Well, here we go again, fellow US voters. Every two years, one political party shocks us all by beating the other party in a bunch of races. Every damn time, the “majority party” was projected to win by a landslide, but voters turned on them for some inexplicable reason!
“How could this happen?” political pundits ask in hushed tones. “What is the message for the party in power this time around?”
Oh, heavens to Betsy, what could it possibly mean!?
Does party A need to be more aggressive? Does party B need to be more empathetic? Should the party bosses take a tiny little step to the left? Should they boogie to the right? Is it all about being a “centrist” instead of a “radical”?
Whichever of the two parties has pulled out the win this time is the one that gets to brag about “saving democracy” and “protecting the rights of working people.” Whichever one got the foot in the face this time gets to practice the epic sport of “spinball” by promising that “the American people will see that we are the good guys any minute now.”
I have a completely different explanation for why the American political system (a phrase I use with a sense of irony) swings back and forth every two years like a tire swing on an old oak tree.
This year the R’s dealt a blow to the D’s. In two years, the D’s will shock the hell out of the R’s. Back and forth we will go, from one to the other and back again. And the airwaves will be filled with the deep thoughts of countless historians, news reporters, and pollsters, trying to predict what in the world is going on in the hearts of the voters.
Here’s what I think.
I think that this whole situation reminds me of my first job after graduate school. I was doing speech/language therapy with small groups of preschoolers. Our little school was located in a small, scruffy city. There weren’t a lot of places to go for lunch, especially given the short time we had off and the salaries of preschool teachers.
My coworkers and I usually brought out lunches to work, but once a week, we would treat ourselves to a take-out meal.
There we’d be, every Friday, ready to have a treat. We’d discuss our choices with hunger-fueled excitement.
“Should we get a burger at Bell’s Place,” I’d ask my friends? “Or would you guys rather go to Ming’s?”
“Well, last week we ate at Ming’s,” one of us would say. “And it was OK, but it wasn’t that great.”
So off we’d go to Bell’s for the burger and fries.
A week later, the same conversation would come around, and one of us would say, “I had heartburn after we ate at Bell’s last week. How about Ming’s this time?”
You get the picture, right?
We needed to eat. We wanted to go out for a treat. But because of our location and our jobs, we were limited to two choices. Both were OK, but neither was great. Both were food, but neither was a gourmet meal.
So we would ping back and forth, never completely happy, and always looking for a change.
That’s what I see in the current political reality of this country. I see a bunch of tired, hungry, slightly aggravated voters who are bouncing back and forth between one heartburn-inducing choice and another. Neither is actually interested in governing because both are focused on outmaneuvering the other. Neither is what we want, and neither is actually good for us. But we know we need to pick one or the other, so we keep dithering back and forth.
Like the majority of voters now, I am registered as an Independent. I don’t send my precious dollars to either “team”. I’m a liberal, a lefty, a progressive, but I’ve been voting since the 1970s and I’ve learned a few things.
Neither of the two “real” political parties is going to provide universal healthcare to the people of this country, in spite of the fact that the rest of the world is aghast at that fact. Neither will make sure that we have a well-educated population across all socio-economic groups. They won’t demand clean water or clean air and they won’t change the way business is done even if that would mean securing the survival of the human species.
Both have learned to point fingers at each other. Both have learned the script needed to induce just enough fear of the “other side” to keep us hoping that this time something will change.
I’m here to tell you that as long as our choice is either the greasy burger or the limp egg rolls, we are never going to see any improvement. We need to either resign ourselves to a life of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or we need to organize and bring in a decent restaurant where we can get a healthy meal that actually gives us what we need and want.
What do you plan to do?