I'm writing this column on Election Day. By the time you read this, all the votes will have been cast and (I hope) counted accurately. We will know whether predictions of a Republican take-back of the House of Representatives were correct. We will know how many Tea Party candidates won. Some of us will feel elated and some of us will be supremely depressed. It was the same after the 2008 elections, only this time the polls tell us the roles will likely be reversed.
I don't know what exactly to take from this, other than the American people want change. The electorate is swaying back and forth like a willow in a windstorm, seeking something, anything, to put the country on a positive track. In 2008, Democrats and progressives were angry at the excesses of the Bush years and were motivated to get out and vote en masse. This time around, it's the conservatives who have the passion.
I was struck by the parallels between Glenn Beck's rally in Washington, D.C., on August 28th and Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's rally last weekend. Beck's rally was serious, or at least as serious as a gathering led by a grandstanding blowhard could be. Stewart's "rally for irony" was less serious, but just as pointless, even though the crowd was in on the joke. Both were attended primarily by white people.
The central point of last weekend's rally was to ask Americans to be more civil in their political discourse, but stepping in between two warring factions and saying "let's be nicer" isn't going to accomplish much in the long run.
We're a country in flux, but I think — and hope — the tide of divisiveness is cresting. The angry white rural/suburban base of the Tea Party will have its day, but its influence is doomed to fade as the country grows steadily more urban and more diverse. The Tea Party is "white power" dressed in the guise of populism. It has no defining political platform, no purpose other than to "take the country back(ward)." Ten years from now, I suspect we'll be shaking our heads at the absurd election of 2010, when a few laughably unqualified clowns managed to gain office under the auspices of the "Tea Party."
These things I know: There is no future for an all-white political party in the U.S. And bemused irony and anger are equally useless in crafting a real course for the future.