It looks like I started drinkin' for no reason last night. The neighbours downstairs managed to have a relatively ruckus- and shenanigan-free election, and though the actual results still won't be known for some time, it at least seems there were no especially galling acts of dastardly derring-do.
Before I say anything about the results, though, I want to say something about the conduct of things. Simply put, the fire-breathers on both sides were on their best behaviour last night, which was both refreshing and reassuring. The partisan hackery that's been so prominent (to say nothing of virulent) in recent years was so relatively tempered, I almost thought I had stepped through a time-warp back to 1992. The spinners from both parties managed to let some honest observation sneak through, and just as importantly, they were relatively gracious. Obviously, I think this a good thing, but I also suspect it reveals what really happened last night, a sea-change in the sense of political carriage. The rabid rhetoric of division and stark partisanship was replaced with surprising deliberativeness and candour, a stunning final-hour substitution considering all that preceded it. It's as if the houligans put on their Sunday best and decided to behave themselves. Colour me impressed.
There are other points to be noted about yesterday's events, many of which are intriguing indeed:
- Yes, the Dems won the House, a plurality of the governorships, and they're poised to win the Senate, however barely (pending result-auditing in Montana and Virginia). I don't think this is any declaration of faith in the Dems. The message to the Bushies is this: Enough's enough. The electorate has finally put a leash on the President, and it's about time.
- Feminists can rejoice at the closest yet there has been to having a woman in the line of succession. Nancy Pelosi will be second in line for the Presidency when the House convenes, something not to be dismissed given the VP's health history.
- Not one Democratic incumbent lost his or her seat. Not one. That's certainly significant given the various breaches of the Republican barricades.
- Quote of the night, from Stephen Colbert: "Sorry, Jon, I couldn't hear you over all the liberty!"
- Symbolically-classy act of the night: Jon Stewart calling upon a special correspondent for his response to the vote, Dan Rather. At the very least, it allowed Rather, however marginally, to continue his decades-long presence on TV on election night, even if only as a four-dollar gopher in a two-dollar pelt.
- Independent voters swung heavily toward the Dems, which may I think account for the relatively muted partisanship in the final coverage.
- Gee, the evangelical vote got quiet, didn't it? Simply put, and with only half a pun intended, the cavalry didn't come charging in to save the Republicans, as it did in 2004. Or, to change horses mid-metaphor, the enablers didn't show up at the intervention, which is usually a tacit admission that Yes, Virginia, There Is A Problem.
- The biggest surprise of the election is the one that's being given the least reportage, that the so-called "Young Vote" (35 and under) actually materialized. Yes, Godot finally fucking arrived. I have a funny feeling this will eventually be described as the Jon Stewart Effect (TM pending), as the usually lackadaisical young cynics decided at long last they had to put something behind their disaffection. This was an election for the disenchanted generally, but it seems this section of normally-absent voters, perhaps smarting from the results of their inaction in 2004, finally stood up while the evangelicals stood down. And that, as Mr Frost would have said, made all the difference.
Whether or not this is a onetime event remains to be seen. I'm inclined to think this an anomaly, as the ironic-minded decided to be serious just long enough to give the President a good public spanking. When the time comes for choosing something, rather than merely rejecting something, they'll probably return to the margins of ambivalence. But this is the vote to watch: if it shows up again in the next election, there truly could be the beginning of a significant change in the way politics is done in the U.S.. I won't hold my breath, though.
That so many conservative Democrats got voted in is suggestive in this regard, because it seems the electorate indicated that while it wants to hold to its largely conservative line, it also doesn't want the rigid dogmatism that has lately come with it. The defeat of some moderate Republicans, like the decent Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island, wasn't a rejection of moderates. It was in fact a call for moderation among the Republican stead, and the moderate scalps were rejections of the "-R" and what that brand has come to represent. The message, then: Clean up the Republican name, or we'll hire a Democrat to replace you. And we'll do it, too. Or so it seems, at least, from the view from here, up in the freezing nose-bleeds.
And with that, I'll end the political prattle and let everyone turn their collective attention to the issue Americans really care about, the one with deeply profound and possibly traumatizing ramifications. You know what I'm talking about. I mean, like, how could you not????