Friday, November 10, 2006


I keep staring at the New York Times map of the midterm election wins as if it's a magical icon of faith. One of those thirteenth century madonnas that was thought of as not merely a painting, but the embodiment of divine love.

Guido de Siena, Madonna and Child, c. 1270

I'm a very secular person, so I take my divinity where I find it. And right now "the thumping" does pretty well. For as long as I've had any idea of political life in this country I've known one thing: Democrats do not get out the vote at midterm. They are good hearted but lazy about everything but presidential elections, and because Republicans have a built in forum in which to organize (churches), they have a built in structure to get out the vote.

The last elections really depressed me. I knew smart people who did not vote because they thought Republicans and Democrats were all the same. When I think about this I get so angry I veer off into long winded mental speeches that involve explaining the difference between rattlesnakes, rabbits and garter snakes and I make myself ridiculous.

I didn't have any hope for the midterm elections. I was more deeply appalled by the reigning administration than I'd ever been at any other moment in my life, so I imagined other people were also angry, but I figured that we'd lose because this administration is so smart about spin.

Even Bush's language in defeat is good. Calling it "a thumping" makes him seem likeable. The administration's ability to blandly turn the focus of the talk about Iraq away from their mistakes to the Iraqis "taking responsibility" is mystifyingly impressive. He's one of those bullies who secretly fascinates me because they seem to have no conscience, no shame, and no ability to criticize themselves. I don't admire this quality, but I envy it. One wishes there were some possible combination of megalomaniacal, theatrically astute personal confidence and moral defensibility that we could elect next time instead of the weakness of the typical democrat, who lives with a conscientious awareness of the complexity of issues. I think Clinton had that combination. Anyone who saw his "I was a fat kid" speech on the night before the election knows what I mean.

This election seems miraculous to me because it overturned what had become, for me, essential truths. Articles, if you like, not of faith, but of pessimism. That Democrats were lazy about everything except presidential elections. That otherwise smart people could be so idealistic they could talk themselves right into giving up all the power they have, and that they regularly do this in great enough numbers to allow truly evil policies to flourish.

A couple of days ago I saw a young university woman ask her classmates to explain who Dick Cheney is. So it's not as if I'm about to banish all my pessimism, but it has been, as they say, dampened. But on that note, this is an amazing post election article.

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