Now Is Not the Time to Turn the Country Around

Isn't it time to finally turn this country around? To get ourselves back on track and moving toward a bright, new future? To make America once again the country of hope and opportunity?

The answer, of course, is no. Because what we have coming up are the midterm elections, and getting ourselves out of the rut we're in isn't on the ballot this time.

Now, back in 2008, Barack Obama was elected president with a Democrat-controlled House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Many of us correctly knew this was like having a toddler armed with power tools. Others, though, didn't see the danger and cooed, "Oh, look at that little guy. He's so industrious! He's going to get a lot done," while the rest of us were freaking out, worried about him getting near anything valuable. And before we could yell, "No, little Barry, no!" he went right after health care with his drill, and it's basically all ruined now.

So in 2010 we voted to take away his power tools by turning the House over to the Republicans. Obama was still a destructive little tyke who just refused to listen, but at least now it was a bit harder for him to burn the whole house down or something. In 2012, we -- well, I don't know how to stretch the analogy -- had the option to exchange little Barry at the kid-trade-in emporium and get a better kid who might not be as dumb and destructive. I guess we had grown fond of the little dummy, though, and thought maybe he was finally learning. We were just being sentimental, of course. We really should have done the smart thing and sold the kid to gypsies.

And that brings us to 2014 and the option we have before us now: mittens. Now, no one is talking about giving the tyke power tools again. There's just no conceivable scenario in which the Democrats take back the House this year -- and I'm including science fiction scenarios involving advanced aliens and Doctor Who-type closed time loops -- so the only real question is whether the Republicans can get a majority in the Senate. That would be like forcing little Barry to wear mittens to keep his grubby little fingers out of things. He'll still be able to knock things over and run into furniture, but the mittens will at least somewhat limit the damage he can cause.

Now, I want to note that I don't mean this analogy to be disrespectful to President Obama. But I think most historians will back me when I say his presidency is the equivalent of a dumb child running into tables.

Anyway, the point is that it's kind of a hard election to get super excited about. Republicans can't claim that if you elect them the economy will climb out of its quagmire and we'll stop floundering in foreign affairs. All they can honestly claim is that they'll blunt the damage President Obama has been doing a bit more and maybe keep him on the golf course, where he does the least amount of harm, more often.

Of course, it's even worse for the Democrats. What in the world are they supposed to say during this election? Usually it's something like, "Republicans are crazy extremists who want to war with women and bring back Jim Crow laws!" It's pretty ridiculous, but what's their other option? "If you elect us, we'll come up with well-thought-out and constructive legislation." That's completely insane. In light of the past six years, no one will believe that. Frankly, though, we’re at the point where saying that Republicans are misogynistic, racist extremists who want nothing more than to drown puppies in front of crying children is not the same thing as saying they're worse than Democrats.

So all that's really at stake in this election is maybe just slowing down the damage a bit until 2016, when some actual change is possible. The next president is still going to be either a Republican or a Democrat, so I wouldn't get my hopes too high about anything significant happening. Plus, a lot of people think Hillary has a lock on it ("Instead of electing a president who might conceivably be competent, let's check off another first!"). They keep talking about demographics -- that no matter how horribly Democrats keep screwing things up, they have a lock on the votes of minorities, women, and white supremacists (i.e., white people who are sure they are so much better than all those bigoted other white people who won't check their privilege). Still, maybe -- just maybe -- if the right candidate emerges, this country can finally...

Eh, who am I kidding? We should probably just prepare for picking out pink mittens in 2018.

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