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A Children’s Primer on Politics?

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) resigned just weeks into the 112th Congress to take a job in the private sector. Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Boren is only 38 years old, but he announced his retirement, leaving his Oklahoma district in his rearview mirror and extremely vulnerable to a Republican takeover. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) announced he would not run for re-election under speculation that he’ll run for governor in 2014. He leaves behind another vulnerable open seat. 

The Blue Dog exodus could continue if Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah) decides that he’d have a better chance running statewide rather than in a new Congressional district drawn by Republicans, and Rep. Heath Shuler (D) might find another job instead of running for re-election in the most Republican district in North Carolina.

Come to think of it, I bet a story about redistricting might do a better job of putting my 3-year-old to sleep.

It might be easier to explain a tale about herding elephants. Not exactly the Republican ones, though the political metaphors on the pages of Jeff Sheppard and Felicia Bond’s “The Right Number of Elephants” abound.

For Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), the idea is more than the title of a children’s book — it’s his job. 

“The Right Number of Elephants” begins with a red, out-of-control train, full of kids and on fire to boot — not a far-off comparison to Boehner’s GOP Conference at times. 

“If you suddenly need to pull a train out of a tunnel and save everyone on board, then the right number of elephants is 10,” the book reads as it attempts to teach kids how to do a whip count — er, how to count, that is. 

During his first year at the helm of the House, Boehner has wrestled with dozens of freshman Republicans, emboldened by the tea party, in a battle of ideology and pragmatism. The media is quick to paint the picture of Republicans being split apart by conservative ideologues. 

For the past few weeks, Boehner has been figuring out the right number of Republicans he’d need in order to pass a bill that would allow an increase in the debt ceiling. In the end, instead of 10, that number was 174, giving the Speaker enough votes to pass the bill and demonstrate his influence.

No word yet on a sequel, which could be called “Elephants Raise the Debt Roof.” Or something.

Perhaps the most poignant story of them all on our family bookshelf is Pamela Allen’s “Who Sank the Boat?” The book is almost 30 years old, but its title might be the best way to encapsulate the 2012 elections. Instead of talking about hope and change and freedom, next year’s elections are likely to devolve into a blame game over the economy. 

In the story, a cow, a donkey, a sheep, a pig and a mouse were all “good friends” until they decided to go for a ride in one small row boat. As the boat began to sink, a search for the culprit ensued.

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