Wednesday, September 10, 2008

a decision

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.


cole porter said...

Give us something after the debates, at least...

Anonymous said...

I think this is incredibly mature. Good for you, and I mean that sincerely.

keatssycamore said...

I don't think you've been arguing without integrity.

I do think your opponents would have done well to be, if not more specific about their complaints about perceived Obama free-passes and disparate treatment, more selective regarding which examples they chose to illustrate the phenomena.

For instance, I very much wonder how, given our current financial sector woes, Joe Biden (D-MBNA) gets such a free pass from the press (not the all blogs, the MSM) regarding the Bankruptcy Bill. If it's important to see the hypocrisy in Palin hiring a lobbyist to grab all the pork and lying about "thanks, but no thanks" while crusading as a pork buster, then it would certainly be of similar value to have stories illustrating Biden's hypocrisy on this issue.

That said, from my perspective, your critics landing mostly glancing blows due in part to their inability to recognize/acknowledge that some Palin stuff is important (regardless of whether there is perfect symmetry of criticism) and also shows her to perhaps be less than advertised (see Daniel Larison for the conservative arguments about Palin that I would have thought would have been obvious criticisms).

And they also failed in part by recognizing on some level that she's "less than advertised" while simultaneously defending/excusing/explaing away the bizarre disconnect between the base of their party and the "less than advertised facts". It's that relentless defending of the disconnect by writers whose integrity I never had reason to question (I except Ross Douthat here, b/c I think he's got a couple of blind spots, I think consumtopia posted the 90% thing about him here and I agree with that) that galls and tells me I should give you the split decision in this one.

I can't say it was unanimous because a lot of good progressives have the same disconnect with Biden and I'm not sure you totally grasped how frustrating it would be to have only one of those disconnects recognized. That doesn't win their argument for them, but I think it is a point in their favor.

Anyway sorry to be so windy, all in all, you weren't ever out line as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

If your policy preferences are more in line with Obama's, I'm not sure what the point of the second paragraph is. How is punishing Republicans a useful goal for a non-Republican? You're not hoping to rehabilitate them, right? Is it an S&M thing?

This is where the in-the-tankiness gets to be tiresome. Righties pretending, all of a sudden, to care about sexism, lefties, all of a sudden, pretending to care about experience. Everybody does it, though, like you said.

The other thing everybody does is pretend that this election really is important. That America will be a drastically different country depending on which politician wins the throne. It won't be. Most of what this country is has next to nothing to do with the government, and most of what the government is doesn't change with elections.