A good article to read from the New York Times yesterday about Americans wrestling with their vote. The undecided. After 36 debates, maybe as many as four percent.
Maybe a deciding number.
Maybe Obama – and McCain also, to give him his due – have both made of this election a different, more reflective, beast.
We need more reflection in politics, not less. We need to share a culture of reflection more than we do. It’s fine to be tribal, if that’s what you’re looking to be. But tribalism leads to exacerbated division. It makes inevitable division wider. And we live in a world where our natural and intellectual resources are too finite for us to want to waste them on squabbling where squabbling should be a luxury.
Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we must fight because there is an opposition too awful to reason with.
But then we all fail dismally to achieve what politics should always be about: substituting war (whether literal or figurative) with democratic conflict.
I am not undecided myself but I would prefer elections where wrestling with one’s vote was the rule rather than the exception.
I know there is an underbelly of unpleasant society and behaviours which can be found almost anywhere, at any level, in any company, in any organisation. But we should not run our society on the understanding that this underbelly exists. We should attempt to survive it as we perpetually fight to recover our sense of humanity and equanimity.
If the war on terror has shown us anything, it is not that war is futile but, rather, that war destroys the very fabric of the life we treasure – that fabric we went to war on behalf of.
The very fighting of war leads us to give up on what made us go off to fight in the first place.
This election should, in part, be about a nation coming to terms with one of the worst presidents in history.
It should also be about a nation coming to terms with the fact that its political system depends too highly on the skills of a single individual to lead an entire nation. If I could vote in these elections, and I would feel privileged to do so, I would vote for Obama. His is a vote for the future. A vote for an alternative. A vote for a perspicacious intelligence. A vote – in a prosaic and down-to-earth kind of way – for salvation from a life under the yoke of indifference and even disrespect.
But as I voted for all those things and more, I would find myself wondering why I needed to think as I did. Why I thought it necessary to offload onto one man all these aspirations and hopes that were drawing me to him and his party.
Our education and health systems function and outlive our politicians. They stand as institutions which function in the background, which evolve without incessant chatter, which support and sustain. Why not our political systems and structures? Why do we need such grand events as presidential and general elections? Why can’t everything be smaller and more regular? What is this fascination with giganticism in politics?
Why can’t our politics be more like a village?
Can it be?
Through the Internet can we make it so?
Further reading: the social movement that is Barack Obama
Yet from that humble beginning sprang one of the largest political movements since the Civil Rights era. It has been a triumph of organisation in the technology age. Utilising the internet and driven by tech-savvy young staffers, it has changed the face of American political campaigning. It has 3.1 million financial contributors. The campaign’s Facebook page has 2.2 million supporters. It is set up in cyberspace and in more than 700 campaign offices in every state in America, including ones where Obama has no chance of winning.