Midterm Muddle

How can we feel good about the election results when all our old certainties have suddenly been cast into doubt?

WAS IT REALLY so long ago? Only last Monday, you could comfortably enter a Wallingford pub, order a microbrew, punch up a few Indigo Girls songs on the jukebox, and safely commiserate about Bush with fellow lockstep liberals. Iraq? All W's fault. Katrina? Him, too. Economic disparity and record deficits? That we could blame on the Republican Congress—along with institutional homophobia, the bigotry of the "pro-family" crowd, and Karl Rove's wedge-issue gerrymandering of democracy to suit the donor class and its K Street lobbyists. Yet there was a rosy glow to our discontent, especially after the third pint or fourth. There was a nobility to being on the outs, a camaraderie in our valorous outnumbered cause. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

Then we could rush home to watch The Daily Show from beneath our sheets of organic cotton and quilts of humanely plucked goose down. O! how we laughed—rueful, superior, condescending—at those morons running the country. O! how fortunate we were to live in our insular enclave of good sense, public radio, and Toyota Priuses.

Now, after Nov. 7, the smug certainty is over. Democrats will control the House of Representatives next year and the Senate. Meaning Baghdad just moved into the 98105 zip code. Meaning Condi and Cheney and the new defense secretary nominee, Robert Gates, are now going to be in the same checkout line at the PCC. Meaning Bush is now just another harried parent carpooling your kids to soccer practice.

For six years, wimpy liberals have taken solace in irony, snark, and condescension—the only power they had, really—particularly in Seattle, where a new antiwar documentary seems to arrive every week (see: Iraq in Fragments, currently at the Varsity) and where books like Fiasco and State of Denial and The Greatest Story Ever Sold are top sellers. Now we have to work with these people we once despised and considered so foreign. Clinging to those moss-covered Kerry-Edwards yard signs and bumper stickers for the next two years won't do anybody any good. The microbrews won't taste as sweet, and the jokes won't be as easy anymore—not as the Democrats have to co-pilot our country out of Iraq, debt, and nuclear showdowns with Iran and North Korea.

Suddenly, pencil-necked bloggers and irate stand-up comics will have to reconsider their shtick. Between Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken, the rim-shot binary sniping between red and blue has become all muddled. New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be fair game on South Park. Conan, Jay, and Dave will have to elevate liberal buffoons like Jim McDermott and Barney Frank to being accountable liberal buffoons.

Our glorious liberal impotence is at an end, and not a moment too soon. Who isn't tired of a world divided between Republican arrogance and Democratic ironies?


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