I've given this a lot of thought and have decided not to talk about electoral politics from now until Election Day in this space and, if I have the discipline, not in blog comments either. I am getting rapidly diminishing returns on my ability to make an important point or contribute to an effective dialog. I do believe, actually, in reformist politics, and I do believe in the ability for people of differing ideological and partisan allegiances to have real, constructive and meaningful debates. But those beliefs have been sorely tested in the last few weeks, and one thing has become clear: it takes a bigger person than I currently am to maintain that integrity and participate in this electoral season. Maybe someday I'll be the kind of person who can balance both. I'm not, now, to my chagrin and sadness.
Not one word of this should be taken as a concession on policy, or on the two candidates. On Election day I will cast my vote for Barack Obama, barring some sort of major turnaround in his policy positions. (It's gonna be my third time voting in the Presidential election, which is scary to think about!) I believe Barack Obama is a better candidate for the presidency of the United States. I find his policy positions both more likely to produce social justice and simple pragmatic good for our country. And, though many people reject this kind of thing... I think the Republican party needs to be punished electorally for its failures in the last eight years. The party allowed the politics of resentment, cronyism, and the desire to demonstrate the weakness of government to push them to effectively abdicate their responsibility as the ruling party. The failures of the Bush administration aren't just the large-scale fiascoes of Katrina and Iraq but the long steady degradation of consumer protections, environmental defense, protection against discrimination in employment and housing, infrastructure, and many other of the elementary day to day responsibilities of government. My political disagreements with a party are one thing. But that party abandoning it's duties in governance because doing so seems to prove their ideology is another. The Republicans have to demonstrate that they truly believe in good governance, even if they believe that the size of that governance should be vanishingly small.
I think we all kind of go in the tank for an election so special, so important, so fraught with meaning for our country and for ourselves. Have I been intemperate? At times, I have. I've been better than some and perhaps than most, but that isn't good enough, not now. And I am not ready or willing to lose myself to my shrill, angry, partisan side, as I am capable of, nor am I prepared to sacrifice relationships and the spirit of post-partisanship (for lack of a better term). There are many on both sides who I think are worse, and I believe that many of my conservative counterparts need to take time out and consider their current level of investment in candidates over principle. But I have no standing to scold anyone else, and I have to start with me.
I'll continue to talk about politics in terms of policy, I think, but there will be no more horse race analysis, no more discussion of the latest gaffe or poll, and (for goodness sakes) no more Sarah Palin. I'll try to work in more culture and criticism. It's likely that my posts will be more infrequent, however. The day after election day, I may be ready to engage with electoral politics again. For now I risk too much and gain too little.
Until then... go Obama! And I'll catch you on the other side of this thing.
Update: Speak of the devil and he appears. I think you can believe in limited government and do a good job of governing. You can't have contempt for government and do a good job of governing.