When Democrats and progressive pundits start whining about how we’re having an anti-intellectual moment, it can mean only one thing: they just got their butts handed to them in an election. It’s not often you see the lefty New Republic and the righty National Review use the same Obama quote on their covers to describe anything, but they did after the Nov. 2 midterms: “Shellacking.”
It may be good news for the Democrats that many people didn’t seem to get the word about this big event, or even exactly which party is in charge. According to a Pew Research Center poll released last week, “Fewer than half (46%) know that the Republicans will have a majority only in the House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January, while 38% can identify John Boehner as the incoming House speaker.” Nancy Pelosi should just keep showing up every day as if nothing has changed, like Milton Waddams in Office Space. She can go cubicle to cubicle asking if anyone has her red stapler, and see how long it takes to get tossed out on her ear.
Then again, you can be sure that a lot of the fired-up Tea Partiers know exactly what they accomplished this election cycle. So some of the 54 percent who don’t understand must be Democrats who aren’t paying close attention, which is one of the reasons the party finds itself in this electoral mess. The paying-attention wing of the party is left to ponder what—to it—are seemingly contradictory thoughts among the voting public. According to a Rasmussen poll last week, slightly more than half of Americans (51 percent) say it is possible to achieve a balanced federal budget without raising taxes. But many Democrats believe raising taxes is an absolute necessity to balance the budget and dig out of the $1.4 trillion annual hole we’re in. An increasing number of Americans just don’t trust them to do it right, and with good reason. Most people think the government wastes money.
The Republicans played to this “we can slash our way out” sentiment when they unleashed YouCut this spring, a Web site designed to let citizens weigh in on what budget items should be axed. The New York Times did them one better with its “You Fix the Budget” online puzzle last week. It turns out it’s a lot harder than it looks, and not that fun because you can eliminate farm subsidies only one time.
And if the revenge of the Tea Party people weren’t enough to drive Democrats mad during the election, now it seems that the group’s tentacles have reached into the sacred world of reality-TV dance competitions. On Dancing With the Stars, Bristol Palin survived far longer than expected. It’s been whispered—and yelled—that she made it as far as she did only because the Tea Party voted in droves to keep her in the competition. Which brings me to that other reality-TV star and author, the big Mama Grizzly herself. As each day counts down toward the 2012 election, it seems more and more possible to me that Sarah Palin could be president of the United States.
This week I stumbled upon Sarah Palin’s Alaska by looking it up in the TV directory and sitting down on the couch at the time it started so I could view it. I watched Palin take a club to a huge halibut that was flopping around on the deck of a boat, knocking it out cold so it could be thrown into the hold of a professional fishing vessel. She said in her singsong voice, which seems sometimes oddly Germanic, that she was “stunning the halibut.” Not only was I entranced by her awesomeness, but I now have a new favorite catchphrase.
As the fish story unfolded, Palin said, “I wasn’t goin’ to hesitate either, especially when the fish were pilin’ up and they’re slappin’ around. They could do some damage here. We need to calm these boys down real quick.” As the huge halibut flopped about, she cried out, “Sheesh! That hurts like crap!” She explained to the camera that she got slapped across the thigh by one of them: “I realized—yeah, they could hurtcha!” Later, she and her dancing daughter, Bristol, took the halibut’s still-beating hearts and held them in their hands. The harder the Palin gals squeezed, the faster the little panicked hearts pumped. The Democrats need look no further for symbolic harbingers of what could happen in 2012.