And I decided this morning that I have said everything I need to say about who should be in the White House. As of today, I'm resting my case.
I have no idea if I convinced one single soul that they should vote to reelect President Barack Obama. I tried, but either way it's okay, because what I did do was participate. I got to express myself, and feel like an active part of the democratic process. And now... Now I'm going to indulge what has become a growing urge, creeping up on me the last few days, causing some confusion and anxiety, and finally this morning, some clarity. I'm going to shift my focus completely away from analyzing the race, lobbying for my candidate, and articulating every last thought in my head about the issues facing our country. I'm shifting my focus to being, if not simply a spectator, no longer a reporter.
A witness, maybe. A participant. Just one voter.
I think this election cycle has been harder on Americans than any of us anticipated. The campaign itself - at least the processing that's been done about it on TV, in social media, and among family and friends, has changed relationships, even changed lives. I'm not sure I agree with the popular consensus that we're farther apart, though. It might be instead that we just know each other a little better. We all got pretty frank about our opinions, didn't we? But they were there all along, and now they're out.
And as often as each side bemoaned the fact that we were hung up on distractions and needed to be having a real argument about real issues, some of that actually happened. I doubt if either side would be thrilled with the way the other described their party's ideals, but at least the question of the role of government in our economic system has been hashed out more thoroughly than ever, and people's real values around social issues have been more honestly articulated than ever before. I can't imagine that coming to some joyous agreement on everything should even be our goal. The country can benefit from some yin and yang, surely. We do still need to learn how to challenge each other more respectfully, but maybe laying our cards out the way we have this year is somehow a step towards that, rather than an exercise in making it worse.
And as much as we rail about each other's inability to base convictions on sound information, I think maybe we've all gotten a little bit smarter. We may have over-relied as a body politic on blogs and Wikipedia to support our arguments against each other, but there's no question that most of us know more than we used to about filibusters, fracking, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Middle East politics, and the US tax code.
In fact I think we should give ourselves a collective pat on the back. I have had many hundreds of political discussions in the past year. For all the hyperbole and stubbornness and meanness, I have also seen countless examples of humility, intellectual curiosity, and decorum. And this has occurred among people who are heart-wrenchingly passionate about their views.
I wonder sometimes about all the credit we give to those who are more detached from the process. Of course people are free to be less interested in politics than some of us, but I'm not sure that should translate the way it does into an assumption that those folks possess a capacity for objectivity that we lack. The Undecided Voter is courted and interviewed and catered to through the final debate and beyond. But doesn't their decision-making process eventually seem puzzling? At what point in this process were you still unable to tell the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? At a week before the election, what additional information does one hope to obtain that would finally illuminate The Truth about these two candidates?
I am so happy to be signing off as a campaigner today. I am relieved to relinquish the self-appointed role of persuader. I've had no illusions that something I write could directly influence someone's vote, but my drive to always be convincing and motivating is so strong that it is freeing to release it for awhile.
I was surprised to find, upon looking back, that I published the first post in my series on this election on 12/07/11, almost a year ago. I think I have had a chance to say my piece.
So I'm kicking back now!! I'll be watching these last few days play out as a highly interested observer.
Good job, everybody.
May the best one win.