transit of mercury

A rare astronomical event is coming your way on November 8th: the transit of Mercury. Observers will see a small black disk “transiting” the face of the Sun as the planet Mercury comes between Earth and Sol in such a way for it to be visible here in North America. Happily, my Son’s telescope and I will be at his school for some hands-on education during the transit. Nothing edifies an old Curmudgeon like spending an afternoon with a class of seven year olds.

Unfortunately, I will be in need of edification on this day after our national apostasy.

Apostasy will be exactly the right word in the eyes of Republicans as they witness American voters turning away from the true faith of conservatism. “Revival” will probably seem more fitting if you are a Democrat.

You see, one jihadist’s sanctification is another’s abomination in American political theology.

But the apostasy to which I refer is the anti-democratic election process we engage in under the guise of republican democracy. Vote for anyone you want, damn near everyone tells me, so long as they are a Republican or Democrat. Republicans seem uncannily certain that Democrats are going to Hell and Democrats share the same heartfelt moral contempt for the GOP. Both would agree on the fate of those that disparage the two-party system: there is a special level of Hell just for us.

I shall not, however, be dissuaded from regaling you with my disenfranchised observations while I await my fate in the hereafter. And given that we are getting down to election time, I will hazard a few prognostications and some prospective aftermath analysis.

I am not in rare company when I predict the GOP’s ouster from power on November 7th. Depending on who you choose to listen to, 350 to 390 seats in the House of Representative are considered “safe”. Decades of rapacious Gerrymandering have reduced things to where as few as twenty seats out of 435 are considered serious contests. But the current margin of GOP House control is so thin that the balance of power may still swing on those twenty or so Congressional districts.

As luck would have it for the Democrats this time around, the Democratic seats up this election tend to be the safer seats and the Republican seats less so. A six seat shift will be required for control of the Senate to go blue and something like ten of the thirty-three seats are considered seriously contested. My sense is the national rage against the war in Iraq is going to deliver the Senate chamber keys to party of Jefferson though by a narrower margin than in the House.

Analyzing congressional elections through the lens of national issues has historically lacked utility, but Tip O’Neil’s admonition that all politics is local seems quaint to me now. Certainly there are still times and specific races where local factors are more important than national ones, but in recent years there have been more Congressional elections that were national in character than not. In the wake of 9-11 and the Iraq Occupation, national issues are at the forefront as seldom before.

It was the national focus that brought out the Moral Majority in record numbers two years ago to thwart the putative leftist attack on families. In spite of this incredible energy generated in the right-wing base last election, the result was an even thinner margin of control in Congress as war weariness was already beginning to set in. This election, there is no lightening-rod issue at the forefront to energize the right, but for the left it will be the body count. It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to grasp the polling data. The GOP base has cooled off and the Democrats sense their opportunity.

And I’m talking now about 2008.

You see, this election is 1966 all over again. In 1966 mid-term elections, the GOP made big gains in Congress in what was an easily recognizable harbinger of the 1968 GOP Presidential campaign success. Wars that lose their purpose inevitably have bigger effects than jokes about “Mission Accomplished” banners. While it would be a mistake to push the 1966 to 2006 analogy too far, the same voter nerves have been rubbed raw and the result will be a changing of the guard.

The good news is that I can look forward to enjoying two years of return to glorious dead-lock. You remember what that was like do you not? Stalemate with the Executive and Legislative branches in the hands of different parties was a (relatively) beautiful thing. It was more beautiful than I even realized back then. Extremist agendas, be they from the left or right, while often noisy, in retrospect they did not get nearly as much traction.

The bad news is that the 1966 election was followed by 1968 just as surely as 2006 will be followed by 2008. As was the case back then, the body bags will continue to accumulate and voters will be looking for change.

Leave it to Shurb to screw up the opportunity for a golden age of glorious stalemate: the GOP has botched things so severely that we are about to find the government entirely in the hands of the Democrats in two years.

Even this I would calculate to be good news for me personally: cynical punditry should be at its zenith. Surely I’ll soon be picked up by a national syndicator because opportunities like his only happen once in a life time. If you think the Arkansas mafia was fun the first time, just wait till they apply the lessons learned at the knee of Rove and company. Can you imagine the excitement in their camp? Now their elitist ways are legal thanks to the GOP.

Whether we like it or not, we should start practicing our salutations now because “Madame President” does not yet flow readily from the tongue.

Yes indeed, I’m looking forward to November 8th and my time with the seven and eight-year olds. Thanks to the kids, I will have less time to contemplate the rigor-mortis that will then be setting in on those experiencing sudden political death. It will get my mind off of the tragic American political mess and on bigger things. On youngsters who offer hope rather than adults who sold theirs to the highest bidder. On the inevitable triumph of Good.

Perhaps it is no accident that Mercury is making his show on the heels of the day of death and apostasy. One of Mercury’s lesser celebrated services to man was to act as an escort to see the newly dead from Earth to the Underworld. Depending on whether you root for Team Blue team or Team Red, you may have differing opinions on whether the departed Titans should properly be escorted to the Elysian Fields.


My bet is down on justice: a speedy transit to Tartarus.