by susan lenfestey
Against the numbing backdrop of lurid and exaggerated TV ads warning us of the perils we face, from sexual predators in Congress to Jihadists on our streets, the soft din of voters massing for the stampede to the polls can be heard. The dust rises across the prairie, the mini-vans circle suburbia, urban warriors trudge door-to-door to get out the vote. Well, maybe not. In the last 20 years, less than forty percent of eligible voters have turned out for mid-term elections. But there's no denying that this year there's a buzz out there, a tension, all pointing to a record heavy turnout.
For the ruling Republicans that tension is evident in everything from their fatalistic despair and crumbling base to a grim confidence that the mechanics of turning out the vote will save the day, a tacit admission that the multitude of failed policies of the Republican agenda will not. After all, the specialty of this administration has been winning elections without much interest in governing -- like a street-savvy Lothario who's mastered the seduction part, but hasn't a clue how to raise the baby.
For the Democrats it's a nail-biter, right up there with being a Cubs fan when they finally make a post-season game '" okay, with higher stakes. Everything about the performance of the Republicans, from the deadly errors of Iraq to the shame of Katrina -- all the bungling ineptitude and corruption -- is in the Dem's favor. And yet, as we've seen, they've made a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, whether aided by the swift-boating Republicans or their own dithering responses. So there's lots of tiptoeing and tongue biting lest any gaff should shatter this spun-glass moment.
Sure as pumpkins turning up in October, the Republican's Rovian slime shop goes into action, and lurid ads get slapped up on the airwaves like old-fashioned circus broadsides: Read the dirty passages from Jim Webb's novels! Watch Harold Ford's unspeakable acts of cell-phone miscegenation! Listen in on Michael Arcuri's fantasy hotline call! Like most promotional broadsides, the exaggerated claims have little to do with reality.
The Democratic leadership, meanwhile, faces the tricky business of giving voters specifics of what a change in Congressional leadership will mean without mentioning any I-words, like Investigation or Impeachment, or having their own cocksure "Mission Accomplished" moment. Luckily, distractions abound. Is Hillary Clinton too yesterday? Is Barack Obama too tomorrow?
Republican voters, sensing defeat at the polls, resort to one-liners about fighting terrorists in the streets of Baghdad and not at home'" even though that idea has about as much meat left on its bones as an old turkey carcass.
Democratic voters, like burned lovers who can never trust again, find it easier to imagine a Rove-inspired October surprise than a Democratically controlled congress, and hold their collective breath.
With the death toll on all sides soaring in Iraq and our constitution lying in tatters at George Bush's feet '" not to mention the environmental destruction of our planet which makes all else moot '" the countdown to this election swings before us like a lead-weighted pendulum.
If the polls that show the Dems leading are right, and a few others tip our way, we'll wake up on November 8 to the heady chime of a new direction. If they're wrong, we'll wake up, and wish we hadn't, to the same old cuckoo clock.