Letter to a whiny young Democrat

Hey, at least this guy voted. Obama won in ’08 with 66% of the 18-29 vote. Most of that demo stayed home this time and played Cut the Rope and drank vodka/Red Bulls and tweeted about not caring anymore. Ah, silly youth.


Oh, now you’ve done it.

See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party’s newborn, hard-won ideas about Hope™ and Change™, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as “the long view”?

See what happens when you wallow in hollow disappointment, trudging all over your liberal arts campus and refusing to vote in a rather important mid-term election, all because your pet issues and nubile ego weren’t immediately serviced by a mesmerizing guy named Barack Obama just after he sucked you into his web of fuzzyhappy promises a mere two years ago, back when you were knee-high to a shiny liberal ideology?

Well, now you know. This is what happens: The U.S. House of Representatives, the most insufferable gaggle of political mongrels this side of, well, the rest of Congress, reverts to GOP control like a brain tumor reverts to a more aggressive form of cancer, and everything gets bleaker and sadder and, frankly, a whole lot nastier.

What happens is: Many kinds of fragmented, muddled, but still constructive Democratic progress might get stopped quite nearly dead, and even a few pieces of legislation we actually did gain get slapped around, threatened, stomped on the head like a scientist at a Rand Paul rally. Happy now?

Check it out, kiddo: This is not just any Republican party you allowed back into power; these mealy folks are not anything like the war-hungry, Bush-tainted army of flying monkeys and Dick Cheney moose knuckles you so wonderfully helped bury in the history books last election.

No, the GOP of 2010-2011 is even weirder, dumber, less interested in anything you even remotely care about; this GOP is infused like a sour cocktail with a bitter splash of the most cartoonish, climate change-denying Tea Party dingbats imaginable — most of whom think you’re an elitist, terrorist-loving, gay-supporting threat to “real” American values, btw — all led by a guy named Boehner who wears a bizarre, shellacked tan so fake and creepy it makes Nancy Pelosi look like a supermodel.

And you made it all happen. Or rather, you failed to prevent it from happening, by not voting, by turning your collective back on Obama’s tough love, by getting all whiny and dejected like some sort of sullen teen vampire who can’t get laid.

Do you deny it? Did you see the polls and studies that said that most fresh-faced, Obama-swooning Dems like you are now refusing to support our beloved Nazi Muslim president because he didn’t wish-fulfill your every whim in a week? That he was, in fact, not quite the instant-gratification SuperJesus of your (or rather, our) dreams?

Of course you didn’t see any of that. Hell, I bet you’re not even reading this column right now. You’re probably back on Twitter, raging into the Void about, hell, who knows what? The Wolf Parade concert. Angry Birds. The People of Wal-Mart. Anything but politics, really.

But hey, whatevs, right? Screw it. Screw him. After all, the prez let you down. Conveniently “forgot” to include you in the dialogue, after a major election that you helped him win. Where were the outreach programs? The campus speaking tours? Weekly appearances on “The Daily Show”? Legal pot and gay marriage and discounts tickets to SXSW and Burning Man and Coachella? I want my goddamn political perks, and I want them now.

Hey, I understand. We’re an instant gratification culture, and you’re an ADHD generation. Who wants to hear that serious enviro legislation might take a decade or two to fully come to fruition? Who wants to hear about Obama passing rather amazing student loan reform? Or even financial reform? Or health care, the Iraq drawdown, saving a million jobs at GM, or all the rest of his rather astonishing achievements to date? Dude, so boring.

Of course, you’ve now learned the hard way that the hot flush of a major election is far more electrifying than the gray n’ meaty grind of actual governing. Obama flew into office on gossamer liberal wings, but the real halls of D.C. are a goddamn pigsblood slaughterhouse, brutal and depressing, full of gnarled legislative compromise. Screw that noise, you know?

And you know what? You’re right. Well, sort of. The Obama administration sure as hell could’ve done more to keep young activists inspired and involved. It’s an opportunity squandered, no question. Then again, dude was sorta busy unburying the entire nation, you know? And the twitchy Democratic party has never been known for its savvy cohesion. Maybe you can give him/them a break? Whoops, too late.

