I try not to resort often to quoting Aaron Sorkin’s master stroke, The West Wing. Seems trite. Today, as a Democrat licking his wounds, one can hardly help it. And hard-core fans know exactly—exactly—what reference I’m about to make.
From the episode titled Six Meetings Before Lunch. Toby Ziegler, White House Communications Director, watches with staff as the Senate starts to vote on the confirmation of United States Justice Roberto Mendoza. The staff becomes celebratory as the roll is called. Bonnie, a communications aide, starts handing around a bottle of champagne.
Toby: Put it down! Put it down!”
Toby: No champagne.
Bonnie: We’re just getting—
Toby: Put it down. Everyone in this room, let me have your attention! Please. The law of our land mandates that Presidential appointees be confirmed by a majority of the Senate, a majority being a total of half plus one for a total of what, Ginger?
Toby: Fifty-one ‘yea’ votes is what we see on these screens BEFORE a drop of wine is swallowed! Because there’s a little thing called what, Bonnie?
Bonnie: ‘Tempting fate?’
Toby: ‘Tempting fate’ is what it’s called. In the three months that this man has been on my radar screen, I have aged forty-eight years. This is MY day of jubilee, I will not have it screwed up by what, Bonnie?
Bonnie: By tempting fate.
Toby: By tempting fate! These things take patience. These things take skill. These things take luck. In the fifteen months we’ve been in office, what kind of luck have we had? Ginger?
Ginger: Bad luck.
Toby: [clears his throat and raises his eyebrows] What kind of luck?
Ginger: Very bad luck.
Toby: We’ve had very bad luck.
Of course, the 51st vote is cast and Ziegler joins in a raucous celebration of the Justice’s confirmation. But he was insistent on waiting. Superstition? Or vigilance?
Superstition, likely, but superstition that buys Ziegler vigilance. There is the time in Josiah Bartlet’s second run for Presnit, that Deputy White House Communications Director Sam Seaborn “up and says” that Bartlet has won and questions Ziegler’s work on actually writing a concession speech. Of course I wrote a concession speech, says Ziegler:
What, do you want to tempt the wrath of the…whatever, from high atop the thing?
Seaborn is made to go outside, turn around three times and spit. Because he tempted fate.
See what I’m getting at, Martha Coakley and campaign, et al and Democrats generally?
I know ya’ll probably figured that it was “Ted Kennedy’s seat”—hell, even today there’s an e-mail in my inbox from boldprogressives.org that reads “BREAKING: Kennedy’s seat — lost”—and that, surely, it was “safe.” Martha apparently disappeared for three weeks, three weeks in which she could have been making hay over her opponent’s staunch support of water-boarding. Hands were not shook, babies were not smooched, and, apparently, campaign advertisements were not even proofed—sorry, but if you mispell “Massachusetts” in one of your campaign ads, you probably deserve to lose.
But there is something I think more disturbing in last night’s election result. In 2008, Democrats created a massive sea change in American politics, but we have yet to reap a bulk of its benefits, and, in fact, we seem to be blissfully unaware of the wind’s drastic shift. Republigoats, though, have figured it out, and they are using it to win. No longer do they campaign on guns, God, and gays. They select one of their nutzies to run, but he tones it down, pretends to be an everyman (this asshole actually won this election in part by showing off his GMC pickup truck), pretends to give a rat’s ass about the issues. (For another example of this, see McConnell, Bob, who now serves as Governor of Virginia.) They seem to know instinctively that nobody gives a crap about gay marriage while he is clutching his wallet in fear and pain.
I heard on the radio a Congresswoman sum up the Coakley fiasco: If you don’t know whether or not you’ve won until election night, then you’ve lost. I’m a bit worried that the Democrats are going to see a night like this tenfold in November.
I am worried about the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing.