Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On the Importance of Lukewarm Enthusiasm

By M. David Hornbuckle

Previously posted on mdavidhornbuckle.com

As we get into the final weeks of the campaign season, I want to put a few of my thoughts down. Unlike some people, I’m not inclined to keep my political opinions to myself. I think political discussions are inherently valuable. They don’t have to degenerate into juvenile name calling and facetious insults. And whatever a person says about themselves, I don’t think anybody is actually “apolitical.” I think people who say this about themselves are (1) sick of juvenile name calling and facetious insults on both sides (2) not inclined to supporting one particular party or the other, and (3) not interested in the “horse race” aspect of elections. But everybody has issues that they care about and that affect them on a day to day basis, and it’s useful to talk about those issues in an intelligent, informed manner. Those issues are decided by policy. Politics and policy are the same thing.

When people on the radio say, “that’s just politics,” or “he’s just being political,” what they really mean is “That’s just a cynical narrative device designed to improve his chances at re-election or to attain more power for his party.” Let’s stop using the word politics this way. Politics, in reality is the work of government, and the work of government is everybody’s business. I’m not interested in horse race either, and though I am inclined more toward the Democratic party in elections, it is only because there is currently no reasonable, supportable alternative at the national level. The Republican party takes every opportunity to stand against virtually everything I stand for–equality, justice, peace, and liberty. The Democrats don’t always stand for those things as much as I’d like, but they don’t act against them most of the time.

You might say you stand for the same things, but I’m full of shit about how how Democrats and Republicans relate to those ideals. That’s fine. It’s just my opinion, but hang in there. I’m getting to a point.

President Obama is not my ideal president. In my opinion, he has been too conservative in many ways. He has not always shown the leadership I’d like to see. In negotiating policy, he has given the other side the benefit of the doubt when they have not afforded him the same courtesy. In short, he has been too nice, too moderate. But I understand these challenges as the reality of how national politics work. The presidency, by definition, is a moderate office. Radical changes at that level have many unintended consequences. Obama doesn’t have a lot of radical ideas, and that’s basically okay. Probably the best he can do is fix some little things and enable progress, whereas I feel that his opponent, Mitt Romney, would deter progress. Romney would actively work against it; he would take us backwards, happily, into disaster.

Radical changes need to occur at the local level, at the grass roots level. Third parties have to get footholds at a local level. If you are frustrated by the two-party system, work to get a third party elected to your local government. When you accomplish that, get them elected to your state government. Until we have a half a dozen state governors that are neither Democrat or Republican, we will never have a president from a third party. It just isn’t going to happen. At this time, voting libertarian or socialist or green party at the presidential level actually enforces the two-party system because it makes those third parties look weak and ineffectual. They don’t have enough support to effect actual change. They have just enough support to swing an election from the lesser evil to the greater evil.

I don’t say all this to be depressing. I don’t even think this is a bad thing. If you are serious about real change, you have to understand that it takes a long time, and there are really important but small steps we take during every election cycle that empower long term change. Letting Romney get elected will only set things back another ten years. I am afraid that many people I know will say they would never vote for someone like Romney, but they just aren’t enthused about Obama so they’ll stay home. This is a mistake.

I believe another Obama term will give him a far better chance to stand up to the machine that has worked day and night to make his first term a weak one. He won’t do everything I’d like him to do. The policies I’d most like to see him enact are pipe dreams. They aren’t popular because there are still too many people throwing smoke screens under the labels of socialism and heathenism, and too many people are fooled by those smoke screens. So he won’t do everything, but he will enable progress. It sounds like I’m underselling him, that I’m not passionate enough, but enabling progress is the biggest thing a president actually can do. No president is going to save the world. Enabling progress is actually a really big deal, even though it’s hard to package it as such because our society is addicted to instant gratification.

Long term change requires long term thinking. That’s why I’m lukewarm on Obama, but he still has my enthusiastic vote this November.