Progressives (and centrists) discouraged by last nights election may take comfort in the context the historical long view has to offer. Excellent interview with historian Lawrence Goodwyn on today’s theme, “What does it all mean?”
Lawrence Goodwyn: The Great Predicament Facing Obama | News & Politics | AlterNet
Jan Frel: It seems there’s quite a bit of disagreement about what kind of president we have on our hands.
Lawrence Goodwyn: Well, Jan, we are in the midst of the shakedown cruise of an historic presidency. If I may risk understatement, it has taken quite a while for Barack Obama and his diverse constituencies to begin to understand one another. I believe both still have some distance to travel. Early on, things were pretty wild, but many people have learned many things and a measure of calm can finally be seen around the edges of the national anxiety that engulfs us all.
In general, it is quite apparent that the politics of the Obama era has been far more volatile than most observers remotely anticipated. But as a historian, I bring to this confused setting the hopelessly long view that is endemic to my calling. Long views are by definition remote, distant and therefore tending toward a measure of calm. They are by no means inoculated against error, but they provide room for engaged reflection not easily found in the heat of battle.
So let me present a calming conclusion. In my opinion, the energy among the democratic faithful to make the journey is still there. While ordinary folks have been put through a lot, do not underestimate the resolve that remains for the long haul. Unanticipated poverty is an enormous energizer — and most of all for people who understand their own fate to be utterly undeserved. In due course they will see through the sleight of hand and empty content embedded in corporate sound bites. I am talking about millions of Americans, many of whom wavered and many who did not. It will take some more time for this to become clear. But it will happen.
On my lunch hour, I popped down to the polling station and cast my ballot. There was almost no one there, which I found surprising for the noon hour, but given that Georgia is now a state that allows early voting, that may be the trend going forward. I forgot to ask the poll workers what number I was.
Every time an election rolls around, you’ll hear a lot of people remind you of your right to vote. This is not one of those posts, because I have a somewhat more philosophical point to make, and one which gets an unsurprising amount of pushback from the cynical.
Today is Election Day in America. If you are an American citizen and of legal age to do so, you have a responsibility to vote.
We live in a participatory democracy, with a government made up of fellow citizens. Both the representatives that we elect and the civil servants who actually execute the business of government are our neighbours and fellow members of society. There is not, in principle, a “ruling class” from which our leaders are selected. (There certainly seems to be in practice, but that’s not an ideal situation.)
Because this is a participatory citizen government, you have the ability to be a part of it. You can run for office, or work for someone who is. You can speak to your representatives in the government, and discuss the issues that are important to you. You can go to town meetings, raise awareness of issues, and generally make the wheels turn. If there are no candidates to your liking, you can encourage like minded peoples’ campaigns by supporting them, raising awareness of them, and generally boosting the signals that correspond with your worldview. The only thing that limits the amount of involvement you have in your government is the amount of time and dedication you’re willing to commit.
Given all of that, actually getting off your duff and voting on Election Day is quite literally the least you can do.
I will not say, as I’ve seen others suggest, that if you fail to vote you forfeit your rights to free speech, or that you don’t love your country or care about it. No one is going to force you to go to the polls and cast your ballot. You certainly have the right to forfeit your turn at the lever, if that’s your desire.
But you shouldn’t, because voting in elections is one of the most basic and fundamental responsibilities of being a citizen in a participatory democracy.
So if you are able, take the time….make the time…to go to your polling station and vote for the people who will best represent you in the coming years.
It’s the least you can do.
In the interest of having a place I can talk about politics without necessarily inflicting them on people who’d rather not talk to me about that subject, I’ve started a political blog. Not much there yet, but anyone interested in what I will eventually have to say on the matter is welcome to come and check it out.
I really haven’t talked about politics much in the last few years. I admit to being pretty dispirited about the subject, and getting too worked up about things I have no direct control over does bad things for my depression issues. Besides, other people are covering the politics much better than I would.
Also, honestly, I’m not as passionate about politics as many of my friends. I’m less a moderate than I am a pragmatist. I believe that politics is about compromise, and that both sides of most issues have at least some merit. This doesn’t tend to make for a very compelling position for debate, and generally only succeeds in getting both sides mad at me.
But it’s an election season, and I do have a strong interest in the outcome. So I’m starting to pay closer attention, now that the conventions are underway. Last night, Hilary Clinton gave her address to the Democratic convention, calling for unity in the party and throwing her full support to Barack Obama. Today, reading responses to her excellent speech, I’ve noticed a nearly universal sentiment being expressed.
“Boy, that really had to be hard for her.” “That must have really stuck in her craw.” “I can’t imagine how much it hurt for her to have to get up there and give that speech.” “Boy, she really managed to choke down her resentment and support the ticket.”
Do you have any idea how insulting that is to Hilary Clinton? To presume that everything she stands for, everything she ran on, every issue that she promoted in her campaign is ultimately secondary to her own personal ambition, that it must have been painful to her to support her party’s nominee? I’m sure she is disappointed she didn’t win the nomination. But to suggest that she would really rather thumb her nose at everyone but is instead putting on a brave face for the sake of expedience is to suggest that she’s really interested in nothing more than her own self-interest.
I have issues with the way Clinton ran her campaign. At one time, I’d have been happy with her as the nominee, even though she wasn’t my first choice, but by the end I was rather put out by her. But I don’t believe she is so shallow and superficial that she doesn’t have a strong interest in seeing Obama heading up the next administration. And you shouldn’t either, if you have even a bit of respect for her and what she’s accomplished in her career.