I cannot claim to have just been born and experiencing William James’s “blooming, buzzing, confusion,” but I now realize I have been suffering from it for quite a long time. Actually, I might have just now got over it, now that I finally realize I am insane. My latest political prediction, like virtually all of my previous predi ctions for almost 60 years, was wrong. I now realize the cause of my failure to make successful predictions lies in the fact that I invariably assume the electorate has at least a modicum of intelligence, or at least tend to think in much the same way I do about things. This assumption has been proven incorrect time after time. Thus, if doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a measure of insanity, I am clearly insane. I said Richard Nixon could never be elected President, ditto for Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. I never believed Jimmy Carter could be elected as the thought of a Georgia peanut farmer with lust in his heart might be elected strained my credulity. I didn’t really believe that Bill Clinton could be elected although I voted for him. Frankly, I never believed that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama could be elected. You can judge for yourselves just how great or awful all of these individuals worked out to be, but I was clearly wrong about them all.
Another thing that might be clearer to me now has to do with “extremism.” I always thought that to be extreme was to be on one or the other end of a continuum of something, so far from the center as to be thought sort of “way out.” I thought this was supposed to be undesirable. Last night’s election results have helped me understand this concept a bit better. Take, for example, the case of Buck in Colorado. He announced clearly (and I thought even rather proudly) that he was against abortion even in cases of rape or incest. I regarded this as an extreme position even for those opposed to abortion. Apparently large numbers of Colorado voters were unconcerned about this, as while it is true that he lost, he lost only by the very slightest of margins. Or take the even more pronounced case of Sharron Angles. Here is someone who is really “far out,” on many isssues, such as no abortions, doing away with the Departments of Education and Energy, privatizing social security, and so on. She, too, lost, but she did received 45% of the vote in Nevada. Rand Paul has all kinds of rather extreme views and won comfortably in Kentucky. It would appear that extremist is not necessarily a handicap when it comes to large portions of the American electorate. This brings up an even more bizarre case, that of Christine O’Donnell. Here is a candidate whose views are even beyond extreme, as they are not really on a continuum of any kind. That is, masturbation as adultery, mice with human brains, and evolution as myth are not the ends of any known continuum of generally held beliefs as no one but O’Donnell has ever held such beliefs (you might arguably argue evolution as myth might be). These views cannot be seen as actually extreme as they are more akin to the fantastic idiosyncratic ravings of a lunatic. Even so, four out of ten voters in Delaware still voted for her. To me this indicates that some forty or more per cent of the electorate is not very intelligent, or at the least do not even share my rather pedestrian thoughts on such matters. Apparently one can be even borderline or completely insane and still get lots of votes (think Michelle Bachmann as well as O’Donnell). I find this unnerving, unsettling, unacceptable, and in some cases downright frightening.
I truly did not believe the Republicans, including the tea partiers, would do as well as they did. Even now I find it difficult to believe that the electorate swept into office many of the same people who brought about the mess we are in, as well as people with views so far-fetched as to be totally impractical in the real world of American politics. I do not believe health care is going to be repealed (personally I believe it should be, to be replaced by a sensible single-payer system) and leave the insurance industry free to exploit us shamelessly as they have always done. I do not believe Social Security and Medicare are going to be phased out and privatized (heaven help us if I am wrong about this). This is not to say I don’t believe some potentially terrible things may happen, particularly when it comes to the environment and labor. I found it fascinating to listen to Boehner’s tearful pie-in-the-sky speech in which he claimed Republicans were now going to do things they have never, ever, done in the past, such as listen to “the people.” Since when have they ever been concerned about the people? They say they expect Obama to cooperate with them. He is supposed to cooperate with them when their stated goal is to bring him down and make him a one term President? If the last couple of years are any indication he may prove to be just wishy-washy enough to do so. I look for nothing much of anything to happen as this new bunch of thieves and loonies, joined together with those that already exist in Congress, will not be able to govern even if they try. They may, however, manage to extend the obscene tax cuts for the top 2% (you know, the really needy people) and they will resist any cuts at all in our bloated and unnecessary military/industrial/political complex. All in all I suspect it will be pretty much business as usual, only worse.