11/11/2010 10:58 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Elections, Change, and Short-Term Amnesia

I don't mean to sound all Nancy Negative, and I think some people probably disagree with me on this, but I don't think that the recent midterm elections will have any major impact on my current employment situation. Or my debt situation. Or my bookcase situation, which is partly a result of the prior two situations. In short, I was not surprised to find, when I woke up on November 3, that the federal deficit had not been reduced to zero and the unemployment rate had not taken a nose dive. It was disappointing, really -- no instant tax breaks, no bag of money miraculously deposited beside my bed during the night, no messages on my phone from all the colleges in the universe offering me high-paying jobs, the terrorists weren't dead, socialism had not been eradicated from the earth, and I still didn't have health insurance. Not even dental! On top of all that, I didn't feel any more or less enfranchised than I had the day before.

Come on, new Congress! What are you guys waiting for? I want all my student loans forgiven and high speed rail. Is this so hard?

It turns out that it is. During my limited time as a voter, I have seen this same change of power in almost every election -- rarely does one party stay in power very long. People are always angry at those who currently hold the power, no matter who they are. No one is particularly angry at either donkeys or elephants, which incidentally are both very nice creatures that represent what can be our most volatile emotions, much less our ideologies. My smarty pants side is reminded of Foucault's extensive study of the tension between the powerful and powerless, the Hegelian master-slave dialectic, and Guy de Maupassant's justified fear of those "ready to die for an Idea." I'm not trying to condescend by blathering about the important dynamics at play in Discipline and Punish and the theoretical implications of power and existentialism, like some do when people choose new leaders or join new movements. I really think the problem is so much simpler, and it has everything to do with who is in charge, how we learn, and whether our economy will actually survive.

People forget, plain and simple. They forgot what our political climate was like 5 or 6 years ago, they forgot what it was like to be a college student, they forgot what it was like before they had children. If they're rich, they forgot what it was like to be poor. If they have a job, they forgot what it was like to be unemployed. If they're in office, they forgot what it was like to be a candidate, and if they're a politician at all, it goes farther than that: they forgot what it was like to be a regular citizen. Specifically, in the case of these midterm elections and the time immediately preceding, I think we've forgotten one thing as a collective that we are all dealing with on a daily basis: change takes time. Overhaul the health care system? Takes time. Dig out of a double recession? Takes time. Restore jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans? Takes time. Recover from my personal choice to spend money on moving for new opportunities? You got it -- it takes time. Strangely enough, two or four or six or eight years is not long enough for Congress to fix all the country's problems (ESPECIALLY if the balance of power is bipartisan, which is our new struggle now). The revolving door makes it that much harder.

Instead of complaining about things not going fast enough, can we just take some time to remember a little? I do remember when private lending was sucking the life out of higher education, and I'm grateful that this might actually change. And judging from the recent protests across the globe against raising tuition and cutting programs, it seems like I may have cause to hope that sometime soon elected officials may be forced to recall the days when they had to work two jobs to pay tuition.

An afterthought: to anyone who might be interested in reading Monsieur De Maupassant's theories on the fear and hatred of the alien (i.e., "something not like me," not "something that drives spaceships and has sundry tentacles"), I recommend his story "Boule de Suif," which is terrifyingly apropos at this political and historical junction.