A Four-Step Cycle for Political Junkies

From hope to despair and back again. Plus why Jon Huntsman is the least terrifying GOP candidate

When you start voting at 18, you get your first exposure to the cycle of political hell. If your candidate wins, it’s a four-step cycle: hope, jubilation, disillusionment, despair. If your candidate loses, it’s only two steps: hope (during the campaign) and despair. Either way, you wind up feeling despair, so what I’m thinking is, why not start at despair and work your way back?

Here’s how it would work today. As a (bitter, exhausted) Democrat, the worst thing that could happen would be if someone electable got the GOP nod. So let’s say that someone is Jon Huntsman. Seem impossible? Check out how each candidate polls against Obama; Hunstman does best, perhaps because he’s the only one in the field who doesn’t seem to be completely insane (Bachmann), overly Mormon (Romney), clownish (Cain), Rick Perry (Perry), unelectable (Paul), Evil Genius (Gingrich) or the fluid byproduct of a sex act (Santorum). Huntsman is smart and inoffensive, and he’s got those hot Twittering daughters, who make the Bush girls seems like wallflowers.

So let’s say Huntsman gets the nod and runs against Obama—who, incidentally, I went through the four steps with. Then Huntsman beats Obama. Now I feel despair because, though he says he’s a moderate, it’s like Obama saying he’s going to close Guantanamo or reform immigration policy; it’s just pregame bull. As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has noted, Hunstman is masquerading as a moderate—taking the same old conservative GOP positions but using moderate reasoning to back his positions up.

In  fact, the staunchly pro-life, pro-gun President Huntsman is likely to tow the party line on climate change, defense spending, the Defense of Marriage Act, taxes, healthcare, foreign engagement, Roe v. Wade, etc. and so on. So, yes, the response to a President Huntsman for a Democrat is despair.

And of course, the next step is disillusionment because the congressional Democrats you imagine might contravene Huntsman’s agenda will, instead, advocate compromise, cave in to special interests and behave like the simpering, whining wimps they’ve become. Next stop on our Dantean tour is jubilation, which will come from the grassroots in the same way the Occupy movement has. We saw it when Bush was in office and Obama ran. All of a sudden my mother and I were marching on Washington instead of having lunch at Rachael’s Nosheri, and wearing buttons with Shepard Fairey images. We got galvanized—the whole country did—and when we elected the first African-American president—and no matter how I feel about Obama’s performance as commander in chief, that’s still a huge triumph—I felt jubilation. And then there was hope. But as Nietzche said, “Hope is the worst of all evils because it prolongs man’s torments.” Dude, totally.

Given the current crop of candidates, I don’t think any GOP candidate can beat Obama. Despite all the Jimmy Carter comparisons, it’s tough to beat an incumbent. But I’m kind of hoping for a different outcome anyway: Hillary Clinton in 2012. Oh no, there’s that hope again. And the cycle begins again.