It’s no breaking news to say there’ll be a high tide washing over the American political terrain next month. As David Gergen put it “We’ll have to wait until November 3rd to see what sort of flotsam and jetsam was left on the shore.” Looks like there will be plenty of both.

But what then? What happens after the F&S are sworn into office in January, ‘11? Where do they … and we … go from there?

While I give the Tea Party and the billionaires behind it credit for stirring up a lot of innocent and gullible people by telling them how mad they must be and offering a vehicle through which to express their anger, where does it go from there?

Let’s look at the agenda many of these folks ran on and solemnly promised. Repeal of a couple of constitutional amendments dealing with automatic citizenship of foreign national babies born here and direct election of U.S. Senators by the public. Those won’t happen.

Repeal of the income tax to be replaced by a flat tax of some 23% as a national sales tax. Closing the Department of Education, getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA. Not going to happen.

Repeal of our recently enacted health care law or, in the alternative, killing it by not funding it. Polls say no way. Drastically change Social Security and Medicare so they don’t cover as many people, upping the qualifying age and limiting benefits. Or killing the programs outright. Really? Close the VA medical system and give vets vouchers for private health care. Force victims of rape or incest to carry pregnancies to term and live with the results. You think?

These and other strange, totally politically impossible promises were made to appeal to as many fringe and undecided voters as possible. Throw in the otherwise normal folks who wasted their choices by voting “against” something instead of “for” something and you’ve got a sizeable and diverse group of future voters to keep happy.

If you agree the chances of getting all, most, or even some of these promises converted into law are not likely in the next two years, what of those home folks who believed the impossible dream and put these nuts into office? If the nuts don’t deliver on even some of their promises, much less all of them, who’s going to save their butts two years hence? When they go back to the voters. When they’re incumbents. When they’re the insiders. You know. “Fool me once?”

In the last few years, a number of very respectable and mostly intelligent members of congress have quit in frustration when they found they couldn’t bring about changes they wanted in government. They couldn’t get hearings on good legislation. They got sick of gridlock and animosity among their peers. They found intransigence when trying to move major bureaucrats who’ve been running the system for years and have absolute control of their fiefdoms. The kingdoms we call departments of government.

Good people, backing good ideas with good legislation, threw in the towel after a couple of terms because they were professionally stymied by a system that resists change, run by people who had greater political clout than senators or representatives. Partisanship created not only by splits between the major parties but also subgroups of diehards and ideologues within each party who wouldn’t compromise on the time of day. No compromise. No progress.

TV’s talking heads are telling us change is afoot. We’re hearing a lot of dire predictions about what will happen when some of these amateurs get into the system and start messing with the levers they aren’t equipped to handle. Maybe. But I think not.

I think we’ll hear a lot of loud voices, witness embarrassing ignorance in some instances, see some ridiculous investigative hearings conducted by witch hunters with extremely narrow personal agendas, threats to some of our world alliances and, in two years, find little accomplished to deal with the real problems you and I are living with.

That last part is what worries me most. The limited damage these people will do can be repaired in most cases. Meantime, the economic mess crippling this nation won’t likely be addressed in any meaningful way. The real needs on Main Street will fade into a background overshadowed by conspiracy chasing and wild goose hunting. There’ll be even more influence exerted by those who put up the billions to offer false hope while scaring a lot of folks. Millions of Americans suffering home and/or job loss through no fault of their own will not find the relief government could sponsor. Gridlock will likely increase.

If the path that seems to lie ahead turns out to be as troubled as it appears it will, we’ll be living in a democracy foreign to me. And a form we really don’t deserve. But maybe not for long.

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