The Morning After An Eight Year One Night Stand

November 5, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

In the dim light of the bar, it seemed like such a good idea.  Things had been dull, though financially there’d been some improvement.  Time to relax, maybe have a fling.  The stranger sauntered over, holding a longneck, and leaned against the counter, smiled, and said “Hi.  Come here often?”

“Used to.  Looks a little different though…”

“The crowd’s changed a little, but basically they’re a good bunch.  But if you’d rather go somewhere else…”

I didn’t sleep well last night.  I do not usually watch the election night circus.  Generally, I have an attitude of “It will be what it turns out to be” and either read a book or do some work, going to bed early.  Last night I started watching, though.

I would never have believed how anxious I’d become over this.  I really did harbor the sinking fear that McCain, somehow, would win.  That the majority of my fellow citizens would actually vote another Republican into the White House, with all that such a move implied.

I couldn’t stand it.  I saw that early lead, flipped from station to station, watched the South started rolling over for the Republicans once more, and just couldn’t stand to watch.  It wasn’t the kind of popular landslide I wished for.

What did I hope?  I’d hoped people would wake up and realize that, no matter what their aspirations, fantasies, private dreams, or desires might be, most of us are not wealthy and never will be.  And with that realization the fact that voting for the best interests of the CEOs of GM, Ford, Exxon Mobile, ADM, et al is not the same as voting in your own best interest.  Those folks did not grow rich by extending their largesse to the Common Folk.  They got that way by maximizing the flow of cash into their own pockets.  That’s not a stereotype, it’s a business model.  And to suggest that recognizing that fact is somehow Class Warfare is to misunderstand the nature of Class.  They are not a Class, they are an aberration.  They will cut each other’s hearts out and eat them just as readily as sacrificing the best interests of the general public if it served their individual need.  There is little solidarity among them, other than the kind one might find among a group of Mafiosi, who join forces when expedient, but turn on each other in moments of weakness.

I’d hoped people would realize this, and that they really didn’t have to worry about their own futures by denying the existence of common cause with such people.  (The classic canard that higher taxes and regulations on wealth act as disinventives for entrepreneurial aspirations needs to be debunked once and for all—the highest period of economic growth of the 20th Century was the Fifties, a time when taxes on wealth were so high trhe jokes were common currency high and low, yet people still struggled mightily to “make it big” and created a land of prosperity unparalelled in history.  If you make so much money that you slide into a higher tax bracket, you have still nonetheless made a lot more money!  And for the most part, you get to keep it!)

Clearly that didn’t happen.

The Republicans have since the Seventies managed to convince us that when someone says he’ll raise taxes on people making over $250,000 a year, he means we’ll all pay such taxes.  As if we all make that kind of money.

Let’s be real for a moment.  Donna and I do all right—we’ve done better, we’ve done worse—but we’ve never been anywhere close to six figure incomes, singly or together.  We’ve never even been in the upper five figures.  Most of the people we know live in the middle five figure, and of those most are below 50K.  That’s the reality for most of the country, I think.  When I listen to politicians bandying figures around about what constitutes Middle America (where is that I wonder?) I scratch my head and puzzle about who it is they’re talking about.

To be fair to voters, once you make your way up into those higher income brackets, a kind of amnesia takes hold and you forget from whence you came.  When some of our more well-to-do friends complained about their taxes going up under Clinton, they spoke with us as if it happened to us as well.  They were utterly dismayed to hear that we’d gotten tax cuts.  How’d we manage that? they asked, as if there were some kind of trick to it.

We don’t make as much as you do.

Anyway, we turned off the tv and went to bed.  And failed to sleep well.  Donna got up at three, wandered into the living room, and turned on the radio.  I lay there for a minute or so, then followed her.

She looked at me with encircled eyes, perched on the edge of the couch.  “I think maybe,” she said, “just maybe…”

Then we heard it:  President-elect Barack Obama.

A switch opened in my head and a flood of tension seemed to flow away.  I went back to bed and slept deeply.  Overslept.

This morning I checked the news services for the statistics and saw the national map, red and blue states marked.  Missouri is still too close to call, as are one or two others.

