The late Myron Cohen had a series of jokes with the slightly off-color premise of a man coming home at midday and finding his wife lounging a tad too breathlessly. He goes storming through the house to see if a strange man is skulking somewhere. The endings were always quite tame, and my favorite was when he pulls back the shower curtain to expose the interloper.
“What are you doing here?” shouts the householder.
The fellow responds simply: “I’m voting.”
This jest was designed to unmask the prosaic face of the affair that seemed so glittery a moment earlier. But this week it serves an inverse purpose, highlighting a quirky streak in voters who enjoy using the plebiscite as a canvas for contrarian strokes. People with plain-vanilla lives walk into the booth and cast loopy votes for Ralph Nader and Lyndon Larouche.
In this year’s odd political season, this affliction has particularly beset the perennial Republican voter. Somehow the drudgery of doing the right thing for the right reasons every two years became too wearisome, too monotonous. Like a couple who have lost the old hum and drum of their marriage and are beginning to bridle at the humdrum. Where has the spontaneity gone? Suddenly synchronicity gives way to a surge of idiosyncrasy.
The “Grand” went out of the Old Party and all the other gr- words took over. From grumbling to griping, grimacing to growling, grappling to grudging. The cup was not only half-empty, someone had dropped a cigarette butt inside. It was still a party, but just barely; the drinks were gone and the band was packing up the sound equipment. People were jumping off the bandwagon at an alarming rate, often into oncoming traffic.
Mood creates momentum in politics as in sports. You don’t start losing first and then start thinking you’re losing; it works the other way round. Getting down on your chances get your chances down. First you lose confidence, then you lose energy, until eventually you lose interest. If you don’t enjoy winning enough, you often wind up experiencing the alternative.
Now, in the waning days of the campaign, enthusiasm has belatedly begun to wax. The smug, smarmy smirking of Schumer and Friends has finally become more annoying than whatever overblown grievances created the initial funk. Hearing Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) downgrade our fighting men and women has patriotic Americans up in arms and manning the ramparts.
Hopefully this will be neither too little nor too late. It would be nice to hear the big big horn of victory, not the Little Big Horn. A great deal is at stake here; in security, the economy, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Hamstringing our government muscle at this critical moment would really cramp our style. Two years of a Democrat-led Congress at the end of a Republican presidency is a recipe for a circus that would leave the nation fiddling around while Rome burns.
The Bush voters are out there somewhere. They were 51% of the country in 2004. They made their point by playing hard to get until the last moment. Hopefully the damage caused by the persistent sniping is not irreversible. Hey, I grew up in the ’70s, when the back page of the Village Voice was a tragic collection of personal ads all reading something like this: “Come home, Emily, all is forgiven.” Come home, Republican voters, all is forgiven.
This is the Paul Revere moment. One if by land, two if by sea. Knocking on doors in the dead of night, rousing the citizenry from their slumber. The Republic can yet be saved. Load those muskets. Grab those blunderbusses. Sharpen the bayonets. The greatest battle of all lies ahead. Give me liberty or give me death. I regret that I have but one vote to give for my country. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party.
And the party, the morning after, must remember who put them there. They have to be strong and energized, getting past the petty temptations of power. The marriage can be saved, fidelity restored, but along with the firmness and steadfastness there needs to be some flair. Make it too much fun to stray. That way the Republican voter who finally staggered his way out of the closet will not be tempted to sneak into the shower.