Like the smattering of other Americans who still pay close attention to the spectacle of our country's politics, I worry about what will happen on Nov. 4, the day of the midterm elections.
But I worry even more about what will happen the day after, when a nation of people fed up with the stubborn dysfunction of our country's government realize that nothing's going to change and we're in for more of the same.
I worry about the combustible tension between our abysmal regard for the Congress that we've got and a near certainty that the Congress we're about to get will be its spit and image: familiar faces, timeworn histrionics, unending paralysis.
Our history is such that we just keep returning the incumbents; our system is such that insurgents are few and far between. They lack the money, and politics is increasingly about money. They lack name recognition, and it's the era of celebrity.
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In all but one of the last five elections for the House, at least 90 percent of the incumbents vying for another term got one. In all but one of the last five Senate elections, at least 80 percent of incumbents fared similarly.
This would be a happy fact if Americans adored their government. But a new Gallup poll shows that only 14 percent approve of the job that Congress is doing.
In an ABC/Washington Post poll last month, a majority disapproved not only of Congress in general but of their own House members in particular. This departed from the norm. It charted a new frontier of disgust.
And it dovetailed with a belief among most Americans that the country is on the wrong track and in decline.
So on Nov. 4, it's out with the bums?
I asked political analyst Stuart Rothenberg to review the current races. He estimated that between 90 and 96 percent of House members running for re-election will be victorious, and between 78 and 90 percent of incumbent senators will.
Yes, there's uncertainty over which party will wind up with control of the Senate.
But whatever happens, we'll still have a Democratic president facing off against a Republican House, with all or much of the acrimony that this combination has produced for the past few years. The "fever" that President Barack Obama talked about during the 2012 presidential campaign has never broken, and Nov. 4 won't deliver the ibuprofen that does the trick.
It will deliver us to Nov. 5, at which point Senate and House leaders will begin to plot their every step in terms of whether it hurts or helps their party's chances of taking the presidency in 2016.
That's what dominates our politics: a war to gain or maintain turf, not a battle for a better America. You see that in the negativity and political gyrations of the 2014 campaigns.
Democrats are running away from the president, and not just Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Udall of Colorado. I mean Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Al Franken of Minnesota, who have questioned the administration's response to Islamic extremists.
Republicans are running away from their party's beleaguered brand and even their own pasts, as they discover newly calibrated positions on the minimum wage, say, or "personhood."
But what are all these politicians running toward? I know more about what they want to destroy than about what they yearn to create. That's partly because of all the campaign spending that's funneled through outside groups, which tend not to produce inspiring ads for the candidates they support but blistering ones against the candidates they oppose.
The system is toxic that way, and seems to have only enough oxygen to recycle known people and ideas, not to introduce and nurture new ones. With Jeb Bush looking less likely to run, Republicans are reassessing Mitt Romney. If Hillary Clinton takes a pass, Joe Biden's waiting, and it's not impossible that Jerry Brown swoops in.
Even the supposed mold breaker and flavor du jour, Rand Paul, comes with a road-tested surname, a dynastic leg up.
How a country so rightly anxious about the days ahead stays fixed in the days behind is the great paradox of the 2014 elections.
Rothenberg told me that he used to think of this country's politics as a comedy. "Now," he said, "it's a tear-jerker."
I've been catching up with the first season of American Horror Story, and our political travails bring to mind the freaked residents of that foul house. They can sense their doom. But they can't seem to get out.
THE NEW YORK TIMES