While the rest of the world has moved on, here in the United States the psychodrama of last week’s elections continues to unfold. On the Right: gloating over the Democrats cast into the outer darkness. On the Left: frantic excuses for the drubbing received. Obama set the tone at his press conference when he explained that people were frustrated that the magical “change” unicorn wasn’t coming fast enough. Well he didn’t use those precise words, but you catch my drift.
Other Democrats blamed Fox News, racism, or the party’s inability to communicate its own wonderfulness. Failed presidential candidate John Kerry simply declared the voters irrational- first they didn’t elect him, now this! These peasants are crazy!
In short, if people disagree with the president, then “forgive them Lord for they know not what they do.” They certainly can’t have actual reasons for voting the way they did. Me, I’m not so sure you can dismiss millions of people as cretins simply because they disagree with you. But then, denial is an understandable response when egomaniacs, previously cocooned from reality by armies of sycophants, are suddenly given a nasty jolt.
Consider the case of ex- Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, ejected from office this September after 18 years in power. Luzhkov was a master politician, yet still he missed the obvious message that months of criticism lobbed at him by the Kremlin was intended to convey. He wouldn’t resign, so President Medvedev fired him.
What we see here is a failure of imagination. Luzhkov couldn’t conceive that such a thing could happen to him. After all, it takes an outrageously inflated ego to believe you are the right man to run a city of 10 million- or worse, a country of 300 million. Such individuals have so many grand plans they live partially in the future. Like Luzhkov, Obama also had plans, but they had less to do with tearing down historic neighborhoods to make way for beige skyscrapers than using the instruments of government to redeem a nation.
Alas, the nation doesn’t want to be redeemed.
Stunned by this thorough repudiation of his agenda, Mr. Obama declares himself “humbled” even as his followers denounce the disgusting mob. Lacking an electorate to blame, Luzhkov today poses as the people’s champion, concerned for the decline of democracy in Russia.
But Luzhkov is still rich, and Obama still president. Spare a thought for their unfortunate underlings. Many workers in DC are redundant because their congressman lost his seat. They were going to change the world; now these noble souls find themselves scrabbling for work.
My brother works in Washington and informs me that most staffers are recent Ivy League grads who are there because dad (or mom) knows somebody and it’s back-scratching time. It’s faintly terrifying to know that the fate of the free world is in the hands of spotty, spoiled brats but there ya’go.
But imagine the shock! Raised to be masters of the universe, these fresh faced youths are now mere hobos in blazers. Fortunately the taxpayer is helping them deal with the trauma. This week the website politico.com reported that special teams are visiting each office to discuss such matters as payroll, benefits and writing a resume: all very good and practical. Less so is the presence of a grief counselor:
“…to help with the emotional aspect of the loss- and a section in the packet each staffer was given - dealt with the stages of grief (for instance, Stage One being anger and so on).
‘It was like it was about death,’ the staffer said. ‘It was bizarre.’”
And I might add, pathetic. It’s a tough world out there, and even people working in Congress must grow up eventually. (I also suspect that if these staffers were connected enough to get a job in DC, they’ll most likely land on their feet.) Meanwhile I just did some Googling, and apparently a professor at Columbia University spent twenty years on a study that debunks the whole “stages of grief” theory.
But who would begrudge even a quack therapist employment in these difficult times? Not me. Besides, everyone knows it’s OK to cry these days. Indeed, I just read a long article in the New Yorker that partially blamed the defeats on Obama’s cool temperament. He seems disconnected, disengaged, indifferent. That’s a problem. Maybe if the president shed a few tears, if he felt our pain, we’d get the Hope back. Look at Reagan, didn’t Reagan cry? Well, maybe not, but he certainly told jokes. That’s what we need. Obama should tell a few jokes, to connect with people. Or maybe he should cry first, and then tell a few jokes. That would be really amazing.
As for Luzhkov, it’s simpler: he should take a bath in his money and disappear.
What does the world look like to a man stranded deep in the heart of Texas? Each week, Austin- based author Daniel Kalder writes about America, Russia and beyond from his position as an outsider inside the woefully - and willfully - misunderstood state he calls “the third cultural and economic center of the USA.”
Daniel Kalder is a Scotsman who lived in Russia for a decade before moving to Texas in 2006. He is the author of two books, Lost Cosmonaut (2006) and Strange Telescopes (2008), and writes for numerous publications including The Guardian, The Observer, The Times of London and The Spectator.