Don't Worry, Be Happy!
By Jeff Smith
CURLED UP ON Libby's fainting couch under a goosedown cozy, I watched the predictable happen and tried to offer what comfort I could to my apocalyptically inclined friend, Carla.
White wine brings out the veritas in Carla, and despite her insider's knowledge of things political and trends sociological, two goblets of chardonnay will turn a silk purse of an election night into a sow's ear of doom and gloom. As Carla saw it, anything less than a Democratic clean sweep at the national level would result in:
Continued and intensified Republican witch-hunting into the affairs of the Clinton family, including Chelsea and the house pets, culminating in...
Impeachment, followed by...
Elimination of all social welfare programs and...
Renewal of the Cold War, plus...
Repeal of the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban, with...
Cattle ranchers being given bigger, cheaper grazing leases provided they...
Raise baby harp seals and golden retriever puppies to be slaughtered for pelts and edible organ meats.
Two days later a parallel situation came up, wherein another friend expressed grim reservations about the four immediate future years. By the time we rang off the phone I knew this hastily cobbled bit of sophistry was ready to commit to print, so here goes:
(But first allow me to say that as a civil libertarian/nee libertine, I still am disturbed by President Clinton's--and a preponderance of Democratic, baby-boomer, ex-'60s free-speech/free-love radicals'--apparent eagerness to trade individual rights and freedom for collective security. Let me further say that a Second Amendment ideologue and gun-nut probably ought not to be lolling around on a fainting couch under goosedown, but hey, it was a cold night in Sonoita.)
Anyway, my take on the election is that nobody got a mandate other than: Let well enough alone, don't piss away the grandkids' future, quit with the bullshit and the nastiness, and above all, quit disturbing our peace of mind and do not piss us off.
This of course is your classic, good news/bad news dichotomy.
Nationwide, the voter turnout was abysmal, indicating the public is fed up with politics, and rather than go to work and fix it, they'd rather ignore it and hope it goes away. The low turnout results in a somewhat more thoughtful cross-section among the few who do vote, giving evidence that the vote-splitting between presidential and congressional races truly does mean the public either wants to see the major parties cooperate and compromise toward balanced ends, or--darkside--likes gridlock for its capacity to keep anything very large from happening.
What the hell, the Great Unwashed mutters, the economy is booming, deficit's coming down. The poor people are worse off than ever, but they're also muzzled pretty much so they aren't publicly nagging at our conscience. The only wars on the planet are killing third-world wogs....
Pass the pretzels and hand me the remote.
So Newt and Alfonse are catching on: America doesn't care whether Clinton keeps his fly zipped or takes some off-shore political cash; and besides, he's run his last campaign. Forget trying to beat Bill and concentrate on beating Al Gore in 2000. Do this by demonstrating to the American voters that you can do something other than be mean and accusatory. Prove you can be better Republicans than Bill Clinton, and above all, prove you can dig up a better Republican candidate than Bob Dole.
This is what's going to preoccupy the Republican Party and its members in Congress for the second Clinton administration, so I don't think we're in for four more years of hounding Hillary and Bill about money, influence and illicit sex. Sen. D'Amato of New York is not smart enough or visionary enough to recognize this, and his ego will continue to drive him toward the glare of the TV lights and cameras, but after a while the party powers will get through to him and gradually shut him up. Trent Lott does not want to leave a legacy of litigation; he wants to be remembered as a legislative leader.
So the next presidential term is not going to see much of anything dramatic, really--just a lot of pretend statesmanship for the cameras, covering up an even greater intensity of back-to-square-one political preparation for the following two presidential terms. Because that's the way both parties are going to be looking at the presidency for the immediate future: as an eight-year thing. Clinton getting reelected as the first two-term Democratic President since FDR guaranteed that. This further strengthens my bet that the GOP is going to get off Clinton's back and concentrate on regaining the White House in 2000. If they screw the next presidential campaign up like they did the last two, it will mean 16 straight years of Democrats on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the GOP might never recover.
Of course another thing that ain't likely to happen, as a result of this divided federal government, is any welfare reform, any restoration of the individual's rights, Second Amendment rights, stuff like that, eroded during the first Clinton administration; or any worthwhile universal healthcare measures.
I look for Bill Clinton to take the easy way out on his intended path to the presidential hall of fame, and try to become some foreign policy maven. You catch less shit from Congress that way.
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