Hope-ey New Year… ?

What a predicament. With only a few hours left in this year, there’s no way it can be salvaged. What’s done is done. And look what’s coming! Based on past performance, what are the odds of getting through this coming year intact? [Intact? You call our current state of affairs intact? That’s a laugh!]

It’s not easy, being the last freestanding print publication with the freedom to face reality with the blinders off. We’re not complaining, mind you. We volunteered for this job. Hell, we stole this job. [Long story, no room for it here.] We’re just pointing out that it’s a challenge. How does the nation’s most-senior news operation, operating with unlimited editorial freedom, sum up the state of affairs at year’s end without sending its readers into an abyss of despondency?

Well, we’ve got approximately 330 minutes, and room for about another 850 words. Let’s have at it and see what happens. First of all, if we hope to achieve anything meaningful here, we’ve got to assess what we’re up against.

Most obviously, we’ve got a self-proclaimed would-be dictator, criminally indicted but as yet unconvicted, yet waaay the hell out in front in his presidential primary race. His whole shtick is based on outrage, yet some were surprised when he began delivering campaign speeches cribbing from Hitler.

When the candidate in question did that in Durham earlier this month, his fans seemed to love it. Meanwhile, in Iowa, 43 percent of Republican caucus goers said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who talked of “poisoned blood” and “vermin.”

Despite the former guy’s voluminously-documented record of instigating a violent insurrection to stay in office, if he’s nominated he actually stands a fair chance of being elected. The courts could, in theory, somehow knock him out of the race, but how effective has the legal system been so far on that front?

Oops. Almost forgot. (Wonder why… ?) There are other candidates in the GOP primary.

Ron DeSantis, the closest thing to a challenger, has been steadily sinking in the polls all year. From the low-thirties, he’s sliding towards single digits. He tried a new tack in a recent interview, letting his wife do all the talking. Even that didn’t help. Soon there’ll be nothing left but a painfully artificial smile suspended over an empty pair of cowboy boots.

The non-MAGA rump of the Republican party is banking on Nikki Haley. Her cost-per-vote will end up on par with the greats, like Steve Forbes and Rick Perry. Likely, so will her vote count.

She and DeSantis both take the same approach in debates towards the front-runner: “Pay no attention to the fascist who’s not up here behind a podium.” This is not a coincidence. It’s the only lane leading to second place on the ticket.

Chris Christie is the lone candidate denouncing the front-runner. He might as well put on armor, pick up a lance, mount a donkey, and go looking for windmills. He has no Sancho Panza, but he does have a PAC on his side. It’s been reduced to making robo-calls attempting to lure an audience with promises of a free meal.

The incumbent president, for his part, is running what might generously be called a lackluster campaign. To make matters worse—as if he were forty points ahead, and was handicapping himself in a bid to be seen as sportsmanlike—his policies on student debt and support for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians seem engineered to drive away the young voters on whom the election may hinge. And, as always, an assortment of mooks are milling around, happy to drain off votes.

So, the Executive Branch of the most powerful nation on Earth is a jump ball. The best we can hope for is a putatively benevolent geriatric white man. The worst—he might as well be Beelzebub.

Pretty fraught, right? What else we got going on here? We must be thorough. We only take up less than two percent of the Earth’s surface, but we punch well above our weight—a metaphor that can also be taken literally.

Therefore, let us now consider the dictates of a bunch of rich, white, slave-holding men who died off two hundred years ago. The Senate they created, in which one Wyomingian is worth 68 Californians, has immense power. When in bold hands, it can lop years off a president’s power to appoint Supreme Court justices. Or, as is more often the case, it can just flip a switch and turn Congress off entirely.

This powerful body is now in the hands—by the slimmest of margins, and subject to filibuster, of course—of the anti-insurrection party. Nearly half of its seats are at stake in the coming election, though. The bottom line: the “world’s greatest deliberative body” may soon either a) render the incumbent president nearly powerless in his second term, or, b) assist a would-be dictator on his second go-round as he tries to convert an ailing democracy into a fascist theocracy.

Further mystifying the mess we’re in is our third branch of government. Might our past and potentially future President have the power to pardon himself for trying to overthrow the government? That is a question our Supreme Court may or may not end up deciding. Fortunately we can depend on the justices of that court to decide whether or not their decisions can be trusted.

Good lord. We’re almost out of space already and we don’t feel any better yet.

What, if anything, have we learned so far? Don’t pin your hopes on the official cavalry. They may or may not arrive. Besides, if they do, but they don’t like your looks, you may end up worse off than before.

As we cast about for a sliver of hope, only one thing comes readily to mind: the successful strike by the United Auto Workers. Whatever else may happen this coming year, they have shown that by standing together—and by standing up—ordinary working people may yet have a chance.

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