Look, I’m sorry. I know I’m being far too hard on you. Of course it’s not just you. It’s not completely your fault these dimwit Repubs were allowed to ooze back into a bit of power so soon. As many analysts have pointed out, this wasn’t a vote for the Republicans, but against the limp-wristed Dems who didn’t step up and lead with more authority and clarity of purpose. Truly, libs and independents of every age are frustrated Obama isn’t governing with the same kind of magical, balls-out visionary zeal that fueled his campaign.

And let’s not forget a shockingly unintelligent Tea Party movement that stands for exactly nothing and fears exactly everything, all ghost-funded by a couple of creepy libertarian oil billionaires — the leathery old Koch brothers — who eat their young for a snack. Who could’ve predicted that gnarled political contraption would hold water? But hey, when Americans are angry and nervous, they do stupid things. Like vote Republican. It happens. Just did.

But here’s your big takeaway, young Dem: It ain’t over yet. The 2012 election is just around the corner. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that two years whip by insanely quickly. Anything can happen, and usually does. You’ll have another chance. And probably another after that. Maybe more.

So here’s what you need to know, right now: Barack Obama is, and will continue to be, a bit of goddamn miracle. He’s simply as good as we’re going get for an articulate, thoughtful, integrity-rich Democratic prez in your lifetime. Period. To hamstring his administration out of spite and laziness is childish and sad. Check the accomplishments. Understand the process. Deal with the messiness.

It will never be perfect. It will never be giddy liberal nirvana, because it doesn’t work that way. Politics is corrosive and infuriating, de facto and by definition, even with someone as thoughtful as Obama in the Big Chair. Understand it. Deal with it. Get back in the game. If you don’t, we all lose.

Your choice, kiddo.


A very disappointing choice to post.

erThe final nail in the coffin of US democracy generally, and this election cycle specifically, was driven in by five members of the Supreme Court when they recently dropped the other shoe and anointed the formal recognition of oligarchic rule by destroying any restraint on money in politics.

This was a sham election. Don’t blame those who decided to stay home instead of having to deal with the tidal wave of voter suppression efforts financed by the same people who bought the election. Don’t tell me about the sacrificial victims Whitey and Fidorino. There role was obviously to attempt to put doubt in the public mind about the true role of money in our so called political system. By the way, Mr. Momford, what political system are you talking about abandoning? We have no civic political system. Sure there is a pro sports sort of artificial excitement, and some local elections (congratulations Dan) that are of no practical significance to concentrated wealth. The plutocrats have finally had their way totally. We are no long a government of laws, only of prices.

You, under this system of criminality, are only worth what it costs to get rid of you or buy your “cooperation.”

It is sad enough that we have to mourn the passing of our hard fought for liberty, let’s not make it worse by showing contempt for those who stay home from the funeral.


In fact, the election may be good news. The economy is heading toward a huge crash, mostly brought on by the Republicans. The only way out appears to be massive government spending for jobs, which now won’t happen thanks to the Republicans. So, who will be blamed in the next election? Anyhow, the Democrats needed their rumps spanked for having a chance to do lots of things, and didn’t. Maybe the next time they get in control, they’ll remember.

I’m a big fan of the Australian voting model. Everyone votes on Saturday, so having to leave work is not an issue. If you don’t vote in Australia, you’re fined a couple hundred dollars. Hence 99.9% of Australians vote. It would be fascinating to see how the American political landscape would change if those running for office knew that everyone over 18 in America would be voting (and, we hope, having their votes counted.) I vote absentee because that is our only option here in Mendocino. This makes voting incredibly easy and private compared to going to the polls. I realize I’m not addressing the explicit issues raised by the article or the comments about the article, but I do think mandatory voting would be more achievable than trying to stop the corporate monsters from financing the campaigns, and much easier that trying to change Congress into a truly representational parliament. Imagine those 50 million people without healthcare voting. Right now only a small percentage of them vote. If they all voted, I think we would see a sea change in our government. On the other hand, I can’t imagine why anyone would vote against paying 18 dollars a year for well-maintained state parks and free admission.

jonathan middlebrook November 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm

–Nubile, Mark Morford? Never underestimate the sexual envy of the older toward the younger generation. Possibly you’re a Mencken puritan, suspecting that someone, somewhere is having fun.

Now: Herb, Don, Todd. Yes! to your nuanced & real-world senses of voting & the Washington teeter-totter. We’re in for 2 years of the same old whirligig–think Johnson, Reagan, Clinton. I’ll give you big points on a bet that the Tea Party (out of Rove’s control) guarantees Obama’s re-election. — Thoreau wrote that all voting is a form of gaming, so we might as well play it as it lays.

