11 p.m. November 6, 2012

"D" is for Dickocrat: Why Jim Matheson is the New Allen West

One of the few remaining pleasures that these elections offer is a negative pleasure: watching the worst of the dickheads suffering humiliation and defeat.

Allen West of Florida: that’s one less asshole whose bitter loss brings a nice bump of negative pleasure. Allen West was such an asshole that even the US military tossed him out and fined him $5000 after he savagely beat and tortured an Iraqi policeman, put a gun behind the man’s head as he was immobilized, and fired a pistol to make the policeman think he was being executed.

And yet what was too evil for the US military in Iraq — and you had to be pretty awful to get thrown out and fined, considering all the tens of thousands of Iraqis we helped kill — was heroin to Teabaggers in 2010, when Allen West was voted into Congress because of his brutal and illegal torture of the Iraqi policeman.

But negative pleasure wears off quickly. Now the Baggers lost; now the other side wins. And ours is also a negative pleasure, huffing on right-wing electoral agony. It’s a dirty high this time, it doesn’t feel all that great and it’s already starting to wear off.

Schopenhauer’s theory was that all pleasure is negative: “This explains why we generally find pleasure to be not as pleasant as we’d expected it to be; and pain to be much more painful.” The proof is simple, just look at an animal eating its prey: The predator’s pleasure from eating the animal doesn’t come close to matching the pain of the prey. He wasn’t “the kind of guy you can imagine having a beer with” but I never liked beer all that much, and this is one of these times Schopenhauer makes a lot of sense to me. Like a negative antidepressant, if that makes sense.

That’s how I’m feeling about this election, and the whole cycle of elections this past decade. The transformative pleasure and sense of possibility in politics is gone, on both sides; the negative pleasure of wiping the other side’s face is diminishing quickly, like an 8-ball of stepped-on coke.

Which brings me to the vilest campaign victory of all: A Democrat from Utah named Jim Matheson, who, as of this writing, barely squeaked past Mia Love, the young black Mormon teabagger whom Mitt debuted at the Republican Convention in Tampa.

Matheson ran to the right of Mia Love. He ran on his record of voting against anything proposed by President Obama. “Jim Matheson voted against Obamacare. Jim Matheson voted against everything, because Jim Matheson cares about the deficit, and he cares about Utah.”

From the day I arrived in Salt Lake City to the day I left Provo, anytime I turned on the TV or radio, Jim Matheson interrupted to assure Utahns that no one in Congress voted against Obama more than he.

But Matheson’s right-of-teabagger campaign wasn’t working. Polls in mid-September showed her pulling well ahead. So the Matheson campaign went birther on Mia Love, whose parents come from Haiti—using a national liberal magazine, Mother Jones, to float the “Mia Love: Haitian Anchor Baby? story. Unless you believe that Mother Jones would never dare do such a thing, and its repeated lapses into shameless PR rag for Dem neoliberalism are a completely separate matter.

Whatever the case, thanks to Mother Jones fronting for the smear, the rest of the Utah press jumped on Mia Love. Someone started flooding her office with racist photos. Billionaire Mormon Baron Jon Huntsman Sr. arranged to have Matheson photographed getting the billionaire’s endorsement.

In the end, Matheson barely squeaked past Mia Love to victory, by running to the right and as low as any American candidate for Congress could possibly go. It’s not like 2006, when a Blue Dog Dem victory was still foolishly assumed to be better than having a Republican in that seat. We know nothing good comes from this, not even in a negative-good way.

Mia Love’s politics are nothing to be missed. Her politics are just reheated teabag nihilism.

But Matheson is scum, the Democrats’ Allen West.

Next election, I’d expect Jim Matheson will probably go down. Incumbents who poll this badly don’t last long in Utah. It would be nice to believe in the theory of “hitting rock-bottom” as a transformative moment or something cathartic, the way all those recovered addict memoirs say. But one thing that’s becoming clear about America’s politics is that even if we’ve hit rock-bottom —and it feels that way, that we’re fracking rock-bottom by this point — even so, there’s no inevitable bounce up. Newtonian physics aren’t operating here. This rock-bottom can go on and on, without a dramatic upward arc.