Waiting for the great leap forward

29 10 2008

So I heard there’s going to be an election next week. Something about the presidency. . . ?

Yeah, I’ve been markedly blase this election season, and not just because ‘election season’ started shortly after the dinosaurs were killed off. I don’t like Bush, have little respect for the Democratic Party (tho’ much respect for individual Dems—go Russ Feingold!), and tend to think that the machinations in the nation’s Capitol are more likely to grind up citizens than ennoble them.

(Ennoble. I know, too much to ask for, but not too much to demand.)

Anyway, long before the major parties settled on their candidates, I knew I’d vote Dem. I’m not a Democrat—it’s a capitalist party, and I’m not a capitalist—but I often move to the right to vote for them. I don’t expect much (anymore), but thought Hey, if the Dem would close Guantanamo and stop torture, the vote would be worth it. That ought not be too much to ask for, and if I get more (sane HHS policies regarding women’s health and contraception, say, or an understanding that diplomacy is required in dealing with one’s adversaries, not friends), all the better.

So I registered with the nice woman in a Bed-Stuy park and asked for time off from Job1 to make sure I’d have time to get to the polls and listened to the conventions and speeches and urged my students to register and vote and listen to the conventions and speeches and listened to political coverage on WNYC  and read and read and read and. . . thought, Whatever.

It’s not that I’m blase about a McCain presidency. Given his apparent lack of interest in domestic policy, I feared that he would appoint ideologues to key positions in HHS, Education, and Justice as a bone to the rightists in his party (this was before the selection of Palin as his running mate). And while I agree with some conservatives that political questions ought to be dealt with politically and not juridically, I’m not looking forward to the judges a President McCain would appoint. Oh, and that whole Iraq thing. . . .

Still, as a pinko in the US, I’m used to the political despair of life under running capitalist dogs! in opposition. It’s not that hard, really. Try not to be OUTRAGED! every time someone says or does something with which you disagree—too exhausting. Don’t think that every person on the other side of you is fatally compromised as a human being—you will end up drinking alone. Oh, and have a drink every now and then, with friends to bitch, and with friends to spar. Yell, if you need to, then eat pie.

This is the one saving grace of the remoteness of federal politics from the ordinary lives of citizens: losing isn’t that much different from winning. Things may be slightly better or slightly worse, but you’ll get to bitch about it, regardless.

More to the point, you’ll get to bitch about it and forget it. That matters, more than any unhappy words (traitor! hater!) that some fool hurls at you. It used to. . . well, it still does irritate me when people foam that a Bush (or Obama) presidency means the end of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Whatever the flaws of the US, this ain’t Russia or Saudi Arabia or Myanmar: when you levee vos skinny fists comme antennae to heaven!, you will most likely be ignored, not imprisoned, disappeared, or murdered.

This is not to say that as long as we’re not being terrorized by our government all is well. Even as beaten-down a politics as exists in the US gives us some space in which to think and to act. Although I’ve moved from wide-eyed activist to squint-eyed theorist, I’m not willing to write off the possibility of something. . . good coming out of elections.

And thus my reconsideration of the coming election. I retain my squint, but I have to admit there is a humming within me at the prospect of an Obama presidency: Maybe we will get something more! Finally, an African-American president! Oh, the possibilities. . . !

It is a faint hum, but it’s there. Oh, the possibilities.