When this election season began long long ago, even before the the Republican primaries had wrapped up, I started to feel hopeful.
When Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney (oh, and that awful awful Rudy Guliani) lost to John McCain, I though, hey, the ascendency of talk radio pundits and the far far religious right (who hated McCain) might be coming to an end. Of course, I had been disappointed by McCain’s capitulation on several issues, arguably including torture and immigration, but I was pleased to see that at least the Limbaugh-Hannity-Dobson triumvirate might be losing their death grip on half of the electorate.
I confess, I was an Edwards supporter. I liked his populism. His understanding of the “two Americas” and his concern for poverty struck the right notes with me. But it was not to be (oh, and let us not even speak of the sex scandal. Major disappointment.) I moved on to Hillary. Can’t help it: I liked Bill, I like her. If she was practicing some kind of dog-whistle politics (a phrase I have learned recently and really like) I was not tuned to that pitch. Mostly I liked her intelligence and competence. Obama was my third choice, precisely for the reasons you might expect: inexperienced, unfamiliar.
But by the time he clinched the nomination, I was more than ready to give him my support. As events since 9/11 have proved conclusively, a president can state his policies and plans, but so much will happen that is beyond his control that his intelligence, ability to learn, deep understanding of the issues, guiding values, and general decency and competence will be at least as important as a breakdown of where the money for the health care program will come from.
More than that, my conversion to Catholicism, my attempts at activism, and just my life experience have led me to believe that we cannot expect the government to end sin, to create lasting justice, to legislate the fairness that human nature always fights against. We can, however, try to rise above the last 12 years or so of dehumanizing politics. The kind of politics that has people calling those who disagree anti-Americans. The kind of politics that can’t draw a line between “more liberal than me” and “Marxist,” or “not the same kind of Christian as me” and “Islamofascist”
This kind of politics will be the death of American society, unless we stop it. I’ve been reading Pope’s Dunciad lately, in which the satirist claims that weak, illogical thought, bad writing, and general intellectual laziness will be the end of Britain. The goddess Dulness gradually lulls all of Britannia into a restless sleep that is effectively the unmaking of all Creation. I could not help but see the parallels in my own country, as citizens decry intelligence and education as “elitism” and make a heroine of an Alaskan moron who understands less about global climate change than my children. Science? — that’s for eggheads. Numbers?– for the eggheads. Nuance? — that’s just an egghead word for bullshit.
If by some crazy twist of vote stealing John McCain become president, he may not turn out to be that bad. Once the votes are counted, maybe he’ll revert to McCain version 2000. What will be the crushing blow for me is knowing that political divisiveness is here for the long haul, and Dulness is on the march.
My hope, however, is that we are moving in a different direction now, one that actually began when Republicans chose John McCain despite the right-wing echo chamber’s loud protests. My husband has been thinking about what his vision for an ideal America would be. I can’t get that lofty, but here are my immediate thoughts:
I hope we are moving into a time when a “culture of life” doesn’t mean instantly-forgotten election year promises about maybe overturning a court case that might lead to new abortion laws in a few states, but support for women in crisis pregnancies and adequate health care for everyone.* I hope we are moving into a time when the suffering of those who go hungry here in America and the suffering of the widows and orphans we create abroad will get at least as much attention as the “suffering” of big banks on Wall Street. I hope that the cynicism of my generation is going to be superceded by the optimism and hard work of the younger people that have turned in droves to be part of the Obama grassroots team. I hope that it is not too late for us to slow the damage to earth and to get in on the next big economic boom in energy and environmental technology, which we can only do with an administration that actually believes in science. I hope that we can get out of Iraq sooner rather than later and avoid conflicts with Iran, Syria, and North Korea. I hope we can rebuild our standing with our allies in the world so that we can better defend each other.
*I can’t stop from saying that all this stuff about Obama supporting infanticide is such a bunch of crap. He is clearly opposed to making abortion illegal for nonviable fetuses, but saying he supported allowing children born from botched abortions to die in a hospital utility room is an unsubstantiated lie. The persistence of this idea is Exhibit A of the horrific politics practiced by a part of the electorate I hope to see trounced thoroughly this evening.*
I have not put my hope in Obama to achieve all these things. The only people who call him The One and The Messiah are the ones who can’t even understand these hopes. I do, however, consider the likely election of Barack Obama to be a very hopeful sign that this is the direction we may be going in as a nation.
I am smiling tonight hoping very much that I am at least a little bit right!