I’m probably not going to vote tomorrow. I’m also pretty sanguine about my decision. Over the past several months, I’ve had my share of harsh words for both candidates. But despite incessant media hype and the elevation of every minor dispute to world-historical importance, I’m fairly confident our country will continue to stumble forward no matter who is elected president. The invasion of Iraq and the president’s tacit acceptance of torture are two issues that continue to animate me, but I’m reasonably confident that this year’s election marks a strong rejection of the Bush Administration’s policies in both areas. A McCain withdrawal from Iraq will undoubtedly be slower and more considered, but his vision of a one hundred year occupation is so far out of sync with most voters’ views that I doubt it will ever come to pass. On torture, Obama’s repudiation of Bush is also somewhat more forceful than McCain’s, but both candidates’ condemnation of detainee mistreatment promises an end to this odious practice.
On other issues I care about – reducing the size and scope of government; drastically scaling back the United States’ presence overseas; confronting the growth of the surveillance state – neither nominee is particularly satisfying. One hopes that Obama or McCain will grow in office, and perhaps they’ll discover a healthy suspicion of big government once they come face-to-face with the Leviathan. But I doubt it.
As for the candidates themselves, I think it’s worth remembering that both are impressive men in their own ways. For the past eight years, I’ve endured a president whose style of governance and personal foibles are antithetical to everything I love about the United States. Bush’s personal history exemplifies nepotism, cronyism, and ineptitude. His tenure as president has been absolutely disastrous. I consider myself a patriot, and will remain one no matter who claims the Oval Office, but there’s something to be said for feeling a thrill of pride at the sight of our elected representatives. McCain’s gruff heroism and Obama’s eloquence remind me of what I admire about America. After eight years of Bush, that’s no small accomplishment.
If your opinions differ or you’re simply more optimistic about the candidates’ platforms, I sincerely hope you’ll go out and vote your conscience. I also hope you’re not too disappointed when our next president inevitably compromises or fails to live up to expectations. As for me, I intend to spend election night polishing off a keg left over from Halloween. The more things change . . .