I’m awfully tempted not to. Sickened by the ever stronger resemblance of partisan politics to football, where getting the ball away from the other team and into one’s own end zone has become an end in itself, and the presidential election is the Super Bowl. Nauseated by the prioritization of winning and spoils over governance, the frosting of self-righteous ideology over self-interest. (Everybody loves big government if it enables their class, from Wall Street to welfare. Wallfare.) Gagged by the subscription to prefab sets of ideas that are shibboleths for membership in one or the other group of We Are the Good, the Better Sort. Bewildered by the crude misfit of polarized ideas to reality, which always seems to me to be neither/nor and both/and: Poverty’s the poor’s fault/poverty’s the rich’s fault. Abortion is a sacred right/abortion is a heinous crime. Well, yes and no. (As I tried hard to express here, but of course it is inexpressible. That’s why Taoists shut up, or talk nonsense.)
But I have a friend who used to be a diplomat in communist Eastern Europe, and he once said to me, “You have to vote. Because you can.” Every time I consider not voting, I hear him say that.
As a voter, the main principle guiding me seems to be countersuggestibility. I’m not sure some of my family and friends even know that I didn’t vote for Obama last time. I didn’t have the courage to tell them, because I frankly thought some of them might stop speaking to me — that’s how tribal politics has become. But also, not voting for Obama was not some grand declaration of principle or ideology. I simply didn’t think he was qualified for the presidency in terms of executive experience, and I thought that if I wouldn’t vote for a white guy with the exact same bona fides, voting for Obama just because he’s black would be racist. That left me, I thought, with no unquixotic choice but to vote for McCain, who was too old (if there was ever a time for him, it would have been 2000) and possibly a loose cannon. But I wasn’t afraid of conservatives per se (other friends of mine, who may now stop speaking to me, are), and I respected survivors.
I expect Romney will win in November — we always change presidents when the economy’s bad, and it is still awful — and I’m not afraid of him, either. In every way (including the Brylcreem) he seems like a throwback to the Nixon era, a pragmatist and a manager, not an ideologue. All his flip-flopping just says to me that he’s a political opportunist who will put on the cloak of whatever ideology will get him elected, and then throw it off and get to work, with fairly nonideological results. (Exhibit 1: Massachusetts.) I’m not afraid of his Mormonism, either. Such Mormons as I know seem to pretty much ignore their screwy theology and concentrate on clean living and efficiency.
So why vote for Obama, who has been a predictably weak president in many respects (though a stronger one on national security, of all things, than one would have expected)? Because I can’t stand his automatic demonization any more than I could his automatic deification. Conservatives’ visceral hatred and distrust of him seems as reflexive and a priori as liberals’ reverence for him. It’s like the Zen koan “Show me your original face that you had before your mother and father were born.” Conservatives hated and liberals loved Obama before he was born.
I might vote for Obama for the same reason I didn’t vote for him before: because he’s just a guy. He wasn’t the savior, and he’s not the devil. How perverse is that?
My favorite presidential candidate was the unesthetic, no-bullshit Chris Christie, a Republican who dared to say human-caused global warming is real. (Not that I agree with him; I admire him for breaking ranks.) If he were Romney’s vice-presidential choice, it might sway me. But he won’t be. Romney’s choice will be someone more telegenic and demographic, like Rubio. Besides, Romney is probably healthier than Christie, and you want it to be the other way around.
*Sigh* Okay, bring it on.