The short answer, it seems to me, is that we are a selfish and ill-informed culture. Too much self-regard and too little thought. This outcome is just what we should expect from an electorate educated on TV, and especially by the unending stream of vitriolic lies from Fox News (I saw one entertaining story which claimed that "Fox presented the most 'balanced' election coverage," as though their innocent half-day coverage undid years of systematic hyper-partisan lies).
We need a new bumper sticker: I'M STUPID AND ANGRY AND I VOTE!! And so they did. What else can one call it?
- The Tea-Baggers fanned people's anger and campaigned on simple, 10- Commandment-style principles, yet no one seriously expects them to be able to change anything when they've gained their election victories on principles which were never grounded in reality. (And people know this! Having been convinced they're overtaxed, even though the country is doing so much better economically and materially than most of the rest of the world, they want their taxes reduced; but even a full Republican government could not reduce spending. Quite the contrary.)
- Polls show that more people blame Republicans than Democrats for the economic mess we're in, yet we're ushering back in the same Republicans we threw out in a huff two years ago... because Democrats didn't fix everything in that two years' time.
- Obama and the Democrats are lambasted for the stimulus package, even though it was begun under W and no economist not being paid by Roger Ailes will say it wasn't desperately needed at the time to avert a total economic collapse. (Now that the collapse has been averted, the shamelessly political thing to do is to declare it unnecessary and harmful, like a kind of Holocaust denial.)
- People are tired of "big government" and big spending (except for big, big military spending and spending on programs they themselves like), yet it was Republicans who spent us into this hole in the first place. The Republican fairy tale "Pledge to America" vows to fix things, but the few specifics therein ensure that they cannot in fact fix anything while honoring their pledge.
- People are pissed that health care did not go far enough (except for those who already have health care, who want it taken away from everyone else); but they've voted in a group determined to take it away altogether. (We'll see what happens to the political will when people are faced with losing what they finally gained from Democrats' actions.)
- Voters are pissed at the logjam of Congress, but they've voted in scores of folks who are committed to stop Democrats without compromise. (Given a slightly Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the White House, this will guarantee another two years' of logjam.)
None of this computes. I'm trying to follow my own advice and not descend to the apocalyptic, but this feels to me like we just drank a liter of anti-freeze to help an upset stomach. I keep expecting folks to wake up and see that their sense of reality has been carefully crafted by Rupert Murdoch and his billionaire backers, and they're not at all going to like what they will reap in the end. This election makes me wonder if this will never happen, if we will happily vote our culture into its inevitable decline.
Maybe this is just sour grapes. Things will unfold as they do. In the meantime, I guess my taxes in the short term will not be going up (even though I'm quite happy to put my money where my mouth is and accept my share of the desperately-needed increases).