Whenever I think about 2008, I get really pessimistic. I keep hearing myself say, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” I can’t help but believe that presidential power has not yet reached its zenith. Ambition has not yet been counteracted with ambition; President Bush is only in temporary retreat and has not received a proper slap down, these past elections notwithstanding. If the next president is a Republican, I fear he will have the same profile as Bush. If it’s a Democrat, I fear that unified government (at least with a Democratic Congress and Democratic president) will not provide a necessary check. Or that a Democrat may be poised to abuse power even more in order to prove his (or her) tough credentials. 9/11 dropped a bunch of shit onto George Bushâ€™s lap. I feel sorry for him more than anything because that is a tremendous burden, and he just wasnâ€™t capable of handling it. We thought he rose to the challenge when he held that bullhorn atop the rubble, but we were wrong. The answer to our mistake that is Iraq is not to clam up. Militant fundamentalist Islamists still pose a dangerous threat to America. I donâ€™t trust Russia. China is gearing up to become a superpower. The new president must be prepared to fight the long war in which the very fate of democracy and freedom is still up for grabs. But in this battle, he must not sacrifice the very rights and freedoms we are fighting for in the first place.
I look at the field and am severely unimpressed. I maintain an open mind about the lesser-name candidates, but I am pessimistic about their chances. I hear Obama and think, “Where’s the beef?” I have an irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton — and a legitimate concern about American democracy being controlled by two families for over two decades. McCain capitulated on torture and the MCA. Heâ€™s also very old and that means the presidency could potentially fall into the hands of an inept vice president. Itâ€™s not that I donâ€™t think all of these people could never ever be president; itâ€™s that I feel the times call for someone especially extraordinary, and I donâ€™t know where that person is. What Iâ€™m most worried about is that we, the voters, will have a choice between tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, a choice between shit and shittier.
There may be reason for hope. The one great thing Bush did was appoint John Roberts as Chief Justice. I recently read a piece about him in the Atlantic and his commitment to acting as a court rather than 9 ideological individuals is wonderful. Another piece in the Atlantic talked about Unity 08, an attempt to make a bipartisan ticket and jolt us toward the center. I vaguely remember reading about some internet movement way back when but I thought it was an attempt to start a viable third party, which I thought was ridiculous, but Unity 08 is completely different. This seems possible of having a shot if both candidates for the major parties suck. Itâ€™s still a tall order, and I canâ€™t help but remain pessimistic.
Maybe we wonâ€™t make a difference in 2008. Maybe itâ€™ll be business as usual and the politicians fiddle while Rome burns.
Then, I changed my mode of thinking. Just as the war against radical Islam is a long war, so is this nascent war to remake American politics. Begin to dig the trenches. Weâ€™ll do our best to get the right people elected in 2008, but we may fail miserably. (Who is this â€œweâ€? I donâ€™t know yet. Weâ€™ve still yet to make our voice heard, to gather, to even materialize. Maybe itâ€™s all the people who think the current state of politics is too divisive and not focused on solutions. This we is not the angry or the ideologues.) If we fail, though, we must continue to fight. The capacity for change does not disappear after one electoral defeat. If the nation weakens and the sky darkens, our only choice is to double our resolve. We must never give up. The fate of the republic rests in our hands.
So if you despair at this momentâ€¦ if you look around and feel powerless, do not fret. I too feel often feel impotent and donâ€™t be too surprised if it gets worse. But I beg you, do not give up. All I ask is that you steel your minds. Gather up your resolve. Think. Speculate. Talk. Act, even. But bounce back if your actions fail. Be prepared for a long fight. Change is not going to happen overnight. Do not panic. Just be ready.
Who we think of as allies and enemies will completely change. The landscape will be remade, even if it’s not in 2008. Soon, we will figure out who “we” are, what we are fighting for, and what we are fighting against. Pessimism is a perfectly reasonable response, but only for the short-term. In the grand scheme of things, I am unwaveringly optimistic and resolute. You should be too. I’ll say it once more: Be ready for a long fight.