Monday, November 3, 2008

One scary election


This is the 10th presidential election in which I am eligible to vote. In the 36 years since that first vote, which I unashamedly cast for George McGovern, I have never witnessed a voting season so characterized by fear—not even the 2004, post-9/11 presidential election.

I tend to get into more political conversations than most people do because of the political book I wrote, the social networking site I maintain and my volunteer work with Just Vote Colorado. And thankfully, most of those conversations are thoughtful and intelligent. As an independent voter, I avoid partisan free-for-alls, and that makes genuine dialogue possible.

In so many conversations this year, the one descriptor I’ve heard used most often is this one: scary.

“This is the most scary election of my entire life,” a 60-something man told me. His yard sports a McCain-Palin sign, the first political sign he’s ever placed there.

“We can’t let McCain win. Sarah Palin is just too scary,” said a 20-something woman, an obvious Obama-Biden supporter.

Here’s why the candidates are all so scary, based on what I’ve been hearing:

  • John McCain: He’s a warmonger, a mere shadow of the true maverick he was in 2000, a much-too-close reminder of George W. Bush, and an elderly man who may die in office and turn the reins over to:
  • Sarah Palin: She’s a loose cannon, an inexperienced and inept candidate who needs a basic understanding of how the government works,* and a mean-spirited, sarcastic, tactless running-mate who has no place on a presidential ticket.
  • Barack Obama: He’s so liberal that he’ll turn the country into a socialist nation, so pacifist that he’ll leave us vulnerable to attack, and so subversive that he and his friends will overthrow the government. Oh, and he’s an Islamic Arab—and an African-American, making him the No. 1 target for white supremacist hate groups who will target him, leaving the White House in the hands of:
  • Joe Biden: He’s scary, it seems, only because you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. His gaffes are legendary.

Granted, there are thousands of other reasons why the public considers these candidates to be scary, such as their voting records or lack thereof, their stands on the issues and all that. But the points above encapsulate what people have said directly to me. They didn’t get into the issues as much as they did the overall perception they had of the candidate.

So should we be scared? Like a few other people I’ve heard say this, I’ve joked about moving to Canada depending on the results of the election. (For my husband and me, that’s not exactly radical; we’ve been talking about doing that since we met in 1978.) But if I do head north, it won’t be out of fear. It will be a result of pure cultural fatigue.

I understand why people think this election is scary. Though it sure has its scary elements, I refuse to be scared. I have too much hope for that. Between God and the fearless political activists I’ve met, I have reason to hope. We’re in a new political and cultural era, one in which grassroots activism is truly and tangibly making a difference. (For better or worse, this election is evidence of that; neither McCain nor Obama were their party’s anointed one.)

Let’s keep fear at bay and help others do the same. This is no time to be afraid. It’s time to be courageous.

*Okay, so they actually called her stupid. I'm being gracious.

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