I’ve found myself not blogging because all I want to talk about is the election, and it seemed somehow not part of this blog. Plus its probably preaching to the choir, which seems a waste of energy, especially now. But if its going to kill my blog not to, then here we go.
There was a moment that I thought was telling in the event where Obama and McCain spoke with Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback church last month. Warren asked them each the same question: “Does evil exist, and if it does, do we ignore it, negotiate with it contain it, or do we defeat it?” Obama answered in a way I more or less liked, that we have to be soldiers in the fight against evil, but with a little humility about it, an awareness that much evil has been perpetrated in the name of good. McCain simply said “defeat it” – and the audience roared. Now, it was his audience more than Obama’s, for sure. But McCain’s is the wrong answer, and it’s the seductive answer. What I wanted Obama to say, and McCain for that matter, is “Are you kidding? You do everything you can. Why would you choose one tool for the greatest challenge in human existence? The reality is, you negotiate with it, you contain it, and you defeat it, and the wise man knows which when.” But right now, we still want the kneejerk reaction that we’re going to go out there and kill all the bad guys, Its so stupid, so regressive, so naive, so dangerous.
We’re at such a desperate time, economically, internationally, culturally. I think we need someone who really understands the complexity of what the world is right now, and what America needs to be doing. I think Obama has that – its not about experience, as in years served, its a combination of (a) years served, (b) the world in which those years were served, and (c) insight. I think Obama has emerged in and of a political time in which new lessons are just beginning to be learned. And I think he has the insight to see how things are complicated, to make some important choices. Biden seems to be that as well, despite how much of his career was in an earlier political era.
I thought McCain had it too, once, I really did; but he has spun out in the last two years as a reactionary dressed as a stern realist, with a worldview that has become entirely militarized. He used to be a smart politician, with his focus on making government better, and I admired him for it. But now, and I feel bad saying this, I think the current political climate summons up his POW mindset, where the world seems an essentially dangerous place. (It is, but you can’t let that become fear or hubris or demagoguery.) Palin’s worse. She’s a product of her time, which is even more recent: a panicky, fundamentalist post-9/11 moment that lets her lean on the fear that the terrorist attacks produced and use it to trade complexity for moral certitude, even when the world speaks otherwise. She’s an unprepared, evangelical, anti-science, hyperconservative, deceitful fundamentalist. Really, how dare he — McCain has thirty years in goverment, plenty of time to really know who among his colleagues would be a great leader — even from his side of the aisle.
I feel like its long overdue for the US to take a deep breath, and accept the following facts. (a) It’s a violent world, where our enemies are elusive and dangerous, (b) it’s a complex world, where our actions, however justified, have ripple effects, (c) it’s a messy world, where there simply are no easy solutions, and (d) it’s a world-in-progress, where we can’t just drop everything and go on a revenge crusade, and forget that we’ve got to keep our society running, our economy functioning, our children learning, our society healthy, our knowledge growing, and our eyes open. McCain and Palin are exactly the two wrong answers for this moment: he’s a well-informed but unyielding Cold Warrior who urges us unrealistically to simply extinguish our foes, and recently wrapped in the icky neo-con self-assuredness about good and evil; she’s a uninformed zealot who hides her extremism under an aw-shucks small-town America values pitch.
McCain-Palin is a reversal of the last ticket; it’s Cheney-Bush.
(Thanks to Gary Kamiya’s terrific Salon article for noting the Palin = Bush equation so forcefully.)