Every Monday or Wednesday (or whenever), FADER editorial director Peter Macia eases in to the work week by writing semi-extensively and somewhat incoherently about something that is making his head hurt. This week, of course, he writes about the 2010 midterm elections of the United States.
I slept from 9:30PM to 2AM last night so I could watch the midterm election results all night on television. Actually, I fell asleep at 9:30PM by accident and woke at 2AM miserable, so I watched the midterm election results because I don't have cable. I watched for hours as Republicans won 65 seats in the House of Representatives to take over majority rule of that body and a few seats in the Senate to close the gap on the Democratic majority there. Republicans also won several gubernatorial races.
I watched nearly every Republican winner whose victory speech was shown call his/her win part of a "tsunami." Mark Kirk, the GOP winner of President Obama's old Senate seat in Illinois, phrased it this way: "We are 800 miles from any ocean but a tsunami just hit the heartland." Genius. Did this "tsunami" flatten the homes of thousands of Democrats and drown the children of typical Washington politics? Let's hope so. Can this dude be in charge of some sort of emergency response committee or maybe special ambassador to East Asia? Kirk, by the way, surfed the tsunami into the Capitol on the concave back of Roland Burris, the allegedly corrupt junior senator appointed by then Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich under dubious circumstances in 2008, after Obama left for the White House. Kirk also beat an opponent who was once the chief loan officer of a regional bank owned by his father that was seized by the FDIC due to delinquent real estate loans. So despite Kirk's documented willingness to inflate his own military and teaching records and his 19-year work history on Capitol Hill, he is seen as part of this massive wave of honest, cleansing anti-politicians rolling toward Washington.
Kirk's new leader in the House will presumably be the Republican representative from Ohio, current Minority Leader John Boehner, who choked back a tsunami of tears at his victory speech as he talked about "chasing the American dream" all his life. Boehner has been a member of the House since 1990, or 20 years, or a third of his dreaming life, and won his seat in the middle of George HW Bush's first and only term after eight years of Ronald Reagan. He said he ran after seeing the American Dream fading away, which would mean that he ran against the very policies he now appears to favor. This, of course, is not true. Boehner has always been the politician he is today. But somehow he is the Bodhi of the Point Break pirate rebels coming to take America back from Baracky Utah and Nancy "Lori Petty" Pelosi. Don't hold your breath.
The problem with all of this, and by all of this I mean the 2010 elections, is that it feels like no more than a trend, like chillwave, but is really just a repackaging of old material, like Lady Gaga. The "tsunami" of reform that swept Republicans to the largest House turnaround in decades is being credited to the Tea Party movement, which is usually depicted as a surging collection of disgruntled Americans representing all walks of life but largely comprised of working class folks from small town America, the under- and unemployed who are suffering because of Obamacare and socialism. Unfortunately, this image of everyman revolution is debunked by this New York Times poll from April 2010 that appears to show a Tea Party constituency largely made up of white men over the age of 45 who rate their financial situation as "fairly good" and vote overwhelmingly Republican. Oops. It turns out the under- and unemployed and working class actually like a little bit of socialism as it sends out the checks that allow them to eat and pay bills and go to the hospital. So we're not exactly talking about a new union of new voters so much as a new name for old voters.
The Tea Party is not populist anymore than Gaga is. It's the formulaic creation by a group accustomed to being in control who saw that control slipping away. It appeals to our basest desires as Americans: freedom, liberty and primacy. The line it feeds to everyone is a reversal of the negative direction of the current government, but the reality of its agenda is a return to the status quo. It is Dick Armey, one of Newt Gingrich's "Republican Revolution" of 1994, and Sarah Palin, who just ran on the Republican presidential ticket. If the Tea Party is really concerned or responsible for a rebuke of incumbent Washington, shouldn't its leadership be a little less, eh, incumbent? These people are deeply within the Republican power structure. It's like if Nickelback came out with a witch house record. Be serious.
The funny thing is that the Tea Party's call for action on the Hill is actually something we all would love to see. Everyone wants the president and the Congress to work together to get the economy back in the red, to cooperate on some truly meaningful legislation, to move beyond partisan tug-o-war and actually think about us for a change. That certainly will not happen with a split house. Nothing will happen. Over the next two years, we will probably see more energy devoted by members of the Congress to their election in 2012 than to actual policy-making, and the war of words between Democrats and Republicans will almost certainly grow more vitriolic and divisive as those behind the Tea Party sense a momentum against President Obama. The balance will create stasis as both parties dig their trenches.
Fortunately, we have two years to decide if this is a good idea, if this perpetual campaigning of our elected representatives rather than doing the work they were elected to do is an acceptable form of government. Are we cool with paying someone $200,000 to get nothing done? If so, I would like to introduce myself as the next representative of whatever district The FADER office is in. I will do nothing but talk shit for $200,000 a year, no problem. What about you? You would? No you wouldn't, dumbass. See what I did there? I'm already earning my salary. What about the millions of unemployed people in this country? Would they like to receive $200,000 to talk shit? Let's all talk shit and get rich! Yeah China what's up! You wanna buy some shittalk?
We might be totally screwed actually. Pretty sure China is not interested in buying even one shittalk. Maybe we can sell them some tea.