Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Midterm Mania

November 7, 2018

The great midterm battle-pageant of 2018 is coming to a close, but not without gruesome casualty figures on all sides involved. It has been a long and ugly affair, with no one able to claim a Total Victory now that it is (almost) all said and done. So it's on to the next big rumble as the media turns its sights to 2020, and an election that's looking sure to be a bruiser, not to mention one of the most surreal and weirdest spectacles in modern American history. But we'll save that for later.

Election day got off to a weird start for me, as I stumbled on a story about Harvard astronomers speculating that an "interstellar object" detected last year could actually be some kind of alien spacecraft. "Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that 'Oumuamua is a light sail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment," the astronomers wrote. It's weird to see something like that in a CNN article and not in some big-budget sci-fi flick, but then again nothing seems that weird anymore. If some advanced alien race were to stumble upon Earth, I suppose it's an open question whether they would even bother to make contact or just obliterate it at first sight to preemptively eliminate any threat its dumb, hairless monkey inhabitants might pose, either through malice or sheer stupidity. And if they chose to enslave us instead, it could well be an improvement.

Enough with that. We're here to talk about midterms. Starting next year, the Democrats are in charge of the House, which they won fair and square despite merciless gerrymandering by their opponents. So the next two years will almost certainly make the last two look dull and tepid and comparison. It will be a constant circus, like some manic combination of the Watergate years and a Tom and Jerry cartoon, as the Democrats launch investigations on multiple fronts and issue subpoena after subpoena and the slobbering orangutan president shrieks about voter fraud and "illegals." He's already started with it, accusing CNN of "voter suppression" at a press conference today. He's like a child that hears a word used and knows it's bad but doesn't quite grasp what it means, and then turns around and uses it anyway.

Nancy Pelosi took the Democratic victory as an opportunity to prattle on about a "bipartisan market of ideas that makes our democracy strong," a phrase so hacky it could have been spat out by a computer program designed to string the most tired political cliches into quasi-coherent sentences. The idea of Nancy Pelosi as speaker once more is a bad side-effect of this otherwise good news, like waking up after a night of heavy drinking to find you've mysteriously traveled back in time by about ten years or so. There could hardly be a weirder or more off-putting anachronism as Speaker of the House if the Democrats elected a fax machine or a Civil War musket--and no, that is not a comment on her age, merely her brand of politics. But it seems all but sure she's got the job, and the Democratic leadership is not exactly full of appealing alternatives.

Meanwhile, the Republicans managed to expand their majority in the Senate--the house of Congress devoted to "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority," in James Madison's words. To give the wealthy elite greater representation in the government than a truly democratic system would allow. This is the second consecutive election where Republicans' asses have been saved by a ridiculous and antiquated element of the government--last time it was the Electoral College, as we all remember. The GOP managed to stomp several Democratic incumbents in red-leaning states, though I'm not sorry to see many of them go--border wall-supporter Joe Donnelly in Indiana, for instance, or Claire McCaskill, who recently went after "crazy Democrats" in a sad attempt to pander to the right. Their fate is well-deserved and they will not be missed by anyone. Let their tales be a reminder of the futility of Democrats tacking right--though the reelection of arch-scumbag Joe Manchin is a rude defiance of that rule.

The loss of Andrew Gillum in Florida was much more disheartening, despite some of his unimpressive pandering in the general election season. Gillum was a genuine progressive, if a flawed one, and Ron DeSantis is a vile little creep. Somewhat mystifyingly, despite electing Republicans for governor and senator, though, the voters of Florida approved an amendment to give voting rights to felons, which is a welcome repeal of a Jim Crow-style disenfranchisement tactic--and one of the other assorted pieces of good news.

There were quite a few of those--Colorado banned prison slavery and elected an openly gay governor, two Muslim women and a Native American lesbian woman were elected to Congress, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Indeed, a record number of women were elected to the House--and a crypto-Nazi punk named Kris Kobach went down in flames in Kansas. Not to get sappy or start claiming that Trump doesn't represent "America's Values"--he represents the values of a many Americans, and values with a long and ugly history in America--but it seems clear that despite the political power the ultra-reactionary right wields, the American population is continuing to progress when it comes to marginalized groups like women, people of color and LGBT+ people. The left is still winning the Culture War, and it does occasionally translate into meaningful political successes.

The aftermath of the midterms has already begun, with Trump lashing out at Jim Acosta and firing Jeff Sessions, his elfen-faced white supremacist Attorney General, and replacing him with some stooge named Matthew Whitaker. And Whitaker is now taking control of the Russia investigation from Rod Rosenstein, another target of Trump's contempt. Well, Sessions got exactly the exit he deserved, and I will never stop taking joy in it when Trump turns on his erstwhile supporters with all his rabid, apelike fury. But firing Sessions may have just been a prelude to eliminating his archnemesis Robert Mueller, which would make things very interesting, particularly with an incoming Democratic House.

And so the soap opera goes on.

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