Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What have you seen, my blue-eyed son?

I'm going to find a way to make this picture a permanent part of the blog. Well, at least for awhile. It says way too many things on way too many levels to let it just be a one-off.

I could comment on it for hours. Days, even. But for now, let it suffice to serve as backdrop and headnote to my contemplation of what is coming.

Dems lead by 23% over the GOP in a generic House race. The GOP is losing moms and maybe evangelical voters. Foley is hurting the GOP and evangelicals may be figuring out they've been played for rubes. Turn out the lights, the party's over.

I purposely drew from blogs for that news. Just two, but there's more news like it. And I could have gone here, or here, or even here. No slight on any of those bloggers, but it's all left blogistan is talking about; and no surprise there, is it? It's all pretty much the same news, and all pretty much the same spirit of expectation: that a new day is going to dawn.

Pardon me if I demur. Pardon me if I begin to feel like I've seen this movie, and I know how it comes out. Pardon me if this all just looks like the deck chairs on the Titanic are being arranged into a familiar pattern.

But, you will say, Democrats would never have gotten us into Iraq, or approve of torture, or an unconstitutional wire-tapping campaign, or secret prisons, or Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, silencing protestors via false arrest, set up "free-speech zones," and so on, and so on. And I will say: what have Democrats done to prevent any of those abuses of power? And what will they do in January, even if they control both Houses of Congress after November?

And the right answer is: nothing.

Atrios is right; Bush will not leave Iraq, period. And Congress will not cut off the funding that allows the troops to stay there. Precious little, in fact, is going to look any different in January than it does right now. Joe Biden's plan for withdrawal or John Kerry's or even John Murtha's is going to run up against the Bush consigliere, and nothing will really change. Nor does anyone in Washington really want it to.

We will awake on the second Wednesday of November, in other words, to find that nothing has changed except the faces in front of the TV cameras. There is no Jimmy Stewart in the Democratic party, and he is not going to clean up Washington and return it to the place of our dreams and imaginings. Things may get marginally less worse than they are now, but only marginally. No laws will be passed forcing Bush to shut down the secret prisons, or close Gitmo, or try every person in US custody (not just "citizens") in open court or just turn them loose again. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will go bloodily on, with no end in sight, and when there is finally an end we will still just pull out like we did from Saigon; except this time there won't be a government to take over and the people of the countries won't forgive us our sins, because this time we threw the first punch, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan know their even numbered punch is never coming. And if this sounds like I'm saying "We're done for, we're done for!", well, I'm not that naive. But the political system is not going to be our salvation. It isn't even going to give us the tools to effect anything close to justice. The musicians will simply swap seats, and the band will play on.

It would be wonderful to live in a world where we could be as gentle as Mary, but alas, those skulls keep piling up behind us. Mark Foley should go to jail if he is found guilty of a violation of the law - and again, there is no indication so far that he has comitted a crime - and even if he has not, he doesn't belong in Congress. Nor does Hastert or any of the leaders who turned a blind eye to Foley's salacious messages. To say as much is not judgmental, nor is it unforgiving. It is rather an admission of the responsibility that we bear to the people affected by these leaders. It's the same thing down the line in this election season: we owe to the people of Iraq, at the very least, to hold our elected officials accountable for their miscues in allowing a stupid, unjust war to proceed and deteriorate. As much as the Christian in me would like to offer absolution to Foley, et. al., the citizen cannot.
Yes, it would be a wonderful world if that were possible. And yes, the skulls do keep piling up; and they are going to go on piling up, no matter what we do. These are the conditions that prevail. And while we can hold our representatives accountable, in the end the only accountability they really have is re-election. And in our system, the incumbents are almost always a shoo-in. On the rare occasion when they are not, their replacement is, for all intents and purposes, nearly identical to them. Joe Biden, after all, is not going to be replaced by John Conyers.

That hard rain? It's a long time a-comin'. The arc of the universe is long; and it does bend toward justice. But it doesn't spend more sharply because of an election, or because Tweedledee trades places with Tweedledum. And the skulls will keep piling up. So excuse me if I leave the party early. The more people get excited about this, the more I think they're gonna be disappointed come January.

And if they aren't, I'm gonna be mighty disappointed in them.

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