The Suckiness of Midterms
Thanks, voters. Now we get to look at this guy's face even more.
Old people suck.
I am, at this point, talking about my own generation, as well as the one that came before. Last night’s election was dominated by two generational cohorts: 45-60, 60 and up. Demographically, these are the older voters, the ones who dominate midterm elections, and who are far more likely than the younger cohorts to vote Republican. These are the people who just displaced Democrats from Senate leadership. They also increased the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, returned Scott Brown to the governorship of Wisconsin, and overall made it a wonderful night for Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and anyone else proudly displaying an elephant logo on his or her lapel. All this despite Congress having the lowest approval rating in many generations, in huge part because of Republican obstructionism, and an economy in better shape than it has been in decades, in large part because of policies put in place by a Democratic President.
How did this happen? Why are so many people my age and older voting contrary to our best interests and the interests of our country? I don’t have an answer, just a furious explosive sense that old people suck when they vote. They really do.
Except it’s not just the old who made this happen. They had help. Just as eager as grey hairs were to cast their incredibly stupid votes, their children and grandchildren were utterly uninterested in coming out to counter those votes. Young adults are the most underwhelming segment of the vote in a midterm election. They just don’t seem to care, and the result is that those who should be sticking it to The Man are instead saying, “Okay, Man, do whatever you want to us. Strip our schools of funding, give huge tax cuts to your own generation, block us from having universal health care, treat this country like it belongs entirely to you, and we’ll lie down and take it.”
That’s right. Young people suck, too.
And yet—I kind of get it. And by “it,” I mean whatever it is that so turns younger voters off to the point that they just don’t care if creepy uncle Mitch is running the Senate, doing everything he can to take away the health care they just started enjoying thanks to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barak Obama, no thanks to anyone on the right side of the aisle. Because, political junky that I am (and this is going all the way back to high school), I’m starting to get jaded about the whole damn thing.
It’s not the fault of Republicans, either. I’ve always found their pronouncements to be ridiculous, and if anything, they’ve just gone on confirming to me that they have nothing intelligent or reasonable to say about any policy involving compassion or just plain good sense. Lately, though, I’ve become aware of just how superficial and mechanical are the words of Democrats.
I started noticing it during a Fresh Air interview of Hilary Clinton. Terry Gross pointed out that the woman most likely to become President had flip-flopped on gay marriage, and wondered if she might admit to having been wrong. No, Clinton insisted, she wasn’t ever wrong, she wasn’t ever pandering, she wasn’t having it both ways, there was no contradiction at all, blah blah blah—she simply wouldn’t give a straight (no pun intended) answer, and seemed offended that she might be expected to tell the story of how she’d changed her mind; or, if she hadn’t in fact, then why she’d been so adamant about her original opinion on the issue, when it didn’t, in fact, reflect her actual view.
That was just the beginning of my growing disenchantment with Democratic politicians. In the next few months, I saw a number of them interviewed by Bill Maher, and found every one slipping facilely into talking point mode. Nancy Pelosi was the worst example of this tendency to set aside candor for the party laundry list, but I’ve also seen Elizabeth Warren do it, and then, last night on MSNBC, Cory Booker. Answering a question with talking points is like handing someone a brochure: there is no sense of the personal. I don’t know what any of these politicians actually believes, who he or she really is. We might as well be electing a party platform rather than a human being.
Republicans do it too, of course; but when they do, they rattle off garbage that I know is wrong. What galls me is when Democrats are laundry listing things I agree with, but doing it in a way that makes me almost skeptical of my own beliefs. The only politicians I haven’t seen do this lately have been independents. Bernie Sanders, proudly socialist senator from Vermont; Ralph Nader, always a stick in the eye of the polished politician; and I can’t think of another.
This, I suspect, is why young people are so turned off by politics: it’s become almost indistinguishable from infomercials. People who’ve grown up able to pick and choose the media they consume have no patience for laundry lists. They want candor, authenticity, presentations that are passionate but not slick, commentaries with the pauses taken out that build rapid-fire arguments that are irrefutable, and don’t play the empty game of point-counterpoint. It’s not about scoring points, it’s not about keeping your personal opinions hidden, it’s not about official party lines; it’s about authenticity. And that is a commodity that is increasingly hard to find in American politics.
Which is why the real reason for this embarrassing election result, as much as I might want to pin it on conservative older voters or apathetic younger voters, is simply this: