This is the time of the season I am most proud to be an American: the day before an incredibly close and hotly contested election poised at a pivotal nexus with the future, when voters are more energized and polarized than they have been in decades. People CARE this time, and the bizarre chain of events that left the 2000 election undecided for weeks has reinforced the notion that every vote really does matter, if you can get it counted. And yet, on the other hand, it’s just business as usual.
I am proud because this huge, polymorphic grab bag of a nation can channel its wind shear-intensity disagreement and discord into a flexible but remarkably resilient structure that yields a result the vast majority of Americans can, and do, live with, even if that seems impossible to the candidates’ most fervent supporters at the moment.
Perspective is everything and Slate’s Rachel Larimore gives a few perspective tips:
- 2. Bush supporters:
“I am voting for a guy who doesn’t care enough about what our allies think and goes to war too quickly.”
“I am voting for a guy who cares too much about what our allies think and wouldn’t go to war quickly enough.”
….4. Bush supporters:
“The guy I’m voting against is not a wussified French poodle who will make Jacques Chirac the de facto secretary of defense. And, while I may disapprove of his actions after returning from Vietnam, he is not a traitor.”
“The guy I’m voting against is not a marionette controlled by Halliburton. And, while I may disapprove of his actions in Iraq, he is not a fascist dictator bent on world domination.”
5. Bush supporters:
“America is a nation full of intelligent, hard-working, thoughtful people. Some of them are even voting for John Kerry. America also has its share of rabble-rousing morons. Some of them are, admittedly, voting for George W. Bush. We survived Carter, we survived Clinton. We will survive four years of Kerry.”
“America is a nation full of intelligent, hard-working, thoughtful people. Some of them are even voting for George W. Bush. America also has its share of rabble-rousing morons. Some of them are, admittedly, voting for John Kerry. We survived Nixon, we survived Reagan. We will survive four more years of Bush.”
Very well done – thanks.
I am also proud that when the cave-dwelling, puffed adder terrorist bin Laden spoke just days before our election, no one much gave a damn: the polls indicate little or no reaction in the electorate either way to bin Laden’s hapless proclamation. Suddenly, the totalitarian theocratic murderer seems nervous, out of sorts, mentioning “freedom” for the first time, as the Washington Post put it yesterday:
- Could it be the millions of Afghans who eagerly turned out to vote in the country’s first democratic elections this month and who overwhelmingly supported the moderate, pro-Western Hamid Karzai for president? Or the growing support for democratic government in Iraq, especially from senior members of the Islamic clergy? Al Qaeda suddenly finds itself on the wrong side of a swelling debate about freedom in the Middle East — one triggered both by Osama bin Laden’s bloody extremism and the powerful U.S. response to it.
We don’t kill people who simply disagree with us, we vote against them and we thank them for their effort – this is the essence of “freedom” in practice.
I am also proud of both major party candidates, who are giving the final moments of the campaign their every last drop of energy, but doing so in high spirits, according to excellent companion articles in the NY Times.
- On the final hill of this roller-coaster campaign, Mr. Kerry has been relaxed and playful yet workmanlike and focused, visibly weary – and hopelessly superstitious. This looser, more jovial Mr. Kerry, even as some around him show their increasing stress, replaces the brooding, super-serious persona he has displayed on the campaign trail for much of the year.
….The other morning in Wisconsin, he summoned the campaign photographer to capture his sober strategist, Bob Shrum, wearing a puffy yellow foam cheesehead. Between Catholic Mass and Baptist church on Sunday morning in Ohio, he stopped his motorcade to toss a football with his former brother-in-law, David Thorne.
He has jumped into the shower ahead of his wake-up calls, cut back on his telephone chats with an endless circles of advisers and, mostly, delivered the new lines in his stripped-down stump speech with determination. He knew instantly he wanted to make a statement of unity upon the emergence of a videotape from Osama bin Laden on Friday afternoon, and strode purposefully, alone, across the tarmac in West Palm Beach, Fla., to do so.
….There is a calm confidence about him in these closing days, as if he buys into his lectures to supporters that this “most important election of our lifetime” is now in their hands. He increasingly speaks of things – a hunting trip in an Ohio cornfield where he “bagged a few geese,” American democracy itself – as “blessings,” and has been sharing more personal stories on the stump.
- One of the best indications of President Bush’s mood, his aides say, is the degree to which he indulges his boyish humor and enthusiastic impatience. So it was telling, they said, that as he crisscrossed the country in the last few days awaiting the nation’s judgment, the candidate who ritually promises to uphold the honor and dignity of his office made a show of goofing around on Air Force One.
On Saturday, he was spied near the staff cabin swinging his arms like a samurai warrior with a sword. If the pose left some aides a bit mystified, it also reassured them that Mr. Bush was not only confident of the outcome but was also having a great time in the presidential race’s frantic, exhausting final stages.
“He turned to me several days ago and he said, ‘Do you think John Kerry’s enjoying himself?’ ” Karen Hughes, Mr. Bush’s longtime confidante and communications adviser, said. “And I was sort of taken aback and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m really having a good time.’
….Mr. Bush is an enthusiastic campaigner who clearly draws energy and strength from the roars of his crowds and the adoring looks of supporters who get to shake his hand or catch his gaze. When they are asked to explain the source of Mr. Bush’s confidence, and theirs, his aides point to the deafening reception he gets at his most successful rallies.
And finally, what issue has come to define this election? Iraq. Kerry defines Bush as incapable, Bush defines Kerry as incomprehending, yet each is likely to follow a very similar course of action there:
- Despite their passionate debate on the issue, President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry, offer plans for Iraq that substantially overlap. Both are committed to stepping up the pace of training a new Iraqi security force, holding national elections quickly and broadening international military support for the effort.
….Neither Bush nor Kerry advocates a sharp buildup or an immediate drawdown of U.S. military forces as the key to a solution in Iraq, because neither course is deemed viable. With nine of the U.S. Army’s 10 combat divisions either having been deployed to Iraq or preparing to go, military analysts said, American force levels are stretched too thin to contemplate significantly higher numbers.
Conversely, a sudden withdrawal of forces could undermine the struggling U.S.-backed interim Iraqi government, plunge the country into a civil war and destabilize the Middle East.
….Geoffrey Kemp, a Middle East specialist at the Nixon Center, an independent Washington-based think tank, also believes foreign governments could be more receptive to a Kerry request for help because he wasn’t the leader who took the United States into the war.
“That’s his edge, but whether he can exploit it is another question,” Kemp said.
Bush administration officials noted a recent agreement by NATO to assist in training Iraqi military forces and the deployment of almost 3,000 South Korean troops to northern Iraq. They argue that there is little more Kerry could do to share the burden.
“When you talk about an international coalition and you cross out the Germans and French, there’s not a whole lot left,” said a senior Bush administration official who declined to be identified.
Both men are politicians, both promise more than they can deliver, even if those promises are made with sincere intention. The reality on the ground and forces beyond their control have much more influence than either is willing to admit.
As the candidates fight the good fight over the waning hours before their fellow citizens decide their fate, remember that we are never more “e pluribus unum” than when we are voting, exercising our most fundamental civic responsibility and right. Now is a time to suppress cynicism: be proud, do your part, the candidates have.