I detest George W Bush, this is not a secret. The day I can take down the end-of-his-presidency calendar in my sidebar will be a happy one indeed, unless I have to replace it with a McCain one.
But it's been an interesting election cycle for me, one that has really clarified my politics in my own mind. I posted months ago about the realization that I am not a Democrat. When my brother called me the shame of the family after Bush/Dukakis in 1988 he was joking, but there's a kernel of truth in it. I come from a long line of conservatives and I was educated to be one of them. There's about 10% of me that walks around with a streak of elitism and reserve - it's often my first response when I feel out of my depth, a recoil and swift strike of impatient rebuff - another 10 percent that lacks confidence to put down the barrier and stake a claim on what I think is right, and the other 80% is rational, emotional, humanist, flexible, a little bit timid but always learning.
I wonder weekly what my dad would have made of Bush. He detested Clinton for his - well, my dad called it immorality, but I also think it was because Clinton is a highly accomplished and intelligent self-made man. For men of my dad's generation and, well, class, sexual morality and morality are the same. You just don't flaunt it, you're not common about it. A discreet mistress is one thing, an intern in the oval office QUITE another.
But he was also incredibly threatened by people who had it together to pursue concrete ambitions, who were motivated, organized, driven ...walking in tall cotton he used to say. As if their accomplishments were a matter of luck only.
I make him sound terrible and he really wasn't - his whole life he was in conflict with the side of himself that thought this way and the side of himself that thought it was idiotic. Which is why I think so much about what W would have done to his head. Pop went to Yale (as his father and grandfather before him had), and he had nothing but contempt for the spoiled sons of legacy, skating on shallow charm and privilege, nothing but respect for the men there who were creating something from their own gifts and hard work.
All my instincts from an early age were in opposition to this world I grew up on the edge of, but defending my ideas was incredibly hard. My instincts bewildered him - though they were at least partly a product of his own dissatisfaction - and my inarticulateness about how or why I could think the way I did frustrated him. I knew I disappointed him. It took me a long time to learn the lesson of reading to develop instinct into opinion and being brave enough to argue about it. A very long time.
So here it is Pop:
If you were alive I think you'd be voting Obama too, because what has happened over the last 8 years would make you weep. I could be wrong, but everything you taught me about hard work, about responsibility, about decency, about MANNERS, tells me that. But I am not embarrassed to think differently than you did anymore, so if you WOULD be voting for McCain, I would totally make fun of you.
You can't even make the small government argument, because have you listened to the guy? He hasn't got a principle left that he hasn't abandoned for convenience, far in excess of politics as usual, and his entire campaign is based on fear-mongering. Let us not even speak of Mrs. Palin and her utter lack of knowledge, or principle or professionalism, and rejection of science or intellect as needful tools.
And if every fear-mongering idiot emphasizing the candidate's middle name doesn't make you queasy with the thinly veiled racism and narrow-minded panic over Otherness, then this time, I'm disappointed in you.
I believe economic self-interest is the worst possible ground to make policy from, second only to vanity.
I believe the greater good IS the common good, that creating policy that protects and benefits those who have the least makes a world that benefits us all.
I know we have a responsibility as human beings to follow our own ethics in our own lives, and an obligation to protect the right of every other person to do the same.
I believe government, at some level, should be a service provider. Not a business entity.
Obama can think, the most important thing you taught me to look for. I think he has a global view, a sense of the movement of history, basic decency and a grasp of economic priority that makes sense. He can speak, and he does give me hope that there is a better way to run this place. His ambitions are not the sum of him. He's a man, not a miracle, but I think there is a lot of evidence that the tone a president sets can change everything. And his is the tone I want representing America, representing me.
I know you were happy that my year abroad brought me home more fiscally conservative. It was because I didn't understand the deeper issues of social policy and it didn't stick. I hope you don't think you wasted all that money educating me, because the more I learn, the lefter I get. Thought you should know.