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In life, we ask TiVo or the Web or the Cheesecake Factory to indulge our slightest whims. Asking this is not selfish; in fact, it is a duty. ("Have it your way!"--was that an invitation or a command?) But under a political system devised before the dawn of the fixin's bar, we are suddenly asked to settle for those options that can please half the voters or, at least, five out of nine Supreme Court Justices. That rankles our American souls. We should be satisfied! We should be catered to! We specifically asked for the vinaigrette on the side! And so the losers grow more aggrieved in defeat and the winners less generous in victory. What is it, after all, that most aggravates Democrats about President Bush? That he campaigned as a centrist but led from the right; he lost the popular vote but governed as though he had won in a landslide. And why shouldn't he? In iPod America, every citizen--bolstered by his self-created echo chamber--is a landslide victor in his own head.
When it comes to presidential politics, there is no SUV. We all surrender our headsets and consoles and pile into a 1964 Chrysler with bench seats and no drink holders and one radio. And we have forgotten how we ever managed to ride in this damn thing without murdering one another. "I'm driving this car," says Papa George, "and I say we're listening to Toby Keith." Mama Laura taps her toes while Uncle John hums a Peter, Paul and Mary tune in protest. In back, half the kids sing along with the radio raucously, and the other half start shouting to drown them out. Outside the window, vast prairies and scenic prospects pass by, and dark storm clouds gather, unnoticed.
It is going to be a bumpy ride.