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Calm Before the Storm

Posted on 2008.11.03 at 23:06
Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: True - Spandau Ballet
It’s Monday night, the day before we elect a new president. The city seems pretty calm right now, though it may be the last peaceful night for a while, so I’m going to try to enjoy it.

Obama & Co. are planning a big rally tomorrow right here in Chicago, in Grant Park near the Loop. It strikes me as a spectacularly bad idea. There seems to be so much that could go wrong in that setting that I wouldn’t mind one bit if they cancelled it at the last minute, but there’s no indication they will. Win or lose, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief if they can pack up their tents and leave Grant Park late tomorrow night without incident.

This feels like the L O N G E S T presidential campaign I can recall. I was just getting comfortable with the idea that we might spend the next four years simply continuing to debate whether to elect Obama or McCain.

I’m not going to make a prediction about who’s going to win. How the hell should I know, after all? There seems to be the potential for a larger than usual error factor in the polls this time around. I can easily see where a lot of folks may say one thing to the pollsters but do something else once they’re standing in the voting booth. We shall see. Different polls are saying different things. It occurred to me that it might be in a candidate’s best interest to portray the race as close, regardless of the actual numbers. Here’s what I mean: If one candidate has a sizable lead, he doesn’t want to publicize that fact because it might depress voter turnout for his side on election day. If, on the other hand, a candidate is seriously trailing, he would likewise want to portray the election as being close in an attempt to keep his supporters engaged and working to improve his numbers – and to make sure that they won’t throw in the towel and not vote come election day. It all adds up to a bunch of reasons to be skeptical about the reliability of the poll numbers.

But I will make a few predictions about some events further down the road: Over the next four years, a lot of unpleasant stuff is going to go down. There will be economic crises, wickedness, injustice, military operations of dubious motivation, and a lot of blood spilled. Maybe even some domestic terrorism to boot. If we understand nothing else, we should understand that this looks to be the future regardless of who is elected. The secondary prediction, then, is that whoever is sitting in the Oval Office is going to catch hell when that stuff goes down. I almost get the feeling that some of the pundits, on both the left and the right, already have half-written columns spinning through their minds, all set to eloquently skewer the president and explain how “…the current crisis conclusively demonstrates the folly of electing him/her…”

I bring all of that up simply to say this: Look at these candidates and try to see beyond the obvious; beyond party, skin color, age, and the election season sound bites and platitudes they are compelled to utter. It isn’t easy, I know. But if you can glean any insight at all, you may be able to come up with either an Optimist’s or a Pessimist’s Reason for Voting. That is, you may think something like, “Oh, these are two fine men who possess admirable traits, but I would feel most at ease knowing that [So-and-so] was in charge.” Or you may think, “What a couple of snake oil salesmen these two are! This is what I have to choose between? OK, I guess I’m a bit less revolted at the thought of voting for [So-and-so].”

Well, it’s also possible that you’ll conclude your inner debate by thinking, “This is a slam dunk! [So-and-so #1] is completely unqualified; the thought of him or his running mate running the country scares the heck out of me, but [So-and-so #2] is a highly principled man who stands for everything I believe in!” If that’s your perspective, then you’ve been spared the trouble of any extended soul searching in this matter; your mind was probably made up a LONG time ago.

Whoever takes the day tomorrow, my fondest wish is that they will always remember that they are the president of all of us, including the majority of us who are not rich and powerful. They usually include some reference to that notion in their acceptance speeches, but I don’t want words; I want representation.

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