It takes a village
This election cycle is one that has yielded more apathy and distrust of the political process than most others in recent memory. Perhaps we owe it to the exhausting and drawn-out process of the Republican primary, or maybe it’s fueled by the disappointment of Obama supporters who in 2008 predicted a futuristic utopian society after his first four years. It could be the incessant media punditry or the ubiquitous negativity of the two campaigns, or the feeling that ‘Republican vs Democrat’ provides a false choice. Who can say for sure? If there were an easy way to predict definitively what causes voters to act the way they do, we wouldn’t have a department of Political Science; they’d all be out of work.
One thing we do know definitively about 2012 is that turnout will be much, much lower than in 2008, and the argument I most often hear from people who say they aren’t voting is one that has always irked me, but never more so than right now. It is that of the so-called ‘false choice.’
It’s true that for the last century there have only ever been two men capable of winning the Presidency at a given time. It’s true that our political system forces moderates to pick sides and discourages independent opinions and candidates. But I take issue with those who would call this choosing the “lesser of two evils.”
An imperfect candidate is not necessarily an evil candidate. There has never been a perfect candidate, nor will there ever be. Good men have tried and failed at the job; scoundrels have gone down in history as great leaders, yet America endures, stronger than ever.
There is a fundamental choice in this election that we are missing. It has little to do with character, specific policy or gaff-worthy missteps on the campaign trail. When I cast my vote for President Obama on Tuesday, it won’t be because I think he has been a perfect leader. It won’t be because I think Mitt Romney is a horrible person who finds joy in buying companies just to fire the people who work there. It won’t even be a rebuke of the historic dishonesty and hysteria of the Republican Party and its Tea Party surrogates over the last four years.
It will be because I believe, to borrow from Sorkin, that government can be a place where people come together, and where no one gets left behind. No one.
The total demonization of government endorsed by the Romney/Ryan ticket represents, in this writer’s view, a depressing view of humanity, our ability to come together to achieve greatness and a willful ignorance of our own history. To view the pinnacle of the human endeavor as the accumulation of vast wealth over a lifetime whilst undercutting those who stand in the way or ask for help is to state plainly that we will never be capable of anything more.
America’s greatest achievements do not belong to individuals. When we praise great Americans, it is for their contributions to democracy or humanity as a whole, and never have we deluded ourselves into believing that those Americans were entirely self-made.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a society to endure the things we have endured and to prosper. We need to overcome this mindset that has taken the place of traditional American Exceptionalism. Americans are exceptional when they are unified. When we rise to greater ideals, to govern ourselves, restrain our untamed passions, protect the minority and the underprivileged, and to promote democracy and human rights throughout the world.
This is no socialist manifesto. This is our history. We have not always done right by those ideals, but how could a state of nature have accomplished more?
There’s a team that believes our problems derive from government, and that we can solve them by destroying government. There’s another team that believes the United States and its people do better when they function as such, and not as 300 million shareholders each seeking a profit.
As plainly as I can put it, the choice we face is not whether there should be more or less government, but whether government can be an instrument of good or if it is the source of all problems. For me, the choice could not be clearer.
Whatever the outcome, we should recognize that we are privileged to continue making this choice. Every two years Americans walk down the street and overthrow their government, and nobody raises a weapon in protest. Be thankful for that at the very least, and go vote.
Until next time, Gusties, I’ll see you at the polls.