Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Plenty Smart

Now lookie here! It turns out that it was the voters who were plenty smart this time around, sweeping Democrats into power by a wide margin in the House of Representatives, with the Senate still up for grabs on Wednesday morning. With the worsening fiasco in Iraq and the record-low popularity of a lame-duck president being only the most obvious fulcrums that spun Washington on its axis, it was still probably too early to tell whether the voters' embrace of change in the form of the opposition candidates was a referendum on Democratic aptitude or merely a rejection of the embedded incumbent culture of corruption, incompetence and arrogance.

One thing seemed certain during the last month or so of the campaign: Rarely in American history has a political party fielded such a collection of sorry-ass misfits and bumblers as the Republicans did this election season. All the Democrats had to be was not them and victory was almost assured -- the same way a George Pataki became Governor of New York State in 1994 precisely because he was not Mario Cuomo. Combined with the divisive, deplorable antics of the President as he imploded day after day on the campaign trail, the pathetic GOP slate this year was such an absolute godsend to the Dems that even John Kerry's last minute gaffe was a nonfactor.

At this point even the most hardened Republican supporter has to admit that Bush now tragically resembles one of those howling mad emperors from the last days of the Roman Empire. It would have taken a media spectacle on the order of capturing terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden to turn around this shipwreck, and even GOP guru and sleaze-meister Karl Rove himself was helpless to offset the endless cavalcade of recent bad news that hit the party so hard -- so relentless and below the belt was the rain of blows this time around.

In the 2004 presidential election, over 59 million Americans cast votes for someone other than George W. Bush, and since then his popularity has plummeted to record depths. Thinking, rational people have seen enough, and so on Tuesday they took to the polls to send out the clowns in a watershed moment for the country. The obvious precedent was the infamous Contract on America midterm election of 1994 that Republicans rode to power -- ushering in the era of one-party rule that has been so detrimental to the country at large ever since.

It sometimes seemed as if the late, great political commentator Hunter S. Thomspon himself was pulling the strings from beyond the grave -- bestowing one last grand gift while entertaining us with one nutty conservative candidate after another. The fear and loathing was positively Nixonian in scope, offering the Democrats dream opponent after dream opponent, getting bogged down in scandal after scandal. A strain of contemptible, very un-Christianlike behavior was on display from "moral" heavyweights like the Reverend Ted Haggard and disgraced politicians like Don Sherwood, Bob Ney and Mark Foley, leaving the Dems smelling like fine perfume when compared to the stench emanating from the Republican dung heap.

Combustible, paranoid yahoos like George Allen, Rick Santorum, Conrad Burns and Katherine Harris were daily showing their true colors on the campaign trail at a most inopportune time, and the negative onslaught threatened almost every Republican running for office. Suddenly, races where the Republican candidate was once considered a lock were tightening, with momentum spiraling downward like an out of control whirlpool.
Even once all-powerful conservative icons who were not politicans, like the offensive drone known as Rush Limbaugh, were committing unthinkable "boners" that did candidates they were ostensibly supporting no favors. Almost everything Republicans touched the last four or five weeks had a reverse Midas effect -- cemented by their streak of nasty, hypocritical conduct that did so much to turn off large segments of the voting public.

If only the political awakening had come even two years earlier, in 2004, or four years earlier, six years earlier, how much misery and anguish could have been avoided.

In the end, the dire straits of Republican candidates mirrored the pitiful, heart-rending plight of those stranded horses we saw trapped on that tiny island last week in the Netherlands. But whereas people naturally regretted what happened to the poor, unfortunate beasts who were dying because of cirsumstances not of their making, the power-mad, greed-crazed Republican politicians had no one but themselves to blame for their dwindling fortunes.

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