An Appropriate Sendoff
I think that all good Republicans should take a moment from our busy schedules of oppressing minorities and women, fondling our concealed handguns and driving oversized sport utility vehicles over helpless woodland creatures to think of what was lost last Tuesday. Many on the left wing of the aisle have already had a lot of time to think about what was lost. They'll trot out the old tripe: we lost the last vestiges of presidential prestige once the president started raising money pretty much full time. We lost our civil rights as the nation legitimized the goose-stepping reign of Der Fuhrer Ashcroft. And of course they will trot out that we rubber-stamped corporate greed, economic malaise and creeping theocracy.
I've decided to cross the aisle and commiserate with the Democrats. I too think much was lost in the 2002 elections. There's always a painful loss after every cycle. Take my body, for example. After two corn dogs and a ride on a roller coaster, I lose my lunch. After getting my 41st cold-hearted rejection email in my search for post-Dartmouth employment, I lose my faith in life. After looking at the salad bar at Food Court, I lose my appetite.
And there are a number of things I'll be similarly sorry to lose when the 107th Congress goes home. For instance:
Thank God we've lost that for at least a couple of years. I thought that I'd left it when I left New Jersey, where the ritualized mudslinging polluted the air like the refineries outside Newark International Airport. Instead, I'm standing in a voting booth in Hanover High School balancing various types of vice and iniquity against one another. Do I pick the philanderer or the liar? The tax-and-spend liberal or the fat-cat Republican? Should I elect a treasurer who can't meet a budget or a bible-thumper who takes direct orders from Jerry Falwell?
Our War on Terrorism is a marathon, not a sprint, comments our estimable president. And we should know because he's run the Dallas Marathon and does three six-minute miles every morning. The 107th Congress isn't so cardiovascularly inclined. They've clogged the arteries of legislation with unfinished spending bills, an unformed Homeland Security Department, and -- two years after Bush's inauguration -- a backlog of confirmations left to do.
Pork is the grease of the gridlocked Congress. Partisan deadlock has forced Bush to make compromises on such issues as free trade, signing a $900 billion agricultural subsidy bill while proclaiming free trade to the world. With the branches of Congress aligned and gridlock alleviated, the taxpayers of this country might see some of these hundreds of billions of dollars in future fiscal years.
By late August of this year, Craig Benson had spent almost $10 million getting elected. On Nov. 5, he got 257,000 people to vote for him. That's at least $40 a vote. In New York, Golisano spent $63 per vote. In Texas, Perry and Sanchez spent $72 million dollars chasing 4.2 million voters at a cost of $17.40 a vote. In each of those states, that's a lot of pancake breakfasts, bagels and barbecue hoe-downs. Yet none of this produced anything with close to the intrinsic value of maple syrup, carbohydrates and slow-cooked beef. All the voters got for their donations and support was a forest of lawn signs, a blizzard of "Robocalls," and a clinging film of bumper stickers.
Baseball Interruptions of "The Simpsons"
OK, strictly speaking, this isn't anything other than coincidence. But it's still correlated with the expulsion of Congress from Washington. And it's still something we hated for the past fall. How many times have we gleefully turned on a TV at 8:00 on a Sunday night and been treated to a long spectacle of overpaid athletes acting out America's "national pastime" while half the spectators at the game have left already? For the next two months, at least, Fox will preempt the Simpsons with a meagerly acceptable substitute. NFL football satisfies the mob with brutal violence and bright, shiny commentator jackets.
I'm being bipartisan in my bashing of Congress tonight. And the United States deserves better than Jesse Helms. Holding up hundreds of millions in U.N. funding over a few $150 parking tickets is like me pistol-whipping the French waiter who refuses to speak English.
Unrestricted Soft Money
Thanks to McCain-Feingold, this is the last election where the strength of national parties -- and not local candidates -- makes a significant difference in elections. Tobacco companies, teachers' unions and the NAACP will have to find some other way to pervert the political process in 2004.