Locally we’ve just lived through a close-in version of modern voting, and escaped in better shape than the nation as a whole, but it was not an edifying spectacle.

So, is voting the best way to achieve representative democracy? I think the 5th district race cost the candidates about $100,000. The DA race probably cost about $40,000. As I recall, the Superior Court judgeship cost about $30,000. I enthusiastically contributed to 2 of those 3 races, but not from any sense that I was participating in the best of all selection systems. Those dollar figures constrict representative democracy. Pay to play.

I’d prefer to donate more to the Library, Plowshares, Hospice, Ford Street, Coast Children’s Fund, etc.

But we have a system, and until we change it, it’s masochistic to withdraw from it (and political fighting is almost as good as sex).

–The (s)electoral change I favor is getting our legislative body (county level) by lottery from the pool of registered voters. Let Mendocino County lead a revolution in (s)election. Let it create a truly representative democracy!


If selected, may I defer to someone smarter and better looking to serve in my place?

Nope, to “defer to” [or, “slough off civic duty”], though I understand how deeply alienated many of us are to any political process, given our experience of our debauched election system.

Your deference to mere smarts & beauty would skew the randomness of the lottery and thus subvert representative democracy, a dirty job that must be done.

When duty says thou must, etc.

I imagine that any lottery system would have a way to avoid service, for cause.

I’d nominate you to make the case for non-service. Would be a good read.

Could I serve from my house? Just kidding. I recently completed a novella entitled Oasis Tales of the Conjuror, yet to find a publisher. Here is how the oasis election process is described therein.

“The council of four women and three men sit in wooden chairs behind a long narrow table at the western end of the hall. Ahdi is the eldest at seventy-nine, Jenna the youngest at seventeen. How did these seven come to be the ruling council? Every two years, a large wooden box with a slot in its top is placed in Eastern Plaza. Everyone in the oasis is required to write seven choices for council members on a slip of paper and place that slip in the box. The seven citizens garnering the most votes are required to serve.”

    “They sat in a certain slant of light that caused reflection. In Ahdi’s face, it was the reflection of the thousands of AARP dollars which paid for her last-minute mailer, the one with the photoshopped picture of a death panel of young bureaucrats. The mailer had been hand-delivered to every citizen over age 64. Jenna reflected the hundreds of young bicycllsts who, for $4 a door, distributed flyers showing her six-pack and cleavage as she pedaled upward toward her program, ENERGY!!! The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had paid for the flyer with funds from an anonymous donor whom the Murky campaign (in money from Shil Murky’s private fortune) identified in its radio spots as Jenna’s father. The Council would be ruling on his request for a variance, to allow for oil-drilling on the Albion headlands.”

Apparently unwittingly anticipating your addendum, I’ve created an oasis without electricity or computers or photo-anything, but I get your drift.

    And I’m truly interested in your novella–which (yes) I deliberately drifted towcauseard the Now.

    –Yours interests me because it’s likely to be an imagination of vital possibility.
    Some time ago there was a post-collapse fiction (I forget the author) up on this board. he usual: a hero who just happened to be a martial artist, swordsman, top property owner, surrounded with admiring vassals, blonde wife, summary-justice dispenser, etc. etc.

    Your sample, however, is inviting. A kind of unwinding of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, a utopian book which fascinated me, decades ago, when progress was still a workable fantasy.

    Thanks & cheers,


I think you might enjoy Oasis Tales of the Conjuror. Perhaps I will serialize the opus on my blog. What a concept. Thanks. Todd

Excellent idea, Todd. So much junk is published. I’d be interested in learning how this is so, while good authors such as yourself can’t find a publisher. It surely can’t be because “they” are shoving dumbing down on the rest of us?

Well, the explanation for the prevalence of junky books is an interesting and complex topic. I wrote about it in some length in my piece The Death of Literature which you can find on my blog at underthetablebooks.com. and in the archives of the AVA online, and I think Dave may have posted it herein on Ukiah Mendo Blog. Now that I know two people might be interested in Oasis Tales of the Conjuror, I will strategize how best to post it. I’m currently working with an illustrator on the book (the text is complete) and it would be nice to have his drawings at the ready when I post the chapters. Thanks very much for your interest.