340 plus electoral votes, to McCain’s 160.  More than 2-to-1.  Not to mention the gains in the Senate and House.  Yes.

But I look at that map and damned if the stereotype just doesn’t hold still.  I live in a part of the country that, according to that map, is still Republican.  The exceptions are striking.  Obama took New Mexico and Colorado.  He took Florida and, to my utter dismay, Virginia.  Florida isn’t really a “southern state” as such and the rest of The South went for McCain.  Why?  Because he’s Republican or because he’s white?  Who knows?  I can guess, but it would be an opinion that could only be confirmed piecemeal, and inaccurately.

Some of the poorest states went with McCain.  I do not understand.

It’s curious that I felt such concern, because in a way Bush’s eight years touched me very little.  My life hasn’t changed much in any way that I could attribute to his policies (or lack thereof).  I have no relatives in Iraq or Afghanistan, I’ve never been censored, I have not been directly impacted by anything but the sharp rise in gasoline prices (which could have happened under any president, though his economic policies certainly did nothing to ameliorate the problem).  I’ve been able to go where I want to, say what I want to, pretty much buy what I want to, read what I want to.  It has largely been an intellectual problem for me.  I chafe at the attitudes.

My point is, that in many ways we are natural subscribers to Republican policy.  We’ve been responsible kept our personal debt very low, in fact we own our home, and until last week had no car payment, we’ve saved whenever possible, and lived within our means.  I do have problems with people who blithely live as if consequences never adhere to ill-considered actions.  We have no children, though, a conscious CHOICE which does run counter to Republican rhetoric (though I wonder how many of those red-staters who vote to overturn Roe-v-Wade and ban sex education from the schools themselves have more than one-point-six children and use contraception as if it were a natural-born god-given right).  I believe entitlements are poorly-conceived and ill-managed…but that’s not the same as condemning them outright as somehow morally evil.

Point being that on the surface, we look like Republicans.  It’s so profoundly superficial as to be laughable.

Yet clearly my sense of moral outrage has turned me into an anxiety-ridden anti-Republican, no question.  It is the outrage aimed at those who actually don’t seem to Get It.  They don’t see why we should extend considerations to foreigners, or rights we take for granted to those who don’t meet our model for ideal citizens.  They don’t see why Being Strong is not the same as being a bully.  They don’t understand the nature of problems, only want to call an exterminator when one crops up.

I feel that the country has been on a bender in a bad part of town and now we’ve all woken up on the morning after and in the full light of day have a chance to see just what it is we’ve gone to bed with.  We have a choice, now, to see it as having been a really bad idea.

But it seems a lot of people woke up and thought “Hey, it don’t look so good, but the screwing was awesome!  Let’s do it again!”

Fortunately, they can’t stay for breakfast.

Oh, and it might be a good idea to make a doctor’s appointment and make sure we didn’t catch anything, you know, fatal?


Category: American Culture, Civil Rights, Communication, Culture, Current Events, Economy, ignorance, Iraq, Language, Media, Politics, snake oil, The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    I was also anxious last night. Even after watching Obama's victory speech, I've had a difficult time believing that Obama beat McCain-Palin. I believe it now, however. I now feel confident that the nightmare is over, at least for awhile.

    Now we might have intelligent adults leading us. That would be so incredibly different than it's been for the past eight years.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Keep in mind that Obama even said that it is not over in his acceptance speech. It is time to begin. Time to get to work. Time to put forth the effort necessary to make of our nation the nation that so many feel it to be.

    There are extremist opponents who will do what they can to prevent the usurper from ascending the throne. There are supporters who think their job is over, and will now sit back and hope things will somehow get better.

    Too many Americans are unaware that the ubiquitous "them" is all of us, and the time has come to pull together. Obama may have won, but 4 states also passed laws explicitly denying rights to a despised minority. Bond issues and tax bills for public transportation and other infrastructure resoundingly failed.

    This is a nation of the people, and half of them feel cheated now as the other half has felt for the last 8 years. Remember the Chinese curse, and realize that these are interesting times. And prepare to roll up your sleeves if you want to see improvement.

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