Hemming and Hawing: Our Exceptionally Unexceptional Future

It’s May 2021. Joe Biden has been President for four months, presiding over a somewhat divided government. There’s a frisson of ecstatic boredom in the air. Ecstatic. News.…

It’s May 2021. Joe Biden has been President for four months, presiding over a somewhat divided government. There’s a frisson of ecstatic boredom in the air.

Ecstatic. News. Boredom. There’s so much stability you end up speaking with your friends and neighbors. You’re forced to retreat to other pastimes, like Ping-Pong, needlepoint, and diet fads. “Should I try keto?” you might hear someone say on the street.

Ya know what? It’s 2021, try keto! Or try the one where you eat like it’s biblical times. Or the one where you eat every three hours. It’s a new era, try them all!

We’re no longer low-propensity voters, low-information voters, or low-turnout voters. No, no, we’re simply voters.

In 2021, the nerds have reclaimed their rightful place as guardians of political minutia. No one knows the name of the head of the General Services Administration. In fact, people have gone back to not knowing there is a General Services Administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency has gone back to simply protecting the environment. The people who run it aren’t secretly the type who don’t want to protect the environment. The EPA isn’t helmed by dudes who spend taxpayer money to fly first class or to buy expensive fountain pens. Nor is it helmed by someone who sends an aide to get their wife a Chick-fil-A franchise.

Twitter isn’t rollicking from the insane turpitudes of a chaotic federal government. Joe Biden’s Twitter feed is . . . well, it’s ecstatically boring. He often remembers the troops. He strikes a sympathetic tone with families who are struggling. He announces utterly quotidian events like the Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Sometimes, when he’s really crazy, he posts a recipe for a pasta dish. The guy likes pasta. Sometimes, the Internet is in a full rage over his choice of seasoning.

COVID-19 has not magically disappeared but it is finally under control. The stock market is just fine. Notably, Biden doesn’t talk about it much. He doesn’t talk about the border with Mexico, either. And tariffs—we have all stopped talking about tariffs.

Kim Jong-un and the U.S. President are no longer trading bromantic letters. But Kim has publicly admitted that he enjoys the predictability of his relationship with the White House. Even dictators like predictability! And Angela Merkel seems lighter on her feet and Emmanuel Macron is positively glowing. He even lets himself have that second baguette.

Sadly, in 2021, we still talk about Brexit. It’s one of those hugely bureaucratic nightmares with a million pieces of paperwork that nobody wants to take on and about which everybody is confused. There’s a lot of talk about fishing quotas and internal market bills and Scotland really can’t handle it. Google lists “Is Brexit still happening?” as one of its frequent search terms.

But one thing has changed forever. The people know when elections are. When an election lurks in the middle distance, our spidey senses tingle. We’ll soon be summoned to the New York City mayoral race or the gubernatorial race in New Jersey or the House of Delegates race in Virginia.

And then our sights turn to the midterms soon thereafter. The excitement of having our voice heard—of doing democracy! Of wearing stickers!—gets activated. We’re no longer low-propensity voters, low-information voters, or low-turnout voters. No, no, we’re simply voters. It’s one of our routines, like brushing our teeth or clipping our nose hairs. It has to be done or else there are little hairs coming out of democracy’s nostrils.

In 2021, we’re both ecstatically bored and calmly energized. As mundane as the news of politics has become, Americans know that once you go vote, you can’t go back.

This post was originally published on Radio Free.


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