A wide spot in my imagination.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some Disco for Election Night

It's Election Night 2010, and I'm watching old episodes of "30 Rock" on Hulu. Which is kind of odd for a political junkie who once made his living in the halls of Congress.

No, I haven't become one of those cynics who doesn't care; I care deeply about politics and policies. And I don't think I'm sticking my head in the sand; though Tracy Morgan is a funny diversion.

Instead I'm thinking that Gloria Gaynor's disco tune could be a sound track for history.

You remember Gloria Gaynor, of course. Her hit, "I will Survive," topped the charts in 1979. Hum that song to yourself while we take a quick ride through American history:

Benjamin Tillman loudly and ignorantly criticized Theodore Roosevelt for inviting esteemed African-American educator, Booker T. Washington to the White House. Tillman was a blustery, despicable racist. He was also a duly elected member of the United States Senate...and yet, the republic survived.

Joseph McCarthy lied and blubbered about Communists hiding all across the country. His nasty antics inflamed nationalistic fires and turned neighbors into spies. McCarthy, too, was a democratically elected United States Senator...and yet, the nation survived.

Keep Gloria Gaynor singing in your head. Here's a tale from about the time her hit was on the radio:

My hometown once elected a yahoo to the State House of Representatives. He showed up at the State House, turned his chair around backward to denounce his colleagues, then paid one of cousins to shoot him in the arm, and blamed the shooting on Satan worshipers. He was a full-fledged wacko, elected by the good voters of East Texas...and yet, the nation survived.

Richard Nixon. Warren Harding. David Duke. Belligerent little George Wallace preening in a schoolhouse door. The list could go on. All elected by voters who should have known better, done better, been better...and yet, the republic has survived.

This Election Night is far from over. So far, one senator-to-be rejects the Civil Rights acts of the 1960s, and another one is a virulent homophobe. One Senate candidate who denied the separation of church and state has lost an election bid; another who denies it as well is still to be determined. Will these names join history's too-long list of never-should-have-beens?

My best guess is that, in the short-term, the President and other Democrats will have to develop better agendas and tactics. My other hunch is that in 2012, "Throw the bums out," may be the cry against some of those elected in 2010. We seem to be a fickle electorate.

The ship of state will, I pray, list along, edging onward, but rocking and rollicking as she goes. Which brings us back to Gaynor's tune: We will survive. I believe that. I hope that.

Though survival is not always the highest goal. Thriving would be better. And indeed, some sad souls have not survived the perilous history of benightedly elected politicians: Racism, ignorance, lack of concern for social service programs have harmed and killed too many people. We can, we should, we must do better.

Maybe I'm naive, but I lean heavily on the patient and wise words often preached by the good Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

So as it bends this evening, rather than get all a-twitter at the play-by-play results bellowed by braying heads on television, I'll just hum a 1979 disco hit, go back to some distracting chuckles prompted by re-runs, and do what I do at funerals: Commend this election's soul to God.

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