Election Eve: Two Thoughts and a Complaint
First of all, I keep thinking there must be some great drinking game out there I could come up with for watching the returns tomorrow night. But thus far, bupkis. It's just not that interesting to go with "sip whenever Chris Matthews says 'macaca'; chug whenever Norah O'Donnell says '72-Hour Plan'."
On a hopefully more substantive note, I wonder how much of the electorate realizes the way our political system works now. It's not necessarily permanent, but the major political development of the last 12 years has been that the institutions established by the Founding Fathers no longer work the way they intended. Where as recently as 1993-1994, a Democratic Congress restrained and blocked a Democratic President, it's now almost unimaginable that Republicans at least could privilege institutional loyalties above partisan ones. In essence, we have taken on a parliamentary system; the individual candidates, their virtues and shortcomings, matter much less than the letters after their names.
I don't think people in the media or the general public really want to acknowledge this, because the unspoken (and accurate) view that partisan politics is kind of dirty and ugly remains strong and we like to think of our public officials as human beings rather than unthinking instruments of a broad worldview. And there was a serious notion, again as late as the 1990s, that parties didn't matter very much and were, if anything, increasingly less important. But in the age of hyper-polarization, where the parties command vast resources that can make or break the viability of a campaign and centralized power players with long memories and the inclination to bear a grudge can dictate the next 20 years of one's career, they do, and maybe moreso.
So while Bush isn't technically on the ballot tomorrow, as the head of an essentially unitary Republican Party, the election is and should be almost solely a referendum on his job performance and that of his congressional enablers. And by any objective standard, the verdict there shouldn't be a hard one to reach.
And now the complaint:
I live in Brooklyn, where to my knowledge I won't cast a single meaningful vote tomorrow: all the races seem to be foregone conclusions. Worse, every Democratic candidate on my ballot aside from Eliot Spitzer, who's about to be elected governor by acclimation, is more or less repulsive. We've got:
--Hillary Clinton, Senate. Our Lady of Perpetual Triangulation, who's more interested in trying to make herself palatable to people who detest her than supporting the values of the actual progressives who got her in office. In hopes that if her margin of victory is less than Spitzer's, she might not run for president, I'll be voting for the Green, whom I know nothing about but I assume is an unserious far-left type.
--Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General. This guy has a personality about as attractive as the vomit sometimes left on my floor by the cat with the heart murmur. Cuomo helped torpedo a very good man, Carl McCall, in a bitter gubernatorial primary campaign four years ago. He's a second-generation pol, and we aren't a hereditary monarchy. But his Republican opponent, Jeanine Pirro, is even more repulsive: she began this cycle running against Clinton, made an astounding mess of it, quit that race, launched this one, and has gotten more attention for her philandering felon husband (a big wheel in the Republican Party here) than any of her positions. I don't know if there's a third-party option. If so, I'll take it.
--Alan Hevesi, Comptroller. A candidate for re-election, Hevesi seemed to do a good job in his first term after holding the same position at the NYC level. But he illegally used a state car to ferry around his wife, at a total cost nearing six figures, and lied about it for years. Spitzer disavowed him and won't work with him. His Republican opponent is an extremist who seems about as committed to fiscal oversight and good government as his co-partisans at the federal level, and looks like the fat principal from "Head of the Class." I might sit this one out.
--Yvette Clarke, U.S. House of Representatives. Possibly the worst of this whole bunch. Clarke is another second-generation pol, her mom was a crook, she's the sort of strident special-pleader Democrat I can't stand, she narrowly beat three far superior candidates in a bitter primary dominated by race, and I think she's running unopposed. No idea how I'll vote here. If there's a Republican, I'd be tempted to cast a protest vote, but for reasons described above I don't think I could bring myself to support any Republican for any federal office.
Honestly, I'd love to see a Republican Party that doesn't show traces of theocracy, oligarchy, and selectively applied fascism, and this is a large part of the reason why: my local Democrats really, really stink. But again, they're mostly just weight on the scale, and right now the top priority is just getting the damn thing back into something resembling balance.