Don’t speak, you’ll only encourage ’em

Elections are like car crashes: They cause horrific damage, especially to those involved, cost a bloody fortune and, until the mess is finally cleaned up, everything comes to a screeching halt.

And as with a smoking pile-up, heaven help me but I just love to gape and gaze.

There are no town races on this year’s ballot and that means two things. One, come fall I’ll be able to pick up my mail and buy milk, Spaghetti-Os and Jimmy Dean sausage without trying to scoot out the exit, head down, to avoid making eye contact with amped-up candidates flying on coffee and sugar and all too eager to press into my hand a palm card identifying them, in the briefest of terms, as caring, concerned citizens willing to work hard to keep this special place special. I have gotten some nifty pens that way, though.

Secondly, the absence of local candidates means the area’s seats in Congress, the State Senate and Assembly will be decided this fall. Usually it’s rare to see one of those incumbents tossed out on their … records, so in most years those “races” are real yawners. Ah, but this is said to be an unusual year with new forces exerting pressure on the body politic.

There’s the “throw da bums out” school, which holds that all incumbents should be bounced like a Bernie Madoff check. And who can forget this year’s celebrity voting bloc, the omnipresent Tea Partiers, the heirs apparent to the “Angry White Men” and “Soccer Moms” who pundits previously proclaimed, in this election or that, to be “the” demographic group most likely to influence the outcome.

The Tea Party really isn’t a party, it’s more a movement. But really now, who’s going to get all fired up, or completely ticked off, at a “tea movement”? Hey, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that zing.

There’s also historical parallels in all this beyond the obvious comparison to those wacky, devil-may-care colonists at Boston Harbor. Republicans flattened by the Obama ’08 Express have been reinflated by the conservative resurgence embodied by the Tea Move—- I mean, Party’s, opposition to all that is Obama, particularly the health-care bill. Suffice it to say that little bit o’ legislation isn’t universally adored.

Which brings us to this year’s dreaded mid-term elections. Dreaded by anyone looking to simply shop in peace and also by the party controlling the White House, which in off-years often loses congressional seats. Republicans are hoping for a Grand Old Party to match 1994, the first mid-terms of the Clinton era when the GOP gained control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. ‘T wasn’t long, though, before the GOP learned the hard lesson that gaining control is a lot easier than maintaining control.

Still, they, those equally omnipresent if not omniscient pundits, predict this may be a big Republican year. Could be, but voter anger doesn’t always fuel election outcomes. Tuesday was primary day in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana, but turnout was surprisingly low. That’s good news for them Dems who pray that the Tea Party soon runs out of steam, that the anti-incumbent fever broke early enough this year to fizzle at least a little by November and that any losses may be modest.

Who knows? A lot can happen in six months. Every incumbent is running scared, probably with good reason. Then again, many of the rookie campaigns seem to suffer from political schizophrenia, i.e., “Incumbents are bad! Make me your incumbent!” I suspect that another political truism — that campaigns don’t start in earnest until after Labor Day — won’t be so true this year and that a cadre of candidates will be hitting the street any day now. In which case, I’d better run right out and pick up a 10-gallon tub of peanut butter, a 20-lb. sack of Cocoa Puffs and other essentials. Or strike a domestic deal. “Honey, how’s about I make the bed and water the plants and you go to the store? No, who said I hate making the bed? No, I’m not up to anything. You can trust me.”

Tim Kelly can be reached at [email protected] or 631-298-3200, ext. 238.