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Category: Politics

It Might be Bad, but it Could be Worse
Elections always come served with a large helping of anxiety. The one we’re heading into is no different. Some of that anxiety is just nervous anticipation — even some excited hope that something really good might happen. But mostly, it’s about fear, and this year holds plenty of that for both sides.

The right (or the GOP, or MAGA, or Qanon, or however we identify it these days) is apparently afraid of being replaced (though there are no reports as yet of Magas actually disappearing). They also fear that heir rights will be taken away and that the election will be stolen.

The left, interestingly, has the same fears (excepting the replacement thing). They are worried about different rights, though, and the stolen elections that concern them are scheduled further into the future.

We might differ about which of these two sets of fears have the best grounding in evidence or stand up best to the application of plain common sense, but in the end that argument would miss the point. They are fears. They are not products of reasoning or research. Thinking and fact-finding may have helped generate them, but once they qualify as a potent emotion, they tend to take on lives of their own. Mere logic and “reality” can no longer affect them.

So that’s where we are right now. Everybody — on both sides — is spooked by something. And that feeling is real, no matter how misguided or bent out of shape the mind behind it may be. On November 9, when the dust settles and we can make out the contours of our political topography for the next two years, perhaps our minds will be clearer, too. Once the electoral anxiety is gone, once the fear subsides, what will we see?

I won’t even guess about what will happen inside the Magas’ heads. They “think” in the same way that the devoutly religious do, and I am not a religious person. I assume they will maintain their faith that elections are being stolen (except when their candidates win), and they will continue to fret about losing the right to carry semi-automatic weapons. If the GOP sweeps the House and Senate, though, I their quest might actually lose a little steam. The “good guys” will be in power, and they won’t have as much to fear.

But how about the left? Would a GOP sweep really force them to confront a reality in which authoritarianism has taken hold? That is what the fear has us believing right now.

I don’t think it will be that simple, even if the right wins across the board. For one thing, the vow to reinstall Trump as President will not, cannot be honored. The law, our courts, and a host of other institutions will make that impossible. And though he might never see the inside of a jail cell, it is hard to imagine him not being swept away by the tsunami of legal consequences he has brought on himself.

If you want to call that just another doomed prediction of Trump’s demise, so be it. I am simply reporting what I see in my anxiety-free crystal ball.

What we would have to deal with if the right wins, however, is a whole lot of chaos — not just in our elections, but in a host of other realms that the Magas would then rule. Their ideas, their “solutions,” their willingness to shake up the order of things all go well beyond what the old, traditional conservatives were capable of. In short, they will screw things up like they’ve never been screwed up before. Elections, fiscal policy, tax policy, foreign affairs, Social Security, Medicare — and yes, inflation — will all get worse. And the chaos will affect everyone in the country on a very personal level.

That is bad politics. They will certainly make a mess of things, but I don’t think they’ll have time to completely poison our free elections. They will be shown the door by a dissatisfied electorate before they have the chance.

Or, so says this crystal ball.
Look Again
George W. Bush famously claimed that he had looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and gotten a “sense of his soul.” His verdict: trustworthy.

I wonder what he’d see in there now.
Move Over, Lincoln
Everyone agrees. Joe Biden is having one helluva summer.

Let’s review, shall we? Killed the leader of Al Qaeda. Saved the planet. Made life-saving drugs cheaper. Brought unemployment to a 50-year low. Surged U.S. tech competitiveness. Saved vets’ medical benefits. Gave students a break on their loans when they needed it most. Put the brakes on inflation. Beat the Covid.

All that, and now he’s ripping the MAGA Republicans a new one. And pointing out that not one Republican of any kind helped him along the way. He didn’t do it all by himself, but they did everything they could to stop him.

With any luck, the trend will continue into the election, and Joe will also end up saving our country and democracy worldwide. 79, and firing on all cylinders!

So…time to retire, right? Wait until after the election, and leave the stage on his own terms. To cheers and the promise of heroic immortality. At the very top of his game. Let someone else carry the torch from here on. Right?

Don't Be Cruel
We all think bad thoughts. Sometimes, anyway. And though I hate to say this, we all have a mean streak. Even your little old granny. And yes, Dudley Do-Right, Jimmy Carter, and Jesus. Somewhere inside us, we are at least a little bit cruel. We are a little bit kind, too, but we’ll go into that some other time (with your generous permission).

If you think I am cruel for even suggesting that everyone is cruel, let me direct your attention to the natural human capacity for schadenfreude. That’s the pleasure you felt when Infowars screamer Alex Jones was humiliated in court recently. Whether we like it or not, that rush of schadenfreude springs comes from a kernel of cruelty inside us. All of us.

The fact that Jones himself is a paragon of cruelty does not really let us off the hook, either. While thinking that someone needs to “be taken down a peg” is not cruel, finding pleasure in seeing it happen is.

Mother Teresa, if she were still around, would no doubt suppress the feeling. So would Barney the dinosaur, Pollyanna, and Buddha. They’d have the impulse because they’re flesh-and-blood humans just like the rest of us (except for Barney, who is mostly foam rubber). The difference is that they would not dwell on the feeling, much less wallow in it. And, even though suppressing feelings is risky, giving in to cruelty is even worse.

Not all us could pull that off, though, especially with someone like Alex Jones. But let me repeat: cruelty is bad. Maybe a little schadenfreude is forgivable, but the levels of cruelty that Jones and his followers revel in are harder to explain away. And those levels are on the rise in our society. With the encouragement of our leaders in politics and the media, we have all gotten more cruel.

Let’s be clear. It’s much, much worse on the right. If you really think left-wing extremists are just as bad, please let me know the next time Bernie or AOC calls for revenge against the FBI for enforcing the law. But don’t look so smug, lefties. You have a potential for cruelty just like the most rabid MAGAs. So just make sure you’re suppressing that impulse to unleash some kind of savage, bloody revenge.

I’m looking at you, Barney.
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Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz