The Democrats were predicting a bloodbath; the Republicans were hoping for a brisk blood shower, having conceded the House to the inevitable toll of anti-war sentiment and Bush fatigue. Democrats ran on a two-plank platform: not mentioning the taxes they would raise, and promising to lose the war faster than Bush. They implied that they’d stand athwart the administration’s heinous schemes to deny foreign-born jihadists their Constitutional protections, too. No doubt this made an impact on swing voters who pay no attention to the issues but get daily e-mails from a sister who believes you can be jailed for saying “habeas corpus” on an international phone call.

Did it work? It did! Here’s how the momentous election unfurled.

Touchscreen voting works remarkably well; early results show the little guy from Super Mario Brothers will win Ohio, Alabama and Zelda by 2893 percent. Scattered reports show few problems, except for one polling place where the machines offered only a choice between two candidates named “Checking” and “Savings.”

Networks, hesitant to appear as if attempting to influence results, run exit polls that show people are, indeed, exiting the polls. As one voter put it,”I’m sick and tired of poorly located doors, and I came here to send a message about well-placed egresses.” Later exit polls show a Democratic bounce, which makes Republicans despair – until they remember that exit pollsters usually seek out young female voters heading for a Prius with a “Hands Off My Uterus” bumper sticker. She’s a typical swing voter, after all. She could go Democratic, or Green.

In a flagrant pre-emptive usurpation of the judiciary’s right to make stuff up, the gay marriage amendment passes in Kentucky; liberal, tolerant nuanced onlookers snark that marrying your sister will still be legal. The amendment also passes in Wisconsin, even though the measure banned civil unions – just in case! It’s an instructive vote; people who might otherwise accept civil unions will ban them to preserve the definition of marriage. In other amendment news, Arizona votes “si” to establish English as its official language.

Rick Santorum is defeated because Pennsylvanians have decided, en masse, to support abortion and the redefinition of marriage, and to repudiate Santorum’s efforts on behalf of third world children. Also because his opponent, Bob Casey Jr., is the junior of Bob Casey Sr.

Connecticut’s pro-victory Democrat-turned-Independent, Joe Lieberman, wins, to Republican groundlings’ relief; in Rhode Island, anti-war Republican Lincoln Chafee hits the showers, to the relief of the same. As the Democratic gains mount, Howard Dean appears on television and says “we have to get out of Iraq.” Iraqis start making reservations for the embassy rooftop helipad.

The one who gets out is Rumsfeld, making a typical speech on the way: “The question is, do we know why I am leaving? Yes. Are we looking at the screen door, which may or may not hit me on the way out? We are, but you can’t say the hinges are oiled until we know how dry the hinges were before.” (Crinkly smile.)

At the end of the day, some pundits detect a sea change: Jesusland has come to its senses and become Rosie O’Streisandland. Fear has given way to Love. The great unspoken national sympathy for the Dixie Chicks has finally asserted itself. Coast to coast, state by state, people are waking from the long national nightmare and deciding that we’re undertaxed, under-aborted, under-regulated, under-indicted and something else, about Katrina – under-levied, perhaps? We’re certainly over-macaca’d. No one really knows what “macaca” means, but it’s the mysteries that give life its sweet allure.

What matters are the lessons each party learns.

The Democrats might look at themselves in the mirror and ask: Is it possible the voters just wanted that old standby, change? They weren’t necessarily voting for slinking out of Iranam – sorry, Vietnaq – sorry, whatever, that messy hot country somewhere. Maybe they weren’t voting to put the nation’s business on hold while we hold hearings over the quality of French intelligence in 2003?

Likewise, the Republicans might peer at the pale, drawn face in the glass and wonder: Could this be more than an ill-tempered blurt of disaffection over our spending, our nonchalance toward the issues that motivate the base, our institutional complacency? Might it also reflect our failure to correctly define the enemy, choosing to wage a war on “terror” instead of the states and cultures that support it?

And the face in the mirror will probably say: NAAAAAHH.

See? Consensus already. It’s going to be a great Congress!

James Lileks can be contacted at [email protected]


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