What’s interesting to me about the latest failure of Democracy in the country is that for once it wasn’t the fault of the dirty lying Republican candidates or the shiftless invertebrate Democratic candidates. It was the fault of the voters. Not that they did anything wrong; rather, as usual they didn’t do anything at all, hence the title of this opus. The Republican Party (or partying, as of this writing) spent $150 million, while the Democratic Parthian spent $80 million, record-breaking sums not including the money poured in from the coffers of special interest groups (rich people). My money not only won’t pour, I have to scrape the bottom of the coffers with a knife if I’m looking for more than sixty cents. The grand total for this latest electile dysfunction may exceed a third of a billion dollars, or thirteen bucks per vote. For all this money, they only convinced around 37% of voting-age persons to head for the polls, which is slightly more than the last time, but a hell of a lot less than a quorum (a Latin word meaning ‘who cares’). The corporate-sponsored leadership of this country once again demonstrates it doesn’t know how to get value for money, but it does know how to spend it in hogsheads and firkins.
Still, they spent a lot of dosh, so why didn’t people show up? (There’s a joke in here somewhere about how the Democrats threw a political party and nobody showed up, but what with the hangover I can’t quite figure it out.) Everybody knows, especially the Repuglicans, that there are far more voting-age Americans who agree with the historical position of the Democratic Party, probably because most people in this country aren’t angry fundamentalist white Christian males. It’s the majority of would-be Democrats who don’t show up at the polls, while the smaller group of more disciplined right-wingers learned a thing or two from the Nuremberg Rallies and vote to capacity, sometimes three or four times a piece, and often even after they’re dead. You look at the election results, you’d think this was a nation of fascists. Sure, sometimes, why shouldn’t we have our moment in the sun? But what you’re seeing this time isn’t fascism. For the most part, it’s apathy.
Certain cynics, such as everybody, would suggest that the reason Democratic-inclined voters don’t show up is they are elaborately discouraged from doing so. In one of the more egregious examples, black voters in a number of poverty-Strickland areas were told by right-wing operatives that they had to pay their parking tickets and back rent before they could vote. Democrats attempted to woo these voters with offers of free fried chicken at the polls. This backfired when the father of ex-congressman J.C. Watts (R-Uncle Tom) suggested that “A black man voting for the Republicans makes about as much sense as a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.” In 2004 the Democrats will offer free watermelon. Other tactics included contesting absentee ballots, ferocious negative campaigning (which is a bigger turnoff than frozen underwear), and stealing the 2000 presidential election. Still, to keep voters away from the polls all you usually have to do is nothing.
The real problem isn’t the effort to not get out the vote. It’s just that there’s nobody to vote for, especially since Paul Wellstone dropped out of politics. On every issue from war to corporate crime, the apostatic Democrats have fallen over themselves to avoid any ostensive difference with the Republicans. They’ve abandoned the environment, the poor, unions, and colored folks, unless they’re in the entertainment business. Looking at Congress, the main difference between a Democrat and a Republican is whether they have Bush’s cell phone number. Obviously the Democrats need to embrace the sleeping popular vote, get all progressive, and eschew without tergiversation or palinody the right-wing agenda. On that great day, flocks of pigs will darken the sky.
Here are the two reasons I remain cheerful despite this crisis of American democracism. First, let’s remember that people like to stick with the real thing; an imitation is never as good as the original. Vanillin versus vanilla, for instance. True to form, Americans voted for real right-wingers, and turned their backs on the Democratic imitations. Which would you choose: someone with a position on the issues, or the next guy in line, who has no position on the issues, but agrees with the first guy? The second reason I maintain my equanimity is training. I knew this day would come, and I prepared for it. Starting the very day Bush was inaugurated, I’ve spent one hour each morning strapped to a tree with three burly stevedores in jackboots kicking me in the testicles. They’re well paid for the exercise, but I think over the last couple of years we’ve developed a rapport, and now they throw in the occasional punch in the neck for free. Once, on my birthday, they beat me with flails until I was unconscious, then sang ‘Deutscheland Uber Alles’ and ‘Let the American Eagle Soar’ and lit the birthday candles, which were inserted in my butt for the purpose. Those jokers! They were the trick kind of candles that don’t go out. Anyway, this regimen takes discipline, but it’s been very effective. I don’t feel the least bit gloomy, and the webcam is making a fortune.
And why should I be upset? Bush already had control of the entire Congress. He got whatever he wanted- his war, his tax cut, a new tricycle. So it’s not like anything will be different- it will just happen faster. The Democrats were in lockstep with Bush before, and they’ll be in lockstep in the future. Or goosestep. I get so confused. It might be both. Nothing has really changed in Washington- the only way to tell a Republican from a Democrat is the Democrats have boot polish on their tongues. I think it’s boot polish. And wait and see- these Democrats are so deeply attuned to the needs of their constituents, the first thing they’ll do is shift waaaay to the right, under the assumption that’s what the good volks at home want. We’ll see Judges to the right of Vlad the Impaler rubber-stamped straight to the Supreme Court by chastened Democrats with eager, shining faces. We’ll see widows and orphans piled like cordwood to be burned as a renewable energy source. Hilary Clinton will switch parties and start dating Uncle Tom Daschle, thus proving the right-wing rumors that she’s a lesbian. Jesse Jackson, are you aware this is your third strike? Down with trees, up with Wal-Marts. But all of this is part of the natural devolution that has been taking place in that swining city on a hill for many years now. So stop acting like it’s a shocking bad thing- the fight goes on, whether or not the Champ punched the Kid’s head clean off in the third round. Keep swinging anyway, Kid- the Champ’s chin is out there somewhere.
I think what I’m trying to say- and I’m not sure, because the stevedores worked me over extra-hard today, and I’m a little groggy- is don’t worry, be happy. I’m sure the next couple of years won’t witness America’s rapid decay into the blackest fascist empire in modern history, hated and feared, fouling the waters and skies and hearts and souls of this world with the filth and stink of unfettered industrial despotism, a hope-shattering orgy of hatred, greed and cruelty in which the red-eyed mercenary hogs of power rip each other’s throats out for a place at the trough, their cloven hooves trampling the insect-like poor and powerless into the reeking jelly of excrement spurting eternally down their corpulent thighs. After all, most of this already happened under Clinton, whatever anybody says to the contrary. Bush is just the merde fondant icing on the cake, which is brown, but not chocolate. Luckily he clearly intends to eat the whole cake himself, as M. Antoinette recommends.
I don’t think we have to fret, as long as we look ahead. Just relax, have a good time, and start stockpiling ammunition and growing potatoes in your front lawn. Meanwhile, I can pass on the number of a couple of reputable stevedores for those of you who want to get in shape before 2004. There’s another election at that time, and we can try again. S’wounds, they might even decide to cancel the election, and we won’t have to get out of our chairs on voting day- a method most eligible voters already employ.
BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and political cartoonist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org