Friday, November 07, 2008

How I voted, and why. If you care.

There will be something in here to piss off everyone, but I feel like getting this all out, and it's NaBloPoMo, so here goes.

I voted for Barack Obama. I did not make that decision, as I said earlier, until shortly before the election, and I hate to think that I fit into some sort of trend, because in the end it was all I could stand to do to analyze my own motives, layer upon layer, until I barely had any idea what I was thinking, so God help anyone else who tries to make sense of it either. I shuddered to watch the pie charts on CNN the next morning--white Catholics did this, conservatives who disapprove of Bush's job performance did this--because I voted as I did for reasons beyond being white, or Catholic, or a conservative who's tired of Bush, and they are probably pettier reasons, but there you go. I have to say, as disappointed as I was in the campaign, I fundamentally admire both McCain and Obama, and my first choice would have been to have them be consuls, with Biden and Palin as tribunes of the plebs, or something like that. But since this is the United States in the 21st century and not the Roman republic, I had to settle for voting for a president and vice president. I guess my second choice would have been to write in "McCain in 2000" for president and Joe Lieberman for vice president, but the write-in space on the ballots was kind of small and the pen was felt-tipped and...I felt this time like I had to decide. Not that it matters in Connecticut, which is discouraging but also kind of liberating. As in 2004, when I wrote in McCain (and I would think better of myself if I'd done the same in 2000), I cast my vote to please myself and not to influence the political process.

Here is why. I hope this makes sense.

1. The main thing--and this is what is petty--is, given that I felt both candidates had about an equal chance of being good or bad presidents, I thought if I had to look back after a disappointing presidency on either side and say I voted for one or the other, I'd rather be disappointed in Obama and say I voted for him than be disappointed in McCain and say I voted for him. Well, let me put that another way, because that doesn't make much sense. I assume Auletta will go through at least one period of liberal idealism in her life, perhaps for her whole life, and I wanted to tell her I voted for the first black president (because it was pretty obvious he would win), which is no insignificant thing. I think it is, as McCain said in his extremely gracious concession speech (and I was really disappointed people booed whenever he mentioned Obama--I wish both candidates' supporters had a fraction of the class they did both during and after the campaign), a historic moment for America no matter where you're coming from, and there is something really wonderful about the fact that we have become the sort of nation that can elect a black man with the middle name of Hussein president. It is not the end, but it is more than a beginning. It improves our standing in the world--not that people who aren't citizens should decide our own elections, but it determines our starting position in foreign policy, and how American citizens abroad are perceived. I don't think McCain is as bad as the rest of the world seems to think he is (I'm sure most non-Americans know less about him than we do and probably view him simply as an extension of Bush, which he's not, but then who can blame them for thinking so?), but our image does improve from this and I think that is good for us and for the rest of the world.

2. I subscribe to the Economist, which I don't always agree with but I think is the most thoughtful weekly news magazine. Also my dad pays for my subscription. If I remember correctly (I'd have to go into the archives to prove this, but I don't think I'd make it up), they endorsed McCain during the 2000 primaries, and they don't usually do primary endorsements. Well, they endorsed Obama this year, and in the weeks leading up to the election it became clear they would. They did a survey of economists on whose economic policies would be better for the country, and even given the partisan bias of the respondents, they favored Obama by a wide margin (although they favored both candidates over Bush). I think my own impulse is 1. to favor free-market principles not just for their own sake but because I think they genuinely make the majority of people better off and 2. to assume that Republicans always have the monopoly on them, but I started questioning both assumptions. Also, I'm generally more liberal on health care than most conservatives; I would not necessarily want government to facilitate health care, but a system in which health care is paid by employers when most people change jobs at least several times within their lifetimes seems unworkable to me, and I don't see a better alternative than some kind of government-run thingy. I think it also needs to be market-driven in some sense to reduce costs--this is another reason I wish McCain and Obama could have been consuls, in order to be forced to combine the best aspects of both their health care plans--but I think you have to start with the government approach and incorporate market-based approaches along the way. Or something. This is way too big for me to grasp entirely, which is why I don't see things in black and white. I can tell you, though, I changed insurance during my pregnancy with Auletta and spent approximately weeks 20 to 35 without coverage at all, and I am pretty darned glad that kid was late rather than early because if she'd been born prematurely, Justin's law school debt would look miniscule compared to our medical bills.

3. I ended up being uncomfortable with McCain's choice of Sarah Palin. (BIG DISCLAIMER TO FOLLOW. If you are liberal, don't gloat because I'm not through with you.) I felt positively about her at first, but one of our friends summed up what bothered me about her, which is not just that she doesn't have foreign policy expertise, she doesn't seem to have the inquisitive nature to want to know about it, or know what kind of questions to ask. It's not really an issue of intelligence, or competence at her current job. It doesn't matter when she's vice president, and I got annoyed when people acted like McCain was on his deathbed just to be all doom and gloom about the prospect of her being president, but it was an issue that concerned me, given McCain's age. To be quite honest, if it had been McCain/Lieberman, there's no question I would have voted for him. Not that picking Lieberman would have been a strategic move--I think I know most of the people in the country who would have preferred him, ours being a very select group, because liberals hate him and conservatives wouldn't trust him to be so close to the presidency. It would, however, have been truer to McCain's own impulses and proven that he remains a maverick, to use an overused word. I think McCain's choice of Palin, aside from what it was in itself, indicated the direction his campaign was heading, and it troubled me, as much as the initial reaction to her, and a lot of the attacks leveled at things that had nothing to do with her suitability for the job, alienated me from the other side. Also, I like Joe Biden. I can't say he added gravitas to the ticket, because he is a big goofball who frequently says utterly bizarre things, but I think he's a good guy and he would be a pretty decent president if (God forbid) it came to that before Obama's term expired.

4. This does not really reflect well on liberals, and please believe I don't have anyone in particular in mind when I write it, so take it as it's meant to be read. I have liberal friends and conservative friends. In my social class--highly educated 20- and 30-somethings--it is general more acceptable to be liberal. Liberals tend to be more vocal. One gets the sense that if one is liberal, one is guaranteed to be accepted, whereas if one is conservative, one might or might not be. I also am the sort of person who really wants people to like me, and I tend to express or suppress my opinions based on how I think they'll be received. Not that this is necessarily a good character quality, but I'm shy to begin with so that's how I work. I can't say that I didn't vote for Obama partly in order to get a little more credibility with my peer group, knowing that my conservative friends and family will still talk to me at the end of the day. (And WHY anyone was ever surprised that exit polls inaccurately skew toward the Democratic candidate is beyond me. It really shouldn't be rocket science to any liberal who has at least a modicum of self-consciousness.)

Obviously I have reservations as well. Here they are.

1. Abortion. My feelings on this are really strong but also really convoluted, so this will just be a separate post.

2. Not unrelated to the previous point is my ambivalence about single-party rule. I voted for the Republican candidate for the House from our district (not that he had any hope of winning, or that I'd even heard of him before I went online to find out about him) for that very reason--unfortunately we had no Senate seats up this year (and even if we did I'm clearly a big Lieberman fan, so that's one senator out of two I wouldn't vote against). If I had my way, the Senate at least would be majority Republican, because I think it's important to have that one check on nominations, judicial and otherwise. Fortunately, this can change in two years, and Democrats don't really have anywhere to go but down at this point, so I hope this will keep them mindful and improve the truly abysmal performance of Congress and particularly their leaders. I'm not sure why an American public that so overwhelmingly disapproves of Congress voted to put even more Democrats into legislative office, except that those candidates rode the tide of Obama's popularity, but they won't share the ballot with him in 2010. Don't forget what happened in 1994, is my advice.

3. I really could not stand a lot of what I saw from certain liberals this election cycle. Let us take Palin, since I told you I wouldn't forget her. The gossipy and hysterical reaction to her nomination was disgraceful. If liberals had been remotely thoughtful about this, they would have realized they had seven weeks to sound out her weaknesses--ones that bore some relevance to her actual qualifications--instead of writing irrational screeds about how she wasn't a real woman, or how she gave them nightmares, or how she reminded them of the evil girl in high school who acted all nice and then stabbed you in the back, but really you were jealous of her (and hated yourself for it) and the boys enjoyed every moment of the torture she inflicted on them and yadda yadda and WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU ALL STILL SIXTEEN OR SOMETHING? Seriously, people, get a grip. Every word written about her from the liberal side said nothing about her, but rather exposed their own insecurities and hypocrisies. And the things other women said about her! We proved once again, we are our own worst enemies. How dare McCain pander to us, liberal women said? Like, get over yourselves, he wasn't talking to you. Obviously McCain was targeting PUMAs (I've never really understood this phenomenon, but apparently it exists) and shoring up evangelicals who have been suspicious of him since the 2000 primaries. Obviously he was not targeting women who were determined to vote for the eventual Democratic candidate, whoever he or she was. So stop being all offended. And the "feminist" attacks on Palin! How can she raise five kids and do her job? (Um, her husband? Day care? Nannies? I don't know, how do working mothers usually do it?) How can her family pass around that poor sick baby of hers at the convention? (Because politicians always bring their families to conventions, and her son is part of her family? Because babies are cute and people like to hold them? And do you even understand what Down syndrome is? No, I don't think you do.) How can she claim her family is like my family when I don't know any families with pregnant teenagers? (I actually saw someone claim they didn't, which I think means either they're in denial or all the teenagers they know who've gotten knocked up have thoughtfully gotten abortions without troubling their parents about it, which is uncharitable of me to say but I can't say I didn't think it. Apparently sex education always works and how your children behave is always a reflection of your parenting skills. I can't believe anyone who has ever raised a teenager, or been one for that matter, could possibly think this.) Most of all, how can she not tow the line on women's issues (read: abortion) and still claim to be a feminist? That was clearly where all this was headed: character assassination for the sake of an ideology. God forbid feminists acknowledge the woman for what she's accomplished thus far, regardless of her qualifications for the office she seeks. And that is why I don't really give a poop about feminism anymore, whatever it is and whatever remains of it, and why I will never register as a Democrat even if the party's interests and my own somehow align. A party that represents that kind of feminism can't represent me.

Ahem. Cough. Anyway.

There is something really heartwarming about how happy people are. I had a huge headache and found it kind of annoying at the time, but people were honking and shouting in DC until three or four in the morning. Little old black ladies who grew up under segregation stood in line for hours to cast their vote for the first black president. A lot of people feel a lot better than they have in recent years, maybe their whole lives. Now I don't think Obama can possibly live up to everyone's expectations, and with the inevitable disappointment will come a lot of bitterness, but I believe for one brief moment this country is being the best it can possibly be. And I hope the collective enthusiasm and hope, and maybe even love, is enough to carry us through the next four years. God bless Barack Obama, and God bless America, this huge and maddening and wonderful country.


Laurie said...

Great post! I think I liked it so much because I'm pretty much in 100% agreement with you. :)

Laurie said...

of course we have mutual friends who think we're both crazy. :) (Hello friends--you know I love you!)

Juliet said...

Oh my gosh, how is that possible, Laurie? I don't even agree with myself 100%. ;)

I love you too, mutual friends!

Eric said...

Mutual friend here... not commenting... oh wait! Drat!

Juliet said...

Don't you wish there were some way of not commenting but letting the blogger know you were there, as if to say, "I read your stupid post, but I am not telling you what I really think because I have RESTRAINT. Look at how much restraint I have!" I would use that feature all the time.