“In this time of introspection
On the eve of my election
I say to my reflection
‘God please spare me more rejection’
’cause my peers they criticize me
And my ex-wives all despise me
Try to put it all behind me
But my redneck past is nipping at my heels.”
“Army”, by Ben Folds Five, 1999
I was listening to Ben Folds, this generation’s Piano Man, when the lyric above slapped me in the face as a good script for John McCain right now. He’s been rejected already in 2000, he’s got Republican peers who criticicize him, an estranged ex-wife, a checkered past he’s running from (like the Keating incident, and his unqualified support of the Iraq war), and even though he’s not so much a redneck himself, his running mate Sarah Palin meets many of the qualifications.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are just losing sleep and stressing out. I say this based on somehat panicky voter interviews shown last night on The Daily Show, and call-in comments on Stephanie Miller’s progressive talk radio show this morning. I also say it based upon personal conversations with people from various backgrounds & affiliations lately. Those invested in this election (and yes, it should be all of us) are showing more signs of anxiety over its possible outcome than at any time in recent memory. We’re all keenly aware of what’s at stake, just like we’re aware of how many ways things can go wrong, either before, during, or after the election itself.
Of course, there’s always the risk of irrational thinking and behavior when fear is running so high, especially after eight years of Karl-Rovian, underhanded stirring of that pot of terror. So I was not surprised about reports of a couple of young Skinheads who were arrested yesterday and charged with planning to assassinate Barack Obama (and I use the term “plan” loosely, for they were clearly morons). I’m also probably not alone in thinking that these kinds of incidents and threats will occur at a higher frequency during an Obama presidency than in any prior presidency. When so many people have nothing to lose, and when it’s so easy to point the finger of blame, anger and violence are always a potential outcome.
Nevertheless, that’s no reason not to elect Obama, nor to stay vigilant in the months and years after this election in tackling the problems we face as a nation. I think it’s a sign that “the grown-ups” are finally stepping up, in that both campaigns are going out of their way not to play the race card, even though everyone knows it’s an issue lurking there, just under the surface. So are the wars, the aging public infrastructure, healthcare (aka the aging public people) China, Iran, Russia, and dozens of other issues that are not getting as much play as the economy in these last days of the election season. On the other hand, they’re not being ignored, either.
Democrat or Republican, if you’re stressed, if you’re losing sleep (and I am not, by the way… for like Thoreau, I “read not the Times, but the eternities”), keep a few basic things in mind and you should be fine:
- McCain, despite Obama’s campaign rhetoric, is pretty far toward the center as Republicans go, on many issues.
- Obama, though clearly “progressive”, is no leftist, either. He’s worked across party lines on many occasions, and compared to true Leftys like Dennis Kucinich, he’s practically a Republican (Obama’s readiness to compromise for the common good is mostly a strength, in a Git ‘er done sort of way).
- McCain, though clearly stressed and making some verbal slip-ups lately, has been forthcoming with his health records, and this tough cookie genuinely appears to be in good health. So Palin’s paltry lack of experience would probably not be an issue, at least in terms of doing the president’s job. (And on the other side, Joe Biden’s about as experienced and trustworthy as they come…)
- Obama is not a Muslim, nor is he a classic black politician of the Jesse Jackson persuasion, nor is he even of the generation that was entrenched in that kind of discussion about race and religion. He’s one of the most post-racial, post-nationalist politicians out there, perhaps because of his biracial and international family background.
I could go on, but I won’t. You’re a grownup. Think for yourself. Which also means don’t allow yourself to be swayed by those crafty campaign commercials.
So to cure your pre-election stress, first stop worrying. Then maybe go vote. Early voting seems to be the trendy new thing to do. Then remember it takes more than one person to make policy and run the country, anyway.
And finally, get some rest. You’re going to need it for the foreseeable future, no matter who gets elected.