Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What the Election Means

Yesterday, as I rode by bike home in the warmth of a late summer's dog day, I decided to take myself up Mount Tabor (a residential hill in Portland, technically a mountain--it's a dead volcano--but quite wee by any reasonable standard). The White Stripes were playing on the iPod, and I was in a relaxed, serene mood.

I have come to some calm regarding the election. Obama is running the best campaign he can, and there will be no rear-view mirror regrets that he didn't play rough or smart enough. McCain is transparently vicious, mendacious, and stupid, which is a shift from the more clever Bush campaigns. And the media for once isn't cutting the GOP any breaks. They lie and the media reports that it's a lie. So if we lose this one, it will be because there's a population sufficiently stupid to fall for the viciousness and lies. (I don't mean this as a polemical comment. I mean it seriously. There will be three types of McCain voters--habitual GOP voters who know better but vote McCain anyway, idealogues who in some cases literally believe the Dems/Obama is evil and who cannot be swayed by facts or external reality, and those so clueless that they have no political philosophy, no sense of how the candidates differ, and no clue that the selection of a president can affect their lives. If that troika is 51% of the voters, we're done.) In other words, it's out of our hands.

Today that serenity shifted to a kind of remorseful calm, not unlike the hours after a child learns there is no Santa Claus. But still, there is a reason to hope McCain doesn't lose. What follows comes from a comment I left on an old thread at BlueOregon. I fear even fewer people will read it than read this blog, so I'm trying to find that extra person to communicate to. It's a response to one of my favorite BlueOregonians, Chris Lowe, who wrote:
Obama has never inspired me. He's too much like (Bill) Clinton on policy, which I know is a good thing in many people's books but not mine. I think post-racialism is a myth & think that post-partisanship is a bad idea especially if your opponents aren't playing the same tune.
My response, and the reason I think Obama offers usch an opportunity.
Odd. I find him nothing like Clinton, who never inspired me, either. (I wrote in Mario Cuomo in '92 and voted Nader in '96.) Obama, on the other hand, is the first general election candidate who has ever inspired me. The sweep of history creates opportunities for different kind of leadership. Clinton, who was a cynical street-fighter, won in a conservative era and managed to govern successfully while conservatism was ascendent. I suspect that's the only shot we had in the 90s.

But now the times are different. Conservatism, such as the GOP have exploited it, is in tatters. The only thing left are lies and viciousness. There is a window of opportunity for re-making politics in the next decade. (If McCain wins, it will take a different course than if Obama is elected, but nevertheless, things are mid-change.) How will politics be remade? What form will they take? Obama is important because he can begin to guide that process.

I do believe in progress. I think that if he's elected, the effects on race relations will be transformed. We won't notice it for a generation, but looking back, we'll see how transformative it was. You're also right that post-partisanship is a mirage. But what's not a mirage is a turn away from hyper-partisanship and a single-minded focus on gathering and exercising power. In the dichotomy of liberty and equality, the left is the equality party. I see Obama as a figure who can re-introduce the myth of collectivism into society. I believe it will be a powerful antidote to the myth of individualism that has turned gangrenous on us.

Clinton could never have done these things. He's a creature of hyper-partisanship, and he bought into the myth of liberty. That was a dark alley Dems went down, and we were beaten brutally by the thugs of Rove and Co. But now we have a chance to come blinking into the light. I'm hopeful.

Okay, hopeful, as you know now, is stretching it. Calm. I'm calm.

1 comment:

Chuck Butcher said...

The fact of Barack Obama inspires me, he - not so much. I vastly prefer him to the current alternative and after much reflection, to the Primary alternatives, but inspire is much too strong.

One sample - health care is going to take real work and had better start from a much less nuanced position. It will, after all, get considerably watered down in the process. oh well, you ride the horse you got...

Keeping up the hit counter, cripes, BNN has had me #12 2 weeks running and top 20 most of the year with a handful of readers???