The Politics of the Past Survives

I like the times-past/times-future look of the election results this morning.

In California, once understood to be the place where the American future dawned, overtaxed and defeated voters reached back in time to elect as their governor Jerry Brown, the eight-track-tape of American politicians. This has happened before — long before many Californians were even born. The last time Jerry was elected governor, in 1978, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and Happy Days were leading ABC’s prime-time line-up. Imagine wanting to move into the future — and asking Cheech to drive the bus. Along for the ride: Barbara Boxer, who was first elected to public office (Marin County’s board of supervisors) at the same time other forward-thinkers, like Jimmy Carter, came to power. If Moose and Squirrel had been on the ticket in California, they’d have won, too.

California’s politics are now lost in the mists of time. If you want to see the bright and shining politics of the future, you have to go to the country’s heartland, and specifically to Kansas, a place most Democrats only know from Thomas Frank’s liberal folklore. There, the election has yielded two new congressmen — Mike Pompeo and the remarkable Tim Huelskamp — who were not created by the Tea Party movement because their politics were already ahead of that helpful wave. Here’s a local paper’s coverage. Pompeo is a natural leader, while Huelskamp is something even more — an inspiration, maybe. (He’s briefly sketched in Superior, Nebraska). Mark these guys. Politically, they’re how it’s going to be.

Denis Boyles — Dennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...