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Irrational exuberance over the mid-term election

I admit to a certain degree of pre-election, hysterical jackassery.

The things is, while I know that virtually nothing is likely to change for the better in the wake of tomorrow’s mid-term election, I’m compulsively checking the political news sites and the online prognosticators — Nate Silver’s 538 in particular. It’s all Politico to Daily Caller to 538, then a little CNN.com and a taste of MSNBC.com, and back to …

But it’s all bullshit. There may be some tweaks after tomorrow’s results, but I highly doubt that much of substance will change. We’ll still be saddled with an ever-expanding state, shrinking realms of life in which we can make our own decisions, and an economic debacle looming ever-closer as office-holders play hot potato with the job of explaining to the American people that both Social Security and Medicare have always been both incredibly stupid and unsustainable ideas, and Obamacare is just a double-down on idiocy.

It’s not that everybody running for office or participating in the process is a scam artist; in fact, I expect that the Tea Party activists of the moment’s headlines are overwhelmingly sincere (if occasionally unhinged). It’s just that the United States has some of the most astoundingly well-stage-managed elections in “democratic” history. Idealists come and go, but the same political parties, dynasties and even policies endure for decade after decade. Sea changes do come from time to time, but with almost geological slowness compared to the forces that have swept away Canada’s Progressive Conservative Party, every major Italian political party of the post-war period, New Zealand’s old first-past-the-post system and even several French constitutions.

Elections happen in the U.S., but change doesn’t necessarily follow. The same shit just gets done to us by a slightly re-shuffled arrangement of oh-so-concerned faces.

I don’t think it’s all futile, though. No would-be omnipotent puppet-master is half as invulnerable as he or she thinks. But we won’t actually know that the real change is coming until we wake up some morning to find that the White House is in flames and a revolutionary junta of iPad app programmers has seized the airwaves and is locked in a death struggle with Android-powered counter-revolutionaries.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing will depend purely on the entertainment value.

If I was completely sane, I’d remember the revelation I first had when I was about … oh crap … five. That’s when I realized that a decent life depends on living the way you wish no matter what the folks in charge say, not on waiting for the rules to change.

But I still find myself getting that irrational thrill, waiting for the early returns …

Posted in Elections


  • But it’s all bullshit.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that this sentiment is especially true for Arizona’s elections. I cannot imagine a more vivid example of an election in which it’s a choice between “Moron” or “Imbecile” for every single candidate on the ballot for state and local office, with all of the candidates belonging to the “Criminal” party, no matter what their “official” partisan label. I’m sure, J.D., that your feelings don’t really fall under the “irrational exuberance” or “hysterical jackassery” label as much as that of “morbid curiosity” or “perverse fascination.”

    If I didn’t have to work tomorrow, I wouldn’t even bother getting out of bed…

  • 3rd paragraph, beginning of second sentence: “They’re” should be “there”.

  • J.D. wrote, But I still find myself getting that irrational thrill, waiting for the early returns ….

    Not me. I don’t like seeing bad things happening. Elections nearly always result in more bad than good after all is said and done, at least here in California. I’ll certainly have some interest in the results, but I’ll wait to read them in tomorrow’s newspaper.

  • “Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other’s speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in.” – H.L. Menken

  • I agree that the choices in Arizona are a special breed of revolting. It’s smug arrogance vs. hateful ignorance — we all lose either way.

    Fred, thanks for the heads-up!

    And yes simply churning the chum bucket has a certain value.

  • LP and other third party voters have been disenfranchised in WA State, so now the only choices are between lesser-of-evil R’s and D’s. Luckily the initiative process is workable, and there is one libertarian Supreme Court justice the establishment goes after every election cycle, so there is still some use in voting. If not for these exceptions, I would give up voting. Still, I follow the polls and punditry as avidly as I did when I actually voted for Senators and the like, and for the same reason I watch TV news – entertainment. JD: Do you actually vote? Do you think the intensity of your interest in the irrelevant filling of offices would diminish if you disengaged from the process? I’m wondering the same about myself.

  • Well, it’s the “morning after,” and, to no one’s surprise, nothing in the Grand Conyon State appears to have changed in terms of “da bums dat represents us.” I’m most shocked by the fact that the electorate here in Tucson actually voted against the proposed half of one percent increase in the sales tax rate. Surely this was the result of either “pulling the wrong lever” or faulty voting machines. No Tucsonan could possibly have voted in accordance with common sense.

  • Scott,

    I do vote, which is likely a mistake given the statistical insignificance of any given vote and the aggravation I endure throughout the process. If I could stick with my regular promises to quit the process, I bet I’d get a lot more satisfaction (and less agitation) from healthier pursuits.

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