Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Please allow me to get political, just for a few minutes.


Look, I think by now most of you have made up your mind about whether or not you're going to vote, or who you're going to vote for. I seriously doubt that I will be able to sway your opinion one way or the other at this point, if I ever could.

But, today is a very important day, not just in and of itself because of Election Day, but of its potential implications for the near and far future...so I thought I'd say a few words, and you can take them as you will. Or leave them. Or whatever.

I voted early this morning for Barack Obama. You know, this guy:


There are a lot of people out there who are doubters, haters and skeptics, for various reasons. Maybe they've been disappointed too many times by corrupt and just plain stupid elected officials who have far too often taken the low road. Maybe they're just conditioned to expect the worst of people and always expect the worst possible thing to happen...if nothing else, so if something positive happens they'll be pleasantly surprised. Perhaps they're laboring under the delusion that the Republican party is the party of belief in God, and a vote for any Republican candidate is a vote for someone who is as religious as they perceive themselves to be, or want to be. There are some who just want to be contrary- they fancy themselves as iconoclasts, able to read between the lines and glean insight that seems to elude those not as smart or gifted as they perceive themselves to be.

And I'm here to tell you that I have, in years past, found myself in that skeptical role. I always held that all politicians are bought and sold, and beholden to special interests to some degree. That kept me from registering to vote when I was 18; In 1980 I knew Reagan was a pandering sham and a front for more shadowy interests, but Carter's performance in office was underwhelming, so registering was not a priority (C'mon, I was 20. Callow youth.) and by the time my conscience got to me it was too late to register. Finally, in 1984, I put my name down and cast my vote for Mondale (and my uncle at the time, who ran for sheriff and brought me the paperwork)...but America didn't agree with me. Perhaps it was all the right-wing writing I was reading in Rolling Stone and other publications, who knows, but I've always leaned liberal even though politicians of both stripes have consistently let me down- even Bill Clinton, who struck me as a smooth-talking snake-oil salesman type, but also who I thought had some good intentions, even though he didn't get a lot of cooperation in getting them carried out. The whole Monica thing didn't bother me in the slightest, not being one who is especially concerned about the moral foibles of our Commanders-in-Chiefs, as long as the decisions they make about other, non-personal-life matters are sound. I knew back in 2000 that we were in trouble when Bush Junior got himself placed in office, though- he just seemed like an idiot through and through, coasting along and getting where he was through connections and family, and wrapping himself in the flag with a Bible held in front of him to charm the God-botherers who voted for him in droves. Nothing I have seen in the last eight years has made me rethink this conviction.

Anyway, to rein this in a bit, I too have been very skeptical about politicians of both parties for a long time now. Which is why I am surprised to find myself liking Obama so much. I remember when I first heard of him, he sounded promising but a bit green, and I was surprised when he threw his hat in the ring as soon as he did. He may be as untested as they say (exactly how "tested" does one need to be? How "tested" was Dubya? It's all in who you surround yourself with), and may turn out to be scamming us all...and he may have some sort of baleful hidden agenda that will cause everyone who votes him into office to regret it for the rest of their lives. But I don't think so. He seems to be the polar opposite of Bush Jr.; a reasoner. A thinker. Someone who respects the opinions of others and encourages dissent in order to get insight, rather than someone who shoots from the hip with snap judgments, shooting first and asking questions later, afraid to appear tentative or indecisive lest he be perceived as weak. I, for one, want an intelligent man in that position in the White House.

He's going to have a tough row to hoe, no doubt about it. The mess that 8 years of Bush and Cheney (and yes, some of Clinton's mess too) is not going to be cleaned up quickly or easily. However, I believe that having Obama in office will open doors that are now shut to those who would be able to assist, and I believe that he will surround himself with people who are similarly inclined to thought and discourse. Not yes-men, but people who can provide important input. And the thought of having such people in these positions of influence fills me with a cautious optimism...which is a refreshing change from the resigned cynicism I've had before. And this is not to mention the mostly positive effect it will have on our relations with the rest of the world.

I don't know. Obama may get in over his head, and be a spectacular failure. And if that happens, we're all well and truly screwed. But I like our chances with a man like him in charge. I hope you agree.

("Rock the Vote" art ganked from Lethologica.)

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