I am reliably informed by the snippets of press coverage I allow myself during this weekend hiatus of solitude, that in several hours, President Obama will be sworn in to his second term, thereby at least giving us all the hope that the nightmare is half-way over. Snippets of press coverage because this weekend more than any other, I am restricting my access to information, protecting my fragile and slowly recovering psyche from the trauma that afflicted it on Election Day. In all honesty, I would likely have been clinically diagnosed as a bit depressed for the weeks after the Election, with the magic of Christmas, the love of a wonderful family, and the support of friends serving as the tonics to revive my wounded spirit. My Democratic friends were truly superstars, as not a one did a touchdown dance (at least in my presence--they deservedly did so in other media) and all were suitably grave whilst attending to my hollowed out shell.
I believe I've returned to fighting trim but realize the power of the imagery surrounding this public event to bring on a case of the darks. And so I will absent myself from it.
I won't engage in some of the popular talk criticizing the Administration for the conduct of this event. Inaugurations are to me, very much like weddings. Preposterously expensive, completely unnecessary, and jealously protected. I've always found the conduct of second inaugurals somewhat silly, as if the Administration is throwing a "welcome to us" party for itself. I felt this way eight years ago when GWB had his, and I felt this way in 1997 when Bill Clinton had his. But bread and circuses are what the people want, and they shall have it. I am somewhat heartened by the decline in enthusiasm for this year's version, as the doe-eyed wonder of Hope and Change has been replaced by the modern brand of Chicago mafiosi politics. I take some measure of small-minded solace from the fact that so many of Mr. Obama's zombie-supporters have spent so much of their time explaining why it is they support him in spite of his having been so disappointing on so many fronts.
The political landscape is now much like that which faced the combatants in WWI after The Somme. Both are dug it for the long haul, and very little progress in either direction is likely. They will hack and maul each other for the next 45.5 months, with another Presidential election then offering the next hope for any real strategic changes. The power brokers on both sides--Messers Obama, Biden, Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, and Reid, along with Madame Pelosi--have lost the ability to work with each other on anything substantial, and each side is reliant upon congressional caucuses with no real incentive to move foreword. The only way this logjam breaks is for one Party to become dominant, and my fear is that we are in the early stages of a move in that direction as the Republican party follows the Whig Party checklist for ascension to power.
Such is the lot of the Party out of power, in which the leadership of one man or woman of transcendent capability is absent and is instead supplanted by the din of twenty dozen free agents each charting his or own course. Republicans have faced this before in many of our lifetimes, and the prescription seems to be to find that transcendent voice. First it was Reagan, then it was Gingrich. Much as I liked him, I didn't see George W. Bush as that kind of guy, so much as I saw him as a metaphorical shower that the nation took after some of the ethical lapses of the Clinton bunch.
The problem we face though, is in finding that voice. That one man or woman who believes enough basic, ideological truths to cobble together an electoral majority without driving others from the cause. This person must be in his or her heart, ready and willing to compromise on much, while remaining completely and unshakably rigid on little. But--that "little" will invariably comprise the political soul of that individual, and the movement they start.
We must emerge from our WWI trenches and jump to the next war--our wartime approach should be the WWII island hopping campaign in the Pacific--MacArthur's version--in which we simply skipped over certain islands where the fighting would be murderous in order to attack the Japanese where they were weak and from where we could gain further momentum. In the meantime, we must carefully vet the crop of up-and comers--Walker, Rubio, Ryan, Martinez, Perry, and yes--even Christie--to find that person who can pull it all together. In my bones, I hate this approach. I despise the need for a political messiah, the "one who can save us". But ultimately, that is what wins elections, this is what starts movements. People pull the lever ultimately for the person they like and trust more than the other person to do a good job and keep us safe.
Let's hope the next 45.5 months go quickly.