Monday, November 3, 2008

On Politics, Glasses and Voting

I was supposed to be out canvassing today, as part of a "get-out-the-vote" effort organized by the Obama people. I suppose that getting out the vote means getting out all of the vote - even those who for reasons beyond my comprehension seem to want four more years of W's disastrous reign - but still. This is America. Every vote ought to count. Even the ones that mystify me.

But two things happened. First, I ended up with some sort of low-grade autumn crud, one that hasn't slowed me down too much but which has left me sounding like James Earl Jones after forty years of unfiltered Pall Malls. I can't imagine that anything I would say in that voice could convince a burning man to jump in a lake. And second, this morning Tabitha accidentally sat on my glasses, snapping one of the stems off. Now, I can see okay without them - I'm typing this now with my uncorrected vision and so far the typos I have had to correct are not any worse than usual - but driving about the streets for more than just the bare minimum is not something I want to do without my spectacles. So off to Sears I go.

I tried to contact the Democratic Party to let them know wasn't coming, but I spent 45 minutes searching the phone book and the internet looking for a phone number and came up with nothing. Why would a political party make it that difficult to find their number? Don't they want to be called?

So here is my plea to you, since I can't go door to door today: Go out and vote tomorrow. You Obama supporters, you definitely go out and vote. And yes, even you people who think that John McCain is going to survive long enough to prevent the nightmare apocalypse that would be President Palin, you go out and vote too. It's important. We've had eight years of the most destructive, obsessively secretive, blindly partisan, egotistically short-sighted, demagogic, anti-Constitutional, torturing, illegal-war-mongering, flat-out anti-American administration in our history and it is time for the grown-ups to take charge again.

McCain would not be a bad president, I think. I worry that he is too old - as Dennis Miller once said of Ronald Reagan: "This is the man with his finger on the button. My grandfather is that age, and we don't trust him with the remote!" I worry that he is far too beholden to the same gargoyles that brought us the Bush Lite administration and would not be able to reverse the fundamentally screwed up course the nation has been on since January 2001. And his selection of a willfully ignorant ideological hack for a running mate only confirms the thrall in which he is held by the Dan Quayle wing of the party and casts severe doubt in my mind as to McCain's independence and judgment. But he has a decent track record as a grown-up, and I think that he would respect the Constitution in a way that has been singularly lacking of late. I disagree with many of his policies - not all; I am enough of a centrist that there is quite the mishmash of liberal and conservative within my own views - so I will not be voting for him. But even if he wins he would not be the disaster that our current Fearless Liter has been. Even McCain would be an improvement. I realize that this is damning with faint praise - for crying out loud, we'd have been better off with a 2lb bag of carrots in the Oval Office than George W. Bush - but even faint praise is praise.

On the flip side, there is Obama. He is bright, articulate and thoughtful. His ideas are well within the historical American mainstream (contrary to the old-style smears out there accusing him of "socialism." So early Cold War! I keep waiting for people to call him "pinko"), well thought out and on point. Further, he seems to have actual ideas instead of just the political appeals to our baser fears that have characterized his opponent's campaign. And his running mate, while not ideal, does not strike fear into the hearts of responsible adults at the thought of him being elevated to the top job should some nutjob decide to shoot the President, as happens all too often in this country.

More importantly, Obama would have less difficulty than McCain in repudiating the steaming pile of waste under which George W. Bush and his cabal of slime merchants have covered our Constitution, our government, our history, our future, our international standing, our moral capital and our traditional values. It is time to acknowledge the fact that the policies of the last eight years - indeed, the policies followed by the modern American conservative movement in general since 1980, ever since the neo-cons and the evangelicals took over - have failed. They have failed without exception, without pause, and without hope of recovery. It is time for conservatives to retreat and figure out who they really are and what they really stand for, to find some ideas that work, and to go back to having policies instead of just politics - something liberals had to do after their own collapse into failure between 1968 and 1979. Conservatives have always insisted that "ideas matter," and that "facts are stubborn things." They are correct. The fact is that their ideas - the unAmerican mewlings of the Religious Right and the ivory-tower theories of the neo-cons (and, speaking as an academic, I know "ivory tower") - have proven themselves bankrupt as guides for governance, and the fact is that the country is measurably worse off in almost every meaningful way since they took over. They can check the excesses of liberals - for excesses there surely be - but it is hard to govern well when your entire philosophy is based on the idea that government is inappropriate.

So vote. Vote your conscience. Vote your interests. Vote to support my position. Vote to spite me. Vote to ensure that whoever gets in represents the will of the American people and not a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court. Vote for your candidate - if it is not my candidate, I promise not to take it personally. But vote nonetheless. It matters.

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