Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Midterm Lament -- "If only..."

Day 100: I Voted
Originally uploaded by willowforlife
Those who know me will understand that I am not a happy guy today. I had long ago prepared myself for the outcome of the midterm election, but preparing oneself for hitting your thumb with a hammer does not prevent the screech that ensues when it actually happens.

I have done my fair share of screeching in the last 15 hours or so, not to mention gasping, guffawing, sniffing, and snorting. It really wasn't a pretty sight.

I am sickened by the orgy of disgusting television commercials leaping on every misstep or misstatement made by candidates of every stripe. It is as if being human is now a disqualification for holding political office. The end of those cursed clips is the one thing that makes this "day after" at least palatable.

I went through all that visceral stuff and insofar as possible shoved it out of the way. At that point my mind starting turning to regret more than anger. I am persuaded that it didn't have to be this way. My thoughts began to take the form of laments framed as wishes.  "If only...", I began to think. "If only..." 

If only... the promise of Election Night 2008 had been given a chance-- thousands and thousands of people in Chicago's Grant Park, pride in a country that could elect a man with the autobiography and ethnic heritage such as this, and a hope that seemed genuine and pervasive across the land. 

If only... the commitment to bipartisanship promised by the President had been even tried by the Republican leadership. Instead their policy was clear--oppose everything and propose nothing. To listen to those same leaders today calling for bipartisanship is almost more than one can bear. 

If only... the Democratic leadership had been wiser in managing the legislative priorities of the President. For example, having the draft of the health care legislation written in the Congress resulted in the same old "scratch your back, scratch my back" culture that was supposedly changing. Alas, not so. The Biblical metaphor for this is "new wine in old wineskins."   

If only... American elections could mirror the importance of the issues instead of catering to the entertainment value of the whimsical, the silly, and the stupid. 

If only... we could figure out how to do these elections without the poisonous injection of money without accountability--a candidate spending $160 million of her own money (I wonder how many jobs that could have funded), lobbyists who reward votes with money, trips, wine, women and/or men, and such other treats as the legislator may find helpful in deciding how to vote. No one believes in this nonsense; why is it we can't stop it? 

If only...Democratic candidates had shown some guts and campaigned on the legislative achievements of the past two years; things they had voted for but never mentioned since. The President and his administration failed to effectively explain their own successes. As a result, there was no substantive debate on key issues--Republicans had nothing to say and the Democrats somehow lost their nerve and more or less ran as Republicans. Makes us proud. 

If only... movements such as the Tea Party could come to understand that we're grownups and live in a complex society and that issues have subtleties that must be understood. Not all taxes are bad. Not all Hispanics are either illegal or alien. Witches have a right to be represented in the Senate too. (Okay, I made that one up, but the mere fact that a senatorial candidate went to the airwaves with a denial that she was a witch tells us more about the election than we want to admit.)

There are many other laments that could be issued, but these are genuine. I believe there are many things that could have been done to avoid this nasty, divisive process. It didn't have to be done this way. It does not honor the spirit of our country and it does not give us hope that we can pass to our children and grandchildren. 

All of the pundits are saying that the 2012 presidential campaign begins today. You know, it doesn't have to be done this way.

If only...