November 10, 2022

Well, the worst was averted. Hailed as a victory by Democrats and President Biden, now suddenly politically rejuvenated. Sanity prevailed — in a lot of places at least — but even there just by the skin of its teeth. That’s still terrifying. Forty-eight percent of Georgians voted for Herschel Walker. Wisconsin re-elected Ron Johnson. Arizona’s Kari Lake could still win.

And even if they wind up losing the Senate, Republicans controlling the House of Representatives is still a national catastrophe. (I may have been right back in May, that New York’s redistricting screw-up could make the difference.)

The House GOP margin’s smallness actually makes things worse, because now Speaker-to-be McCarthy’s balls (has he any?) will be gripped by the GOP’s crazy caucus — the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, Louie Gohmerts, Paul Gosars. (At least one, Lauren Boebert, is trailing.)

While in normal times it can make sense to put Congress in opposition hands as a check on the administration, this is an extremist anti-democratic opposition. They will exploit their power with the chief aim of making the Biden administration look bad. They will block support for Ukraine, cancel the January 6 investigation, and refuse to raise the debt limit (which economist Paul Krugman has said will “blow up the world economy”). There’ll be a government shutdown, hard to resolve. A blizzard of phony “investigations.” And surely an impeachment. On what grounds? They’ll concoct some. So the next two years will be a real shit-show.

Handing Congressional power to these people is nuts. Why is this happening? Most Americans, once upon a time, whatever the unschooled ignorance and primitivist bigotries, believed in certain aspirational ideas, of what this country means. But those ideas have melted into muddled goo. They cannot be sustained if so few people, for all the flag waving, still understand them:

• Democracy is not just elections, but a pluralist ethos, with everyone’s participation accepted.

• Freedom to live the best lives possible, aided by a society’s web of interconnections.

• Compassion for the less blessed.

• A welcoming society, enriched by a diversity of people arriving to contribute.

• Rule of law, and equality before the law.

• Globally, our great power confers great obligations.

• Church-state separation, no one able to impose their faith on others.

• A society that progresses through truth and reason, fundamental honesty, civility, human decency.

• A society that vaunts virtue and shuns wickedness — and can tell the difference.

We’re retreating on all of it, especially the last. Government is failing, because in frustration we elect too many bad people who actually want to exploit the failure rather than actually fix anything. And the cascading failure just makes us crazier, so in the next cycle we lash out and go for even more irresponsible “outsiders” (opportunists). Or too many voters do (“the worst are full of passionate intensity”).

And those ideals are not merely forgotten. They’re why Democrats — who still do represent them, to a degree at least — are hated by those with a different mindset. Of macho white Christian nationalism, with “Christian” as a cultural signifier supplanting religious belief. Worshipping, indeed (despite all the “freedom” rhetoric), strength and power, the thwack of the cudgel, against the “others.” This is fascism. Which actually has psychological appeal, a sickness humanity still can’t get over.

You’d think news reporting would help Americans see things clearly. But “the news” as we once knew it is dying out. Fox is not “news.” What people now mostly absorb instead is a witch’s brew giving them only a foggy distorted impression of what’s going on.

So, impatient with an administration at least honestly trying to deal with our problems, we’re handing congressional control to a party flouting every one of the enumerated American ideals. A party steeped in lies, that tried to overthrow the previous election and keep in power a monster of depravity. While some Republican election deniers were defeated, at least 200 did win congressional and statewide posts. Setting the stage to mess with 2024 vote certification and create a chaotic constitutional crisis.

Trump was a big loser, with many of his whacko candidate picks doing poorly; a big winner was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. That won’t dissuade Trump from running in 2024, while energizing a DeSantis run. He’d actually be a much more dangerous candidate — the long-feared slicker version of Trump, without all his nasty baggage (though DeSantis has his own sort of nastiness). But could DeSantis beat Trump for the nomination? Trump can out-nasty DeSantis. And most Trump supporters are cultists not into rational political calculation. Nominating him in 2024 ought to incur massive defeat — in a rational world. Of course, we thought that in 2016.

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