American Political Batshit: An Explanation by Adam Dawson
Dear Readers of The Ruminator
The editor has very kindly asked me to explain why it is that the citizens of the United States are probably going to allow the Republican Party to retake the majority in the United States Senate and make further gains in the United States House of Representatives (collectively known as “Congress”).
A Republican-led United States isn’t much fun. It’s a lot of chest-thumping nationalism, celebrations of willful ignorance, and unobstructed corporate greed. And oddly enough, it all comes wrapped up in a package of very devout pseudo-Christianity. I say pseudo-Christianity because it does seem to be a different sort, wherein Jesus has an enormous gun collection, sets up his own money-lending table at the temple, and tells the poor to go fuck themselves.
So why have the Republicans taken the majority? There are a lot of reasons, but I will try to sum up a few.
Apathy for Mid-Term Elections and Politics in General
The elections that happen in between the Presidential elections are for Congress and sometimes for the Senate. Not all 100 Senators (two for each state) run at the same time. Sometimes all three elections (President, Senate, and House) coincide in one state in the same year, but quite often they don’t.
Remember when you went to see that really great band, and there was that opening band that you liked well enough but not enough to go see on their own when they came back to town? Mid-term elections for Congress are like gigs for that opening band. A lot of people who like Obama but are lukewarm about politics are simply not going to turn up to vote. This has been the case for decades, regardless of the President.
Another thing to consider is that a significant percentage of Americans have no clue as to who their Congressman or Senator even is. If you ask a random American who represents them in Congress, they probably won’t know, or they will say “Barack Obama.” Simply by reading this blog post, you are better informed than a significant percentage of the American population, and I’m giving you a half-assed version of things.
As I write this, I am looking at the dome of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. About two blocks away from that are two separate non-governmental office buildings. One is owned by the Republicans. One is owned by the Democrats. Inside these buildings are a series of cubicles, each with their own phones. Sitting in these cubicles for an hour or two every day, lined up like so many technical hotline call center employees, are United States Congressmen and Senators. They are calling people and begging for money.
They are doing this because campaigns are incredibly expensive, and the amount of public funding available for campaigns is chump change. It doesn’t match the amount you need for polling firms, literature, e-mails, and most importantly, television advertisements. The begging for money essentially never stops. Congressmen are up for election every two years, so the fundraising is a constant. And if they aren’t fundraising for themselves, they are fundraising for a fellow party member who has fallen behind or is facing a challenge in his district (by the way, it has certainly occurred to us how insane it is to force our elected officials to solicit cash from any and all sources, but our Supreme Court has decided that such things are hunky dory. This is the “Citizens United” decision that you might have heard about).
The fundraising methods are numerous, and they are everywhere. Every day, any citizen who clicks “like” on an inspiring internet video is inevitably the recipient of dozens of fundraising e-mails a day. They are inescapable.
For about two months before any election, political ads are all you see on television. There are no ads for cars, toothpaste, beer, cereal, none of it. It’s all political ads, and over the years, they have become more and more negative and more and more ridiculous.
Here’s a television ad that was good enough to get Dwight D. Eisenhower elected in 1952.
Americans are, quite rightly, sick of this shit. People who would otherwise be inclined to participate in the American democratic process find themselves thinking “to hell with all of you.” Republican candidates have more money (there is no limit to the amount of money that corporations can donate to elections in America, and they happen to be big fans of Republican policies), and they can get the same shitty and inaccurate advertisements paid for without bugging their constituents nearly as much as Democrats have to. Plus Republican voters are more likely to believe outlandish claims, considering that a significant percentage of them are still shitting themselves over the notion of a black guy being in the White House. I’m not claiming racism here. But consider the average American willing to vote for that redneck on the horse, and then consider what he’s willing to believe about Obama, which is the worst shit you can imagine. That guy is going to get off of his ass and go to the polls on Election Day. But a potential voter who is lukewarm about politics who voted for Obama in the big, sexy Presidential election? Is he going to vote for that asshole Congressman who sent him 400 emails and interrupted him while he was trying to watch football?
“Dude. Fuck that guy.”
Democrats Knew They Were Going To Lose Anyway
The various states in America are unofficially categorized as “red” (meaning they lean conservative/Republican) or “blue” (meaning they lean liberal/Democrat.) When Obama was elected in 2008, his name on the ticket allowed for a significant amount of Senate wins, some of which were in states that were as red as a baboon’s ass. People who had never voted before turned out in droves and allowed the Democrats to pick up 8 Senate seats. Those same seats are up for re-election now, and while Obama’s policies are on the ballot, Obama himself is not. No Obama, no trendy Obama Voters. And a lot of Senators and Congressmen who were elected on Obama’s coattails are finding that to be a liability now, particularly in the Southern states.
The Democrats knew this was going to happen. In fact, they consider themselves lucky to have managed to keep a majority for as long as they have. In 2010 and 2012, after Obama committed the unforgiveable sin of making it so Americans could avoid getting all of their medical bills rejected by their for-profit insurance companies, the Republicans reacted by turning to the so-called “Tea Party” for their candidates. These candidates were the purest form of batshit that science has been able to isolate. Candidates included a woman whose main claim to fame was going on MTV and advising teenagers not to masturbate, a guy who thought pregnancy didn’t happen during rape, and a woman who thought that bartering chickens would be a better system of health care than the legislation that Obama put into place. The Republican Party lost in states that they should have easily won. It was a reactionary self inflicted wound, like a guy who accidentally shoots himself in the testicles while mistaking the postman for a burglar. They were stupid, but they got smart. They recruited establishment Republican politicians as candidates, and this is who the Democrats are facing now.
The Good News (sort Of)
Think of yourself while drunk. Now think of yourself while drunk and actually in charge of something important. This is why it is incredibly difficult to get legislation passed in the United States. The founders of our country had no notion of germ theory. They thought flight was impossible. And they had no idea that putting an outhouse near your drinking water could cause cholera. But they were smart enough to realize that nothing is more dangerous than letting a newly elected mob pass legislation unimpeded.
The minority party in Congress has the ability to slow down, derail, or reject legislation it doesn’t like. These abilities are enshrined in our Constitution. Similarly, the President has the right to not sign legislation into law if he doesn’t like it. And the Congress has the right to overturn the President’s decision, but only if they have enough votes. And it takes a lot of those. The United States government does not run on majority rule. It runs on Significant Majority Rule. A party that has only a four or five seat majority in both the Senate and the House might as well not have one at all. If you need proof of that, consider how little Obama has been able to accomplish in the past four years. His Presidency can be divided into two periods: Passing healthcare legislation in the first two years when he had enough of a majority to do it, and being punished by Congress for passing that legislation for the next four years when he failed to maintain a big enough majority. This punishment comes in the form of gridlock, which means that any legislation seen as favorable to the President or the Democratic Party is either killed immediately, or has language added to it that makes it impossible to vote for. For example, let’s say that Obama lets it be known that he wants legislation passed proclaiming that puppies are adorable. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will then add language to that legislation (which was his right as Minority Leader) that says “Puppies are adorable, and any and all environmental regulations regarding coal emissions are now null and void.” The bill is killed because Obama can’t sign it, and now Fox News can do a story on how Obama hates puppies. Mitch McConnell does this ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME.
But bear in mind, this goes both ways. So even though the Republicans have taken the Senate and have now increased their majority in the House, all they have really done is gotten one car length ahead in the worst traffic jam of all time. Now it is the Republicans turn to write legislation, and that legislation will be quietly strangled by the Democrats instead of the other way around. So while the Republicans have a majority, it is doubtful much will change.