12/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Relationship Politics: Are You Suffering From Electile Dysfunction?

There are a lot of nervous people around these days, but most of the ones we meet seem to be handling it with fairly good humor. That's important, because loss of a sense of humor is one of the first signs of encroaching mental/emotional distress. An old Hungarian proverb says "Life is hopeless but not serious," and in tough times like these we're particularly grateful to Tina Fey, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart for helping keep our hearts light.

Democratic Fears

Democrats are particularly nervous this week; here are some of the reasons for their belly-tremors:

•Democrats fear they'll win the election but see it stolen by Republican legal shenanigans. Some imagine that Justice Scalia is already on a 24-hour IV-drip of caffeine to sharpen his legal mind to justify the theft.
•Democrats fear they'll win the election but then see it stolen by a Republican military coup. This fear escalated recently when a photo appeared of John McCain palling around with the former dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, a fellow who knew a thing or two about rounding up rowdy liberals.
•Democrats fear they'll lose the election and have to spend the next four years skulking around in the shadows to evade roving mobs of Republicans out to mug Democrats, latte-sippers and people who drive hybrids. Giddy with victory and whipped into blood-lust frenzy by Sarah Palin, Republicans will roam the streets carrying banners with their new motto, "Coming Soon To A Bedroom Near You."

There are other serious fears that grip Democrats, and we'll explore those in a moment. First, though, let's look at Republican fear.

The Big Republican Fears

There are probably a lot of Republicans who are just as scared as Democrats, but unfortunately we don't know any Republicans. They're hard to find in the stratospherically hip community we live in, a place where everybody drives a Prius and the only threat to global warming comes from cappuccino steam. So we can only fantasize what Republicans are scared about. When we close our eyes, breathe deeply and feel what it would be like to be a Republican, we get in touch with big fears like these:

•Republicans are terrified that homosexuals will storm the holy bastions of marriage, turning the noble institution into a wild, sexy dance-fest instead of the somber affair the good Lord intended it to be.
•The idea of same-sex couples having happy marriages plays directly into the all-consuming fear that trembles at the center of the fundamentalist soul: the fear that somebody out there might be having unsupervised fun.
•Republicans are terrified of women and women's power. This fear has driven the Republican Party to devote enormous energy and money to tactics designed solely to frighten women.

Scaring Women: A Key Republican Tactic

Scaring women is at the center of the McCain campaign strategy, and is part of a larger strategy the Republican Party borrowed directly from the Taliban playbook. Republican strategists studied several thousand years of female oppression and said, "Gee, why didn't we think of that?" So, they teamed up with church leaders and set to work turning women against each other around sensitive reproductive issues such as abortion. Their reasoning went like this: If we can get women hating and fearing each other, we won't have to worry about them uniting and becoming an unstoppable block. They even found young women to serve as willing dupes in this conspiracy. The Ann Coulters, Laura Ingrahams and Sarah Palins of the world bear superficial resemblance to women but are merely sock-puppets of the male power elite.

Why would Republicans do such a coldhearted, cynical and destructive thing? The answer is chillingly simple: If women can be frightened and goaded into fighting amongst themselves, they won't realize how much power they actually have; then the Old Boys can stay in charge a little longer.

Need some evidence?

•John McCain, the quintessential Old Boy, wants health insurance to cover Viagra but not birth control pills, making it clear that his priorities are:

#1. Keeping men happy
#2. Keeping women scared

•He has a perfect 100% record of voting against women's rights throughout his career, and the platform he's running on will make sure his perfect score stays unblemished. According to their platform, Republicans are dedicated to forcing rape and incest victims to go through with any pregnancy that results from the rape. By running on this platform, John McCain reveals a clear keep-women-scared agenda, giving a thumbs-up to rapists while saying to female victims, "Sorry, dear, life isn't fair." Not content to legislate mandatory motherhood, Republicans are now getting to work banning contraception. Believe it or not, a number of political races around the country feature politicians running on anti-contraception platforms.
•McCain puts sarcastic air-quotes around women's "health," clearly expressing a deep anti-women sentiment. If you doubt that, picture him putting sarcastic air-quotes around "men's erections."

Speaking of which, here's a rumor you probably haven't heard yet: the shocking upsurge of Electile Dysfunction. Up until now this malady afflicted mainly male Democrats married to Republican women. However it's now rumored to have spread into the hinterland, taking its toll on formerly virile members of the Alaska Independence Party, where it goes by the colloquial name of "moose-droop." The reason you may not have heard this rumor yet is that we just made it up. Feel free to spread it, though -- these things have to start somewhere.

Now, back to the serious business of dealing with Election Anxiety. The big secret to handling anxiety was revealed 2,000 years ago by Epictetus, "The key to happiness is knowing that some things are within your control and some are not." Epictetus got his knowledge the hard way, by being run out of Rome on orders of the Emperor Domitian, a fundamentalist so extreme that he makes far-right icon Sean Hannity look slightly to the left of Sean Penn. Fortunately Epictetus was able to take refuge in a more tolerant Greece next door, a trend that has caused many nervous Democrats of today to take a closer look at cities such as Vancouver, Medicine Hat, and Saskatoon.

Our advice, honed in numerous sessions with anxious people, is not to try to control your fear. If you squint your eyes to deny it or squeeze your belly-muscles to control it, you just make it worse. The only solution is to let yourself feel it when you're feeling it. If you acknowledge it and take a few easy breaths, you'll find that it usually quiets down fairly quickly. If you greet fear as the 100,000-year-old friend it is, you can learn a lot from it. You can look at the situations that scare you and ask, "What am I trying to control here that is not actually within my power to control?" You can ask yourself, "What positive action can I take in this situation?" If we can all get focused on what we can actually do to make a difference, and if we can stop wasting energy by trying to control things we can't control, we can get a lot of good done and feel good while we're doing it.

(In our next post we'll show you an effective way we've found to deal with conflicting political opinions in relationships. It works in all kinds of relationships, in the bedroom as well as the boardroom. We'll all probably need a little help in this area after the election, especially if your mate voted for the losing side.)