You ever see the movie Bedazzled?
The remake, not the original.
Elizabeth Hurley as The Devil.
Brendan Fraser as the hapless Elliot, who trades his soul for seven wishes – all of which keep going horribly wrong?
Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful and ends up a Colombian drug lord whose wife hates him and who is killed by his own men.
He then wishes to be famous and admired, and the Devil makes him into a seven foot tall world famous pro basketball player … and endows him with a “teenie weenie winkie.”
Determined to get it right, Elliot thinks carefully indeed when asking for his next wish…
Elliot: I wanna be smart. No, no, I wanna be really smart. And, uh, I wanna be able to talk good … well. What’s the word?
The Devil: Articulate?
Elliot: Articulate! Yeah, I wanna be articulate. And I want to be witty. Sophisticated. Charming. I want to know everything about everything. I want to be popular. Good looking. No, no make that great looking. And I want Allison to fall absolutely head over heels in love with me.
The Devil: Anything else?
Elliot: Like … what?
The Devil: Like winkie wise?
Elliot: Oh. Right. Um. Yeah. Well, um. I wanna be, uh, (grins shyly) I wanna be big. Nah uh, ah, not like practical joke big. But, you know, (pantomimes fist pumping like a piston) big. That clear?
The Devil: Crystal. You just say, “I wish,” and I’ll fill in the rest.
Elliot: Okay. I wish that I was witty and fu…
The Devil: Blah blah blah blah, you got it, Smarty Pants!
And Elliot gets everything he asked for. He’s intelligent, handsome, well spoken, admired, sophisticated and charming. He knows everything about everything. He’s the most popular man in every room. And he’s big, not practical joke big, but, you know, big. He’s a writer and he’s so good that his books win the Pulitzer before they are even published.
And the woman he wants falls instantly and madly in love with him.
Exactly as he asked.
Except, well, like they say, the devil is in the details.
I said a thing.
It was a bad thing.
I did. I said a bad thing.
A terrible, no good, very bad thing.
I said, “show up and vote.”
Show up and vote, and you can win. Yep. That’s what I said.
I know, terrible, right? How could I? Show up, vote. What was I thinking?
In my defense, that’s how it’s supposed to work. The whole concept of America is based on that idea. Show up and vote. Throw the bastards out. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. But you’re not supposed to say it out loud. I guess it makes the people who didn’t show up feel uncomfortable or something. Whatever. It was a throwaway comment. Nothing particularly deep. Bumper sticker pithiness. Show up and vote. It’s not the first time I’ve said this. As I reminded Twitter, I said it before, in 2008, in 2010, in 2012, in 2014, in 2016…
I’ve said it, well, a lot.
Some folks, as noted above, were less than thrilled to be reminded.
This was several days ago, last week, before the state primaries and special elections. I was talking about the various candidates in various elections and naturally some defeatist started in with a litany of liberal woe. And I said, stop it. Just, stop it with that. Stop. I don’t want to hear about why you can’t vote. I’m telling you, again, show up and vote. Show the fuck up and vote and you can win. Look at Alabama, I said. Look at Western Pennsylvania. Look at what’s happening in Arizona. It doesn’t get any more rigged against liberals than there.
Of course, the game is rigged.
Of course, the other side cheats.
Of course, they’re doing everything they can to keep you from the polls.
Of course, they are. Of course. But if your vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be working so damned hard to keep you from exercising it. Get your ass to the polls, no matter what. Every time.
If you can win in Alabama, you can win anywhere.
If you goddamned liberals would just stop finding reasons to lose and show up and …
Oh. Right. Riiiight.
You’re already mad. I’m not even through the intro and you’re shouting at your screen. Gerrymandering! Rigged elections! Voter suppression! I live in a red state, my vote doesn’t count! And my particular favorite: Not all liberals, Asshole!
And you’re reaching for your keyboards.
I know. I know, I do. I hear you. Hey, I showed up at my polling station the last time, here the ultra conservative religious land of Florida’s District #1 and it was a huge Southern Baptist Church with Trump signs out front and poll workers wearing Trump shirts inside. I get it, man. Believe me, I do.
Hold that thought. Wait a second. I haven’t even gotten to really offensive part yet.
Look here, you tell me you show up.
But you don’t.
You show up for the presidential elections, once every four years.
But you don’t show up in the middle when it actually counts.
See, you, you liberals, you’ll stand in the freezing rain for a month to save the snowy spotted owl’s habitat, you’ll chain yourself to an oil tanker to protest drilling in the Arctic, you’ll occupy Wall Street. But you don’t show up when it actually counts.
Not enough of you anyway.
Folks, it’s idiotic to only show up for the one election where your vote – the popular vote – doesn’t actually do anything.
If you stand in the rain for a month because you care about something, but you don’t show up when your vote actually matters, to elect people who actually care about the same things you do, then you might as well just stay home and keep dry. Because if you don’t do the grunt work of democracy, if you don’t do your duty as a citizen of the republic, then all the marching and singing and protesting in the world isn’t going to do a goddamned thing.
It’s worse than useless to show up for the presidential election, but not the elections where your vote actually matters, i.e. local, state, and the mid-terms.
You have to show for every election. Every. Single. One. From school board to president. Every single time.
And don’t tell me that you do.
Because you don’t.
Liberals turned out in huge cheering masses in 2008.
Sure they did. And they elected Barack Obama. Hot damn. They were finally – finally – going to get everything they ever wanted. They were going to be smart and articulate, right? Witty. Sophisticated. Charming. They were going know everything about everything. They were going to be popular. Good looking. No, no make that great looking. Everybody was going to fall absolutely head over heels in love with them.
And they were going to be big.
They were finally going to get that unicorn they’d been dreaming about all those years.
Except, well, see, the devil is in the details and unicorns are notoriously fickle creatures.
The unicorn slipped out of their grasp, as unicorns tend to do.
So in 2010, disappointed, they didn’t show up.
And they lost the House.
Liberals wanted a unicorn from Obama and they didn’t get it and they were all disappointed and depressed. Let down. Uninspired. So they didn’t show up. And the House went not just to Republicans, but to the Tea Party. Right wing fanatics. Conservative extremists. Fringe conspiracy nuts, racists, nationalists, jingoists, who hated government so intensely that they were determined to destroy it at all costs. Now, this wasn’t a surprise. The Tea Party didn’t exactly try to hide who and what they were. They were proud of it. They painted it on their misspelled signs in letters four feet high. They marched on Washington waving their guns and their bibles and told everybody who would listen what they were going to do once they got into power. It wasn’t a secret.
But it wasn’t enough to get liberals to show up either.
That’s what you told me back then.
It’s not enough to vote against something – no matter how terrible, that’s what you said. Fuck you, Jim, don’t try to scare us into voting. We want our unicorn. We deserve it, yes, we do. We’ve been marching and protesting for decades, now is our time. We want it and we’re not going to compromise. Liberals don’t just fall in line, Jim, you fascist. That’s what you told me. Liberals are smart, we think for ourselves, we want to be inspired. There has to be more than just voting against the bad guys, more than just the lesser of evils. No, liberals have to vote for something,
That’s what you said.
And so, the House fell to the Tea Party, but at least you had your unicorn dreams to keep you warm at night.
Liberals showed up for the Presidential election in 2012 though.
Of course they did. Turns out the Tea Party was pretty damned shitty indeed. And so, it seems liberals could indeed vote against something if they had to. They turned out. Two years too late, and by then Obama was well and truly hobbled. But liberals were still hoping for a unicorn, somehow, someway. Magic, I guess. So they showed up and they voted, and reelected Obama in a landslide.
But, without the House, there was no damned way they were going to get their wishes.
Naturally they blamed Obama for not magically giving them everything they wanted anyway and so in 2014 they once again didn’t show up and so they lost the Senate.
And this time it wasn’t just the Tea Party. By not showing up, liberals handed congress over to the likes of Mitch McConnell – the very epitome, the foul distilled bitter essence, of every single thing they supposedly despise. They elected and reelected Obama, hoping for a unicorn, and then cut his legs off and tied his arms behind his back and hung Mitch McConnell around his neck.
Meanwhile, local and state elections were going to conservatives.
Because they show up.
They show up, every election from dog catcher to school board to President. They show up. Your angry racist white uncle, the one who believes everything Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh tell him. The Tea Party. The religious nuts. The NRA. They show up. Every. Single. Time. See, you think about it once every four years. But those people? Your angry uncle, the religious nuts, the gun fanatics, the ones who are convinced the gays and the Muslims and the godless filthy liberals are stealing their country out from beneath them? Well, they think about it every day.
And they rage about it every day.
And they’re furious, every day.
And so they show up, every time.
Don’t take my word for it, go look for yourself. Volunteer to work the election. Tell me who shows up. Not just once, but every time.
What’s that? Not all liberals?
No kidding. Of course it’s not all liberals. Of course it’s not you, you personally. Of course you show up, every time. Sure. Not all liberals.
But a lot of them.
Tell me something: local elections, code enforcement officer, county clerk, selectman, elder, town counsel, mayor, school board. The judges on your state ballot, what do you know about them? Wait, are there judges on your state ballot? Are state judges selected the same way across all states? Do you know? Guess what? They’re not. The methodology for selecting judges varies widely between states, partisan elections, nonpartisan elections, legislative elections, gubernatorial appointments, and/or assisted appointments. Quick, which method does your state use? Do you elect your judges or does your state government appoint them? Picture your ballot, are there judges on it? Is the candidate judge’s political affiliation listed or not? What do you know about those potential judges? How can you find out? What do those judges judge? Family court? Traffic court? Property court? Criminal court? Are they city or municipal courts? County courts? Circuit courts? Regional courts?
Name a judge on the bench of your local circuit court. No? Okay, how about just the Chief Judge for your district?
Do you think it matters? Judges are impartial, right? Non-partisan.
Let me tell you a story: I know somebody, a woman, who spent years in an abusive marriage. The abuse wasn’t physical and I’ll spare you the ugly details, but it was pretty typical for the Deep South, far too common here in the Florida Panhandle. She met him when she was very young, high school. He was older, already had a kid from a previous relationship. She dropped out of school to marry him. They had three more kids. She grew up – and that was the problem. She stopped being the submissive, naïve kid he’d married. She got tired of being treated like property. She tried, but he wouldn’t change. It’s the culture here. He was a Good Ol’ Boy, a redneck. No education himself. Limited opportunities. Proudly poor and Southern. She tried, she really did. But it got worse instead of better. So, she left him. She walked out, filed for divorce. A few months later, she met somebody else, a military guy. Smart. Educated. With employers lining up to hire him after he retired from the service. He treated her decent. They got married and moved away when a defense contractor offered him a good job out of state. They bought a nice house, a new car, and for the first time in her life she was living like other people do. Medical. Dental. Decent clothes. Decent neighborhood. A little money in her pocket. Somebody who cared about her and treated her like an equal instead of property. But, there were those kids. The youngest was ten, and living with his dad back in Florida, who’d let things go after she left him. The house was a dump, dirty and falling apart. Seems he was having trouble finding another woman to wait on him hand and foot – he’d even gone looking for an Asian mail-order bride, on the theory that they weren’t like those, as he said, American bitches. So she came back to Florida and took him to court for custody of her son. She was confident, going into that court last week. She knew that she could give her son a good life, opportunities, education, medical, dental, a way out of poverty. But, and here’s the point of the story, the judge was a Southern Conservative, an Evangelical Christian. The judge literally screamed, red faced, at this woman, told her in front of her children and in front of the court that she was a terrible mother for getting divorced, for getting remarried, for trying to make a better life for herself. The judge called her selfish for moving out of state with her new husband. Selfish, that’s what she was called for not wanting to be property. The judge destroyed her, right there in the courtroom in front of her own children, while her ex looked on grinning. And then, the judge gave full custody to the father.
Why? Because good Christians – at least the judge’s version – don’t divorce their husbands and move away. No matter what.
And this isn’t unique in that court room.
The judge has a long, long record of punishing petitioners for not living up to certain religious and political beliefs common to this area.
Now, what do you know about your judges?
When you go to the ballot box and you vote, what do you know about those judges?
All of these people, from local selectman to your local school board to your state district circuit court, all have impact on your life, both directly and indirectly. That’s where it starts. These are the foundation stones of government in America. These people go on to state level. They become your state representatives, your state senators, they are appointed to the federal court system, they become your governor.
They directly shape how America is governed at the level that most directly affects you.
Then, they go on to Washington.
And they don’t get there by themselves.
Almost without fail, they are helped along – if not chosen directly – by your state’s various political parties.
Tell me, who appoints your state’s electors to the Electoral College? You know, the apparatus that actually selects the President?
You show up every four years to the one election – the one election – where your vote doesn’t actually decide things, but you don’t show up for the myriad elections where it does. You’re worried about the cupola, while the foundation rots.
And don’t tell me that you do. Show up. Because the local governments, the state governments, the judges, the US House, the Senate, are all in the hands of … conservatives. The majority of those seats anyway.
Quod erat Demonstrandum.
It's not enough to show up every four years.
You have to show up every time.
You have to show up for the midterms.
You have to show up for the state elections.
You have to show up for your local elections.
You have to get informed and you have to show up every single time.
You know what happened?
Do you know what happened when I said, “Show up and vote?” Do you?
80,000 liberals fell to fighting in my social media timeline. Screeching like baboons and throwing shit at each other.
What were they fighting over?
Well, they fought about the way I said things
They fought about political parties.
They fought about the limited choices.
They fought depression.
They fought about disillusionment.
They fought about generalizations.
They fought over ridiculous analogies.
They fought over conspiracy theories.
They fought over purity.
They were pretty sure that I must be targeting them personally, so they fought over that.
They fought over the Electoral College.
But mostly they fought over Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
The various conservatives chiming with what I’m sure they considered wit were drowned out by the fighting liberals.
It went on in earnest for three days, buoyed up by swarming bots and prodded by foreign trolls, and it’s continued fitfully ever since. If you want to see for yourself, take a look at my Twitter timeline starting around May 21th.
Two days into the battle, I said this:
And that’s when things really went to hell.
Show up and vote.
I might have said it more than once.
I didn’t mention Hillary. I didn’t mention Bernie. I said, show up and vote in 2018, in 2020. Show up and vote and you can win.
And got tens of thousands of responses, many telling me why liberals can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t, show up and vote.
But this one, right here, this is the evergreen comment. This is the one that jumps out.
Saying, “show up and vote” is shaming.
You’re ashamed of being told to show up and vote.
You want to vote, but you don’t want to have to vote.
You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote if the candidate isn’t perfect.
You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote because somebody told you to.
You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because everybody else is voting.
You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote against something, you want to vote for it.
You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because bad shit will happen to us all if you don’t.
You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because it’s your boring old duty as a citizen of the Republic.
None of those reasons are good enough to make you show up. No. It’s not enough that if you don’t show up, you get Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and Neil Gorsuch – and they then proceed to burn down every single thing you ever cared about. No, to vote, to show up, you need a magnificently-maned, golden-horned, rampant, virile snowy white stallion bearing wonderful gifts and wild music, blood quickening inspiration and powerful magics. You need to be inspired. You need to hear angels.
You need a unicorn.
So I asked.
Who is that? What would it take for you to show up? Who is that candidate?
Articulate. Witty. Charming. Know everything about everything. Popular. Great looking. You want to fall in love with him or her. Right?
He (or she) has to be big.
Not practical joke big. But, you know, big.
It goes on for a long, long time.
Far, far longer than I have room to post here.
If you’ve got a Twitter account, you can read all the responses here.
Thousands of responses. Many people just said, well, you know, so long as the candidate has a pulse and isn’t Trump, they’ll show up. But many people said, no, no, I want, well, I want articulate. And witty! And he, or she, has to be charming. They have to know everything about everything. Popular. Great looking. Big. It’s not enough for me to just show up. I’ve got to be inspired. I’ve got to fall in love.
Folks, no candidate, no one, can be all of that. It’s just not possible.
Unicorns don’t exist and they never have.
No candidate is going to be everything you want.
The Constitution never promised you perfect choices.
And wishes always go wrong, which is why wishes are a lousy way to run a country. So are revolutions.
The Republic doesn’t run on moonbeams and magic. It can’t be all things to all people all of the time. The work of maintaining the republic is tedious and boring, if you’re doing it right. Duty very often isn’t glamourous or popular or even particularly inspiring, but that is what holds civilization together. Sometimes, most times, it’s just about showing up and doing what has to be done to hold back the fall of night and for no other reason than because the alternative is disaster and ruin. It’s your duty as a citizen to keep the nuts from working loose and the walls from falling down. You don’t get a medal for that and nobody is going to sing songs about you, but it’s your job nonetheless.
Duty, very often, isn’t even particularly moral. Mostly it’s about doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, most of the time.
You tell me there’s no difference between one side and the other, that it’s only a choice between the lesser of evils.
But I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all.
There’s an enormous difference between those who labor in the trenches, working every day to make the world a better place, little by little, inch by inch, and those who want to jump ahead via magic.
There’s a huge difference between doing your duty and self gratification.
The people on top right now, the ones in charge, they have no interest in duty – to the Republic or to you.
They want all of the benefits of civilization and none of the responsibility.
They want what Elliot wanted in that story up above, the one about accepting gifts from the Devil. They want fame and glory and wealth, and they want a nation where those things are possible only for them. They’ve made the same horrible selfish mistake Elliot did when he asked the Devil to bend the object of his desire to his will, to turn her into a meat puppet for his own gratification, instead of working to become the kind of person she might love and respect of her own volition. They see government as nothing more than a way to line their own pockets and so they’ve made a deal with the devil because they want what Elliot wanted. They want the reward without having to do any of the work. And in the end, that always goes bad. Every single time.
In the movie, Elliot comes to realize that wishing will never, ever make him happy.
Wishing will never make him smart and handsome, witty and charming, popular, rich, or even, you know, big. In the end, he had to do the work, he had to show up, be aware, think about others, make sacrifices and compromises and little by little become the person others could admire and respect.
There are no unicorns.
There never have been.
There are no shortcuts. If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.
You have to do the work.
You have to show up and do your duty.
You have to do your duty, even if the candidate isn’t perfect.
You have to do your duty, even if you hate it, even if you don’t want to.
You have to do your duty, because bad shit will happen to us all if you don’t.
You have to do your duty, even if the odds are stacked against you and the other guy doesn’t play fair.
You have to do your duty as a citizen of the Republic because you are a citizen of the Republic.
You don’t have to like it. You don’t need to be inspired. You don’t need a unicorn.
It doesn’t have to be easy. It’s your job.
Get after it. Do your duty to the republic. Show up. And you can win.
And when you win, well, then – then – you can fix things. Then, you can have your unicorn.
But you have to win first.
Elliot: I don't get it, though. Why are you, you know ... being nice?
The Devil: Look, Elliot, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. The whole good-and-evil thing? You know, Him and me? It really comes down to you. You don't have to look very hard for heaven or hell. They're right here on Earth. You make the choice, and I guess you just made it.