In 1994, I covered the mid-term elections from cheesy hotel ballrooms in Boise, Idaho, before running back to a drafty office to input my thoughts on an ancient Mac. I was stunned at the march of Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America crew across the whole country. I was in Washington D.C. the night the Republican Congress was sworn in. There was a rainstorm that turned to ice that night, and I remember thinking, as I watched Gingrich speak, “I can’t believe people fell for this.”
In the years since then, I watched as America seemed to grow dumber, meaner and angrier every day. For the past eight years, the people at the top took everything worthwhile about America and made it even cheaper.
Jean, as usual, said something tonight far smarter than I ever could: “When you love your country, it hurts even more to be ashamed of it.”
Not much in this campaign gave me much reason to hope. John McCain gave an honorable, intelligent, and humane speech tonight conceding the election. It was the exact opposite of everything he’s said over the past year. And he was restrained, compared to some of his supporters. From every grimy corner of the Internet, there were people all too willing to report or invent the foulest shit they could fling. I was fully prepared to throw my vote away on a candidate everyone called un-electable, to endure another four years sinking deeper into the muck.
But listening to Barack Obama tonight, I feel small and mean myself, for giving up somewhere along the way. For failing to believe in my own convictions. For relying on cynicism and the quick joke.
I’m not covered in magic twinkle-dust now; I think I’m still a grown-up, and I know politics is flawed and dirty, and political solutions are ephemeral at best. This little sermon notwithstanding, I still believe in the quick joke over the earnest speech.
But tonight, I was reminded the reality of America is only sustained by the American Dream. It may take a lot of kidney punches behind the scenes to make the Dream work, but it’s important to keep believing in the ideal. The Dream is what keeps us alive in this imperfect world.
Tonight I’m proud again, because other people out there had more faith than I did. And they took a step — a first step, on a long and never-ending road, sure, but a step — into a future they have the strength, and the courage, to imagine will be brighter and better than what came before.
Hold your nose and vote. For better or worse, it’s almost over.
I’ve been watching the conservative movement — which has ruled the public discourse in America for most of my life — completely melt down over the past few days. There are insane predictions, vicious slanders, and of course, comparisons to Nazi Germany.
All because Barack Obama is probably going to be elected President.
(Note: this doesn’t mean anyone should stay home and do bong hits — or whatever it is the stereotypical liberal is supposed to do. I went to bed in 2000 with President Gore, and woke up the next day with President Bush. And we all saw how well that worked out.)
I made my choice for Obama a long time ago, when it looked like he had a snowball’s chance in hell. Back then, Hillary Clinton was a lock not just for the Democratic nomination, but the Oval Office. I’d been aware of him since he ran for Senate in Illinois, and the GOP couldn’t find anyone except Alan Keyes to go up against him.
I agreed with the conventional wisdom when he announced for the Presidency. He was too inexperienced, too unknown. And he was black. He didn’t have a chance. I supported him anyway.
I was with him because he was right about Iraq. While Hillary Clinton and the other Dems cowered before Dubya’s 90 percent approval rating, Obama said the war was a mistake.
The Iraq war has more or less disappeared from the public view now — it’s more convenient that way for everyone. The surge enables conservatives to declare victory — despite the inconvenient number of bodies still piling up, and the fact that we’ve bribed the same guys who used to be killing our troops — and the Democrats avoid looking weak on national defense.
But the Iraq question was, and remains, the most important political issue in the past decade. And Obama was right. Period.
Here I thought that meant I was going to throw my vote away again. Surprising what a difference a few months can make.
McCain’s missteps have helped, to be certain, but I should have had a little more faith that the guy who was smart enough to make the right call on Iraq was also smart enough to win.
The markets will probably welcome an Obama presidency, because it will mean more public investment, which is, despite what any conservative will tell you, the engine that drives the U.S. economy. If Obama can also do something to patch our malfunctioning health care system, that, too, will free up a lot of private dollars.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s going to be all free blowjobs and ice cream if Obama wins. Obama’s going to have a hell of a time undoing Bush’s mess, but I trust him to do it, as opposed to a guy who thought diving into the shit was a brilliant idea in the first place. And Obama will also have to deal with a group of people dedicated to the proposition that he is absolutely evil, and any foul sewage they throw at him will be absolutely justified. It’s going to make the Clinton years look as mannered as a formal Japanese tea ceremony.
Likewise, if Obama wins, maybe it means we’ve gotten past race as a decider, but I doubt it. Obama is winning because most people think the alternative is worse. That’s the way it goes in a two-party system.
But for the first time in years, I don’t feel like I’m voting for the lesser of two evils. I feel like I’m voting for the better man.
In 1995, I still lived in Boise, Idaho, at the height of the militia movement. I listened, every day, to AM talk radio. Aside from the usual right-wing blowhards — many of whom are still with us — there were a couple local hosts who were big fans of the militias. One in particular could rail for hours about the coming threat of one-world government, black helicopters, the United Nations, and the quislings who supported this massive conspiracy.
For months, the talk grew angrier. Meaner. Any second, I thought, foam might actually start frothing from the speaker. Names like “Waco” or “Ruby Ridge” or “Clinton” were trigger words, guaranteed to ignite the call-in lines with voices quivering with rage, barely able to keep from shouting.
When I heard about the Oklahoma City bombing, I didn’t feel shock. I knew something like it was coming. The rage was too much to contain with mere words. Even in the first hours, before Timothy McVeigh was captured, I knew it was the militias. And I knew the bombing would break them. It was all just talk. Until it wasn’t. Once people got to see what that talk was all about, nobody could listen any more. Nobody sane, anyway.
But we’ve got short memories. I’ve been reading the right-wing blogs lately, and the chatter there reminds me of talk radio, right before Oklahoma City.
There are people subtly, and not-so-subtly, comparing Barack Obama to Hitler. Predictions of purges and race riots and mass arrests. You’ve got halfwits talking about the destruction of the entire country, and cheerleading the stockpiling of guns and ammo. (Not that anyone wants to be a racist, of course. Except when they’re being racist.)
9/11 and everything that came after rendered the militias almost quaint. They were afraid of Bill Clinton sending the Fish and Game wardens after them, while George W. Bush has set up the largest wiretapping operation in history, and imprisoned people without trial or charges.
But the thought of Barack Obama becoming president — that’s what really outrages these people. That’s the insult they can’t take. It’s enough to drive some of them over the edge.
And I’d swear I’m hearing echoes of 1995 all over again.
First it was Christopher Buckley. Then Christopher Hitchens. Now that Colin Powell and Scott McCellan have joined the Obama bandwagon, there’s a stampede of conservatives who want it known they’re endorsing the Democratic nominee for prez. Including one guy who was a McCain adviser and a former Reagan administration official.
This week, Fried announced that he has voted for Obama-Biden by absentee ballot. In his letter to Trevor Potter, the General Counsel to the McCain-Palin campaign, he asked that his name be removed from the several campaign-related committees on which he serves. In that letter, he said that chief among the reasons for his decision “is the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis.”
That’s gotta hurt. Someone should put together a list of all these Republicans who are jumping ship… Oh wait. Someone did.