For his final political humor piece of the year, our columnist gets very serious to endorse Barack Obama for president.
You may have read some of my past humor pieces for The Simon. (Missed them? SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT: all my articles are archived! Don’t worry – it’ll only take half an hour. Click on my name and follow the link... I can wait.)
((Good, you’re back now. Didn’t think they were all that amusing? In that case, they were editorials.))
I had a few ideas – good ones, I thought – for one final, kick-in-the-pants summation of this election season, and over the last month I’ve been eager to get to it, to deliver one final laugh before you all get away from your computers to vote.
But as I’ve sat down to flesh out my last political humor piece of the year, I find there’s something gnawing at the back of my mind. On this Election Eve 2008, it’s no longer time to mock the process, or the candidates – that time has passed. Instead, it’s time to talk, to beg, to plead with you (anyone who’s still reading this) to vote for Senator Barack Obama on Tuesday. I’ll go ahead and leave any shred of journalistic integrity out of this... PLEASE. Make it happen, people. The man is our only sane, rational choice for President of these United States.
I have to admit, I’m somewhat invested – emotionally and financially – in Barack Obama’s candidacy. I’ve phone-banked to help drum up support; gone to house meetings of other Obama activists; bought the t-shirts, the bumper stickers, and the yard signs and have been proudly displaying them for months; and have been proselytizing my friends, family and co-workers to join the cause. So maybe I’m not the most impartial advocate. But you could vote for worse candidates for the presidency – and one of those candidates happens to be John McCain.
While I’m not Howard Beale mad-as-hell about the state of our union, we happen to be at a point in American history when we can’t keep following the Republican path. Those of you who lean right certainly are saying “Bush played the hand fate dealt him! Deficit spending? He was funding a war – two wars – to defeat Islamofascism! Economic crisis? It was the fault of the Democratic Party! Katrina? No one could have anticipated the severe nature of that storm!” And on and on and on. Excuses ad nauseum.
In a word: bullshit. The Republican Party of the last eight years will be known throughout history as one of intolerance, of fear, of ignorance, of hatred, of war, of wasteful spending, of just plain waste... How could you possibly throw away your vote on more of the same? Because John McCain calls himself a “maverick”?! This isn’t the John McCain of 2000 – it’s the new and improved (for the Republican base only) John McCain 2.0, the serial liar and slanderer, willing to do whatever it takes in his old age to finally achieve the presidency after so many, many years coveting it. A man who has changed literally every position he used to hold for so long... all for the sake of political expediency. Because it was the only way to secure the nomination of a party that, truth be told, never really liked him that much.
All you need to remember is this: it’s John McCain who always said experience was the most important quality in anyone running for higher office... and then impulsively, recklessly picked the most woefully unprepared, least qualified Vice Presidential candidate in our history.
But I digress.
While it should be clear I have no love for McCain, and magnitudes less for Palin, I’d like to focus on Barack Obama.
When it comes to most of his policy positions I happen to agree with him, whether it’s the economy (not a fan of tax breaks for millionaires); the environment (shifting our priorities to solve the problem of climate change); education (making it a national priority to send as many kids to college as we can); the war on terror (getting the hell out of Iraq and focusing our efforts in Afghanistan); and so on. McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time? I’d vote with Obama at that same rate. So we’re all even. (I guess that makes me a Socialist.)
Now take the issues off the table, whether you agree with him or not.
The primary difference between the candidates, aside from matters of policy, is what Obama inspires in people, particularly the younger generation. And that, in and of itself, is a huge reason why he’s getting my vote.
People under 30 – okay, make it 40, I’m getting older – are the most cynical in America about politics, and more to the point, politicians. And for good reason: we were born around Watergate; later suffered through eight long years of Cold War threats and Reaganomics; and found an oasis in a Clinton presidency that was all blown away by a blowjob. We have good reason to expect the worst. The success of Daily Show, or Colbert, or Letterman, or Maher? Hugely popular for a reason. Why do we laugh at politicians? Because it’s easy. We mock them, all of us, for their mistakes, for their foibles, for their misguided efforts and selfish, lobby-loving me-firstism.
Barack Obama is different.
It’s not that Obama is perfect, or serious, or “The Messiah” as his detractors try to ridicule him – it’s that there’s something about him that makes all but the most partisan Republicans think we can do better. I have many young relatives (mostly on the order of pre-teens), and with each and every one of them, they are excited about this candidate. Think about that – excited about a potential president. Besides a spell of Clintonitis in my college days (treatable by a healthy dose of penicillin), I can’t remember ever being excited about a politician like these children are. Carter? Reagan? The Democratic chum known as Mondale, alternately Dukakis? They hardly even register.
But yes, Obama is different. And that’s thrilling to me.
And their parents aren’t even die-hards like I am, so the kids aren’t absorbing their voting habits through contact – to these children, Obama is practically a hero. He’s part rock star, part preacher and part teacher. He’s what I was taught to believe at a young age we looked for in leaders. And I can’t have been the only one. Look at his support, across every demographic, in broad swaths of the country, states both blue and red. He’s striking a chord with those of us who remember those lessons.
Why can’t America dare to elect a leader that motivates not just us, but the rest of the world as well? How can we possibly choose any alternative?
The irony, of course, is that expectations have been set so high that Obama is almost bound to disappoint. Many of his supporters are under the (mistaken) impression that he offers instant fixes to a whole litany of problems facing our country... and when he hasn’t solved all of them in his first year in office, they’ll grow resentful, thinking he’s “just another politician.” They need to keep in mind that he’s hugely intelligent and hard-working. Give him time. Look at his long-shot campaign – he hasn’t succeeded on charisma alone. There’s a reason he’s come as far as he has, and it has all to do with his natural abilities as a leader.
But if ultimately you end up unhappy with Obama as president, communicate that. Organize. Make it known. His candidacy has been a triumph of grass roots organizing; that interest doesn’t have to vanish as soon as he’s elected. Obama himself would only ask you to GET INVOLVED and try to make things better. Given what’s gone on in the 21st century, he can’t do it alone – we all need to help try to undo the damage of the last eight years. That doesn’t stop on November 5th.
But the first step is to get out and vote. And while this rambling, idealistic, seemingly drunken rant may not have convinced you that Obama’s your man... vote anyway. Make that step. Don’t fear the high turnout and long waits – celebrate it. Love it. Enough excuses. If you’re happier supporting a third-party candidate, cast your ballot accordingly. But in the end, the only way we can get our country back on track, both politically and as a society, is if you’re taking part in this democracy.