Evidently day will look like it’s turning into night very soon. On April 8th, the entire populace of the United States will be able to watch as our moon passes between earth and the sun and blots out light from our life-giving star. Everyone will be able to view at least a partial eclipse, but folks in a 115-mile-wide path in 13 states will get the best show.

According to those in the know about such things, the shadow of the moon will begin slowly moving across Texas, continue through Arkansas and southeastern Missouri, make an appearance in southern Illinois, Indianapolis, Ohio, and up to the northeast. Along at least part of that corridor, the moon is predicted to completely block the sun for close to four and a half minutes at the eclipse’s peak.

One of the best cities in which to view this phenomenon of nature is my hometown, Dayton, Ohio. This isn’t the first time Daytonians have had one of the best seats in the house for such an event. I can vividly remember playing second base on a July day in 1963 and looking in quick bursts into the sky as the moon eclipsed the sun. Then, as now, everyone was cautioned to not look directly at the sun for fear of damaging their eyes. Fortunately, sometime previous to that summer day, I had coerced my dad into buying me some official Cincinnati Reds flip-up/flip-down sunglasses. At the time, all the professional outfielders had them. The glasses affixed to the top of your ballcap and when you looked up into the sky to catch a pop-up, you simply reached up and flipped down the glasses to help find the ball in the sunshine. They came in handy many times, but most especially on eclipse day (although those regular sunglasses are really NOT what anyone should be using exclusively to gaze heavenward during the event). As I recall, the umpires stopped the game while we experienced a really eerie atmosphere.)

Throughout ancient history, research shows that whenever total eclipses occurred, they were seen as apocalyptic prophecies or displeasure of one or many pagan gods. No matter what the civilization, though, blotting out the sun was thought to surely bring on misfortune.

I’m kind of wondering if that’s the thinking of several Congressional representatives of late. One of the most recent counts shows that of the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate, 49 have decided they won’t seek re-election this year. That’s just shy of 10% willingly giving up their seats at the table of power. And if recent history is any indication, there are probably more resignations/retirements to come. What do they know that we don’t? The past couple of election cycles have seen at least that many incumbents decide to pack it in and head home (or to a lucrative lobbying job somewhere in Washington, D.C. – not that I’m being cynical or anything).

Not running for re-election is one thing. That just means the seat is up for grabs come election day in November. But to resign mid-term, that’s something else entirely. Those seats are immediately vacant and can’t be filled before a special election is held in each affected district.

Why is that important? Because the exodus could dramatically affect what happens to legislation between now and January 2025 when the next Congress is sworn into office. If you’ll recall from high school Civics class, 218 members in the House of Representatives constitutes a majority. And the majority rules. Rs and Ds, as a whole generally, all get behind one candidate each to be Speaker of the House, and all committees are chaired by a member of the majority party.

If my math is right, at present, given some empty seats and recent resignations, the Republicans hold exactly 218 seats. Not what you’d call a solid grip on power. The Democrats count 213 among their number. But the way the exit door is filling up with representatives, those figures may not last long.

Add to the mix the fact that the current Republican Speaker of the House is, at best, tenuously holding onto that office. (Yes, we’ve seen that show before . . . about six months ago.) Should he be toppled and a new election for Speaker held, it’s possible a member of the minority could end up with the gavel.

I think that scenario would probably qualify as an apocalyptical event, certainly in today’s political world. And unfortunately, like it or not, it’s a world we all inhabit.

But for now, safely enjoy that total eclipse. Just make sure you use the right kind of glasses.

©MMXXIV. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer