Hey Tom, what did you do with that box?

Um. . . what box?

The box you stood on to kiss the elephant’s ass.

This is a conversation I had with Dave’s dad many times as a kid, no matter how I tried to avoid it.

I grew up in a typical 1970s suburban town, just down the block from my friend Dave. His family all share a sarcastic sense of humor. I remember seeing a family album back then with more than one picture of featuring someone flipping the bird.

I never understood why this joke was supposed to be funny. Looking back, it was probably a way for Dave’s dad to get me stop long enough to do the courtesy of saying “hello.” So whenever I would go over to Dave’s house to hang out and his dad answered the door, the conversation usually began the same way.

Hi, is Dave home?

He’s in his bedroom. . . Hey Tom, what did you do with that box?. . .

This is like the conversation our country has had this election season, which finally ends today (unless, of course, it doesn’t). It’s a joke that was never very funny.

A lot of people want to call this is a referendum on President Obama. I don’t really see it that way. I lay this more at the feet of the ineffective leadership in Congress. Even while the Democrats had overwhelming majorities in both houses, they dragged their feet too long on the health care bill and left an opening for the GOP to blame the economy on them. A bill that only got uglier the longer the process dragged on left a lot of easy targets of criticism despite all the good reform will eventually bring.

And even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office acknowledged the stimulus package truly did help lessen the recession, the Democrats failed to control that message. It didn’t matter that the bailouts also worked and prevented a bad situation from getting worse. It’s hard to prove a negative situation is better than it could have been when people are out of work. The final pop in the kisser happened when the sunset of the Bush era tax cuts landed smack dab in the middle of election season and Harry Reid took a standing eight count, failing to bring to a vote the extension of tax cuts to the millions of Americans making less than $250,000.

Those that lose their seats will blame Obama rather than their own failure to find a collective spine. The Democratic leadership played passive and left points off the board. Politics is a blood sport, anyway, not just a conversation. To the aggressor who controls the message goes victory.

The one thing to watch will be the Republican leadership, which is about as impressive as the Democratic leadership. It’s only a matter of time before power leads to hubris and overreach. I don’t see the economy improving any time too soon, not with all the manufacturing jobs having moved overseas and our highly leveraged state of existence enhanced by debt from two wars. With gridlock pending, don’t look to Washington for help. We’ll see if those who joined the tea party because there are no jobs will still be angry in two years. And who they’ll be angry with.

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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