I don’t just mean the Election, but the end of eight years of half-bright leadership and the social movements that allowed a near-incompetent like George W. Bush to become President of the United States. While W. fumbled his way through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, destroying the national surplus, beating the economy like a rented mule, his former opponent Al Gore, love him or hate him, won a Nobel prize. The world’s opinion of the United States, something I experienced first hand from 1996 until 2005, is nothing short of appalling, though how could we expect anything less? George W. Bush, on everything from the environment to human rights, has disgraced the Idea of America. Where once we stood for hope, in a way that Europe just cannot at present, W.’s America stood for arrogance and ignorance. W. peddled Fear, and Fear treated him well. What November 4th will be for me, when I cast my ballot for Barack Obama, is a referendum on Fear, on the warped visage of America under Bush, Jr., and a first step in the right direction after eight years of missteps, stumbles, and outright sprawling.
And, yes, I have heard all the soundbytes about how McCain is not W., but I’ve also watched this race unfold since 2007. John McCain, by his own admission, has voted with W. 90+% of the time. You combine these facts with McCain’s first ‘major decision’ of attaching Sarah Palin to his ticket and I am not sure how you are meant to see any hope for the next four years. Palin is nothing short of frightening, and she exemplifies the motions through which we found ourselves governed by the amateurish Bush administration. Other than calling herself a “Maverick,” Palin has done nothing but use Fear to try and turn the tide of the American public in hers and McCain’s favor: stressing Obama’s very tentative link with William Ayers, stressing Obama’s middle name, and so on. Now even McCain’s own advisers are calling Palin “a diva.” If McCain can’t even keep his own ticket together, how is he meant to bring this country together?
Despite the trash that the McCain-Palin campaign has forced into our living rooms, I am confident in my decision to back Obama. Where McCain gets Dick Cheney’s endorsement in the final days of this election, Obama received Colin Powell’s. As Andrew Sullivan so darkly put it: “There’s a reason Cheney needs McCain elected. He needs to avoid prosecution for war crimes and only a McCain-Palin administration can assure he won’t.”
Obama was endorsed by Powell for a very different reason. Powell has concerns, as many of us do, about “the direction that the [Republican] party taken in recent years.” Powell also has concerns about Governor Palin. And, more important than McCain’s poor handling of his campaign’s response to the economic crisis, his disturbingly poor decision to take on Palin, Powell finds the way that members of the Republican party have used the Islamic faith as a near-slur revolting. While Powell says he does not attribute this disgusting tactic to McCain, I still harbor suspicions about McCain’s strategies and responses with regards to Barack Obama (and wasn’t McCain the man who promised a clean campaign?). McCain finally had to deal with the problem he may not have started, but seemingly had no intentions of dismantling, when an attendant of one his rallies called Obama “an Arab.” Worse still, this woman couldn’t “trust” Obama because she, in her gross ignorance, thought he was an Arab. Another man was “afraid” of Obama. McCain may not be W., but he certainly didn’t seem to mind the GOP playing about with Fear in a desperate attempt to get McCain elected.
This country has become polarized in a sickening way — maybe these problems were under the surface during the relative peace and prosperity of the Clinton administration, only coming to the surface after 9/11 and our wars in the Middle Eastern theater. But, this being the case or not, there is one politician who seems dedicated to restoring Americans’ and the world’s faith in America, who seems capable of uniting us in a way that we have not been for a long time, and then there is a politician who, after being destroyed by Karl Rove and W. in 2000, supported the incompetence of W. 90+% of the time for eight years, who chose one of the saddest characters in American politics since Spiro Agnew to run with him, and has given us as many different directions of movement as Al Gore did in 2000. Who is John McCain? He certainly does not act like a Maverick, his decisions to support W. and select Palin are not Maverick decisions, and so who is he asking us to believe he will be as President?
I had nothing but the utmost respect for John McCain, as a war hero, as a man who returned home after years of incarceration to become a public servant… but McCain has shown me no one to respect over the last few months. I hope this does not signal the end of his political career, but, if it does, he has no one but himself to blame.
Please go out and vote on November 4th. I don’t care if you are voting for McCain or Barr or Nader, I just want as many of us as possible to vote. It is one of the few things this country asks of us. All the hype aside, I do think this is the most important election of my generation. The results will affect the way this country is run for the foreseeable future, just as Reagan’s administration inspired a change in the Republican party, just as Carter’s failures colored the way the Democratic party was perceived for years afterwards. It you want your voice to have been heard when we look back on all of this, go and vote.
As Stephen Eley said (in a quote Aram Zucker-Scharff sent my way): “Whatever you believe in, get the hell out there to vote, not because I said so, but because your excuses aren’t good enough.”