With just under a month to go before pivotal midterm elections, the campaign landscape is as muddled as any I’ve witnessed in 45 years of either covering politics as a journalist and working inside the system as an operative.
Will Republicans recapture control of the House and/or the Senate? Will Tea Party candidates triumph over the derision of mainstream pundits and political professionals? Will this be the election where voters really do change the government?
As polls tighten and voters start to take a closer look at choices in November, the GOP chances for ousting Democrats from control is less certain than just a month ago. Several key races are tightening. The GOP will gain seats but the party of the elephant is no longer swaggering in self-confidence. Loony tunes performances by Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware have tightened races that once were considered sure Republican wins and other insurgent candidates — when examined closely — have turned out to be more fruitcake than fruit for change.
Still voters want something different and appear willing to try anything — even candidates with questionable mental histories — to showcase their frustration with the status quo.
Congress — like the America it purportedly represents — is deeply divided, separated by a bottomless chasm of extremism on both the right and the left, gridlocked by hardbound dogma on both sides and unwilling to even consider compromise or conciliation.
Government depends on the art of the deal to function. Coalitions drive legislation and make meaningful laws possible. Extremism — be it conservative or liberal — excludes cooperation and the end result is hopeless, progress-stopping, governance-impeding gridlock.
Things must change. That’s a given but is change possible when an angry electorate adds more extremists and hard-liners to the mix? Can a system that has lost the ability to govern be saved by those with no experience governing anything?
That’s the dilemma facing those who must walk into the polling place next month and decide the future direction of this nation. That’s also the risk that rises like a rampaging monster from the depth of a political movement founded on the belief that anything — no matter how extreme — is better than the system we have now.
As someone who has wandered through the wilderness of politics for four-plus decades, I should be able to deliver some clarity, some sharpening of the fuzziness of the American psyche but — at this point — I have no idea who is worthy of my vote when I walk into our county rescue squad building next month and tap the names on the touch screen.
Like most voters, I want change — serious change — to the system.
But at what risk? At what cost?
A very good argument can be made that this nation cannot afford to continue on its present course.
Yet we must also look at the choices facing us and ask: Can we afford any of the choices that we have before us on November 2?
However, as Americans, citizens and voters we must make a choice. Doing nothing is even more dangerous than doing the wrong thing.
- John Chachas: Voting “None of the Above” Will Re-Elect Harry Reid (huffingtonpost.com)
- Stu Bykofsky: Handicapping the elections, in color (philly.com)
- Questioning the assumptions about a ‘center-right nation’ (washingtonmonthly.com)
- Polling and Political Wrap, 10/2/10 (dailykos.com)