Friday, September 5, 2008

Drill, Baby, Drill!

I just realized something fascinating about myself. (Okay, I think there are about three places in the world you can get away with saying something like that... For ten points, name them!)

