terror warnings (oh yes, I see the NFL stadiums are now “targets”) and vote against our better interests again and again and again?
The day after November 7th will either be a celebratory orgasm or a continuation of my misanthropic rage, and admittedly, I’m counting on the latter. For if there is anything I have less trust in than the voting machines of America’s various precincts, it is the good sense and wisdom of the American people. Sure, Republicans will make every effort to hide ballots, lock doors, expunge so-called “criminals” from voter lists, and even ensure long lines, but alone, these things wouldn’t be enough. For a counter-revolution to the conservative misery to fail, last-minute reversals must occur by the thousands. And as hard as it for the intelligent and the sane to imagine that someone — even in Kansas or Idaho — would (or could) ignore body bags, round-the-clock funerals, lies, distortions, red herrings, cover-ups, bloated budgets, deficits, a catastrophic domestic agenda, and healthy, steaming shits on the now moth-eaten Constitution, and vote instead for the vague promise of “protection”, it is more than possible; it is very likely indeed.
This is America, after all. We’ll read one book a year and like it. We’ll elevate sub-mental swill to the top of assorted box office and sales charts and smile while doing so. We’ll doubt the one essential truth about life on this planet — that it evolves; changes over time through natural selection — yet demand, through codified law, if necessary, respect and deference to prayer, worship, and faith, as if they could be differentiated from the frothy ravings of an escaped loon. We’ll watch our demented children play eight uninterrupted hours of video games, glancing away from the screen nary a second, yet sit in wide-eyed, understanding silence while pharmaceutical salesman tell us those very minds are riddled with diseases and attention deficits. Or worst of all, we’ll reach the very brink of ruin — a time when habeus corpus itself, the only real protection against unimpeded authoritarian rule, could be signed away at an upbeat press conference — and few would pause to notice. Think what you will: Democrats are also swine, nothing ever changes, it’s a rigged game, whatever. You might be right. But as much as Republicans and Democrats have merged to form an uber-party based on little but backroom rim jobs of the corporate elite, there remains enough of a difference to care. It might seem small, but it’s practically inconceivable in its immensity. It’s how each views the very document that signals, confirms, and continues our existence in these United States. Treat it lightly at your peril. It’s all too easily lost.