40 Days, 100 Days

This weekend marks the end of Lent. As I wrote about last year, I always try to observe Lent by going without something significant. It’s not for any particular religious reason; rather I do it more for self-improvement: willpower, health, self-denial, whatever. My Peace Corps experience taught me a little about that, and now that I am coming up on 5 years’ removal from that, 5 years living a comfortable existence in America, I find that life can be too easy sometimes. Everything is accessible, understandable. Any food, drink, or other indulgence you want is right there, if you have the money for it.

I digress. This year, I decided to go without both beer and whiskey. Those who know me have been very surprised. Beer and whiskey generally comprise 95% of all the alcohol I drink, and my total alcohol intake probably puts me closer to an average Eastern European than an average American. This is the result of 4 years in Athens, GA, 2 years in Ukraine, and a free-flowing home environment growing up.

Since giving those up–and making no other changes of substance in diet–I’ve lost 4-5 pounds. Drinking wine instead of beer and liquor has proved to be a more efficient (speaking calorically) way to unwind after a long day, although it’s not without its drawbacks, chief among which is looking like a twat with a huge stemmed wine glass at a Czech bierhaus in Colorado. There are advantages, however, as I discovered sipping white wine from a resealable box while camping the other day–the resealable cap is really genius when outdoors and flies and floating bits of campfire ash are an issue.

I am very much looking forward to returning to beer and wine this weekend. Lent technically does not include Sundays, but I thought it wouldn’t be much in the way of going without if I indulged once every seven days, so I haven’t had a sip of beer or whiskey since February. I will probably break my “fast” before Sunday, which I suppose is cheating, but forget that since I’m doing this for myself only anyway, and I’ve already gone over 40 days.

The other reference in my post title is to the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Since I write about politics a lot on this, I’ll weigh in shortly on this. This “100 days” is in many ways an artificial timeline that the media likes to impose on presidents so they can assess them. It’s like crowning a national champion in college football in the first week of October (a system which probably would have resulted in a Georgia 2008 title, so maybe it’s not all bad). The previous 3 presidents’ administrations were really defined by events beyond their first 100 days: Obama by the ACA passage in 2010 and subsequent Tea Party wave election, Bush by 9/11 and the Iraq War, Clinton by–well, many things, but welfare reform, the 1994 midterms, the sex scandals, and the booming late ’90s economy.

But looking at the current administration, there’s something for detractors and supporters to cheer. Trump justified his election to many on the right with the confirmation and swearing-in of Neil Gorsuch. This does a lot to outweigh some of the setbacks, like the failure to repeal the ACA, the court-stymied travel bans, ongoing investigations, and the like. The most significant event so far has been the missile strikes on Syria last week, which is continuing to unfold. The real tests are coming at the ballot box: special elections in Kansas and Georgia this month offer voters a chance to weigh in. Will the left mobilize to snatch seats (or at least over-perform) from the GOP? I’m somewhat bullish on Democrats’ chances in Georgia; less so in Kansas, but we’ll see. In the Georgia election, Jon Ossoff probably needs to clear the 50% line in a crowded field in order to avoid a runoff. In a runoff, the GOP will probably coalesce and rally around 1 candidate, diminishing his chances.

It’s still too early, and even a midterm sweep for the opposition party doesn’t mean much for Trump’s administration: Obama and Clinton handily won reelections despite losing Congress in their first term. But it is one of the first bellwethers of public opinion on the new administration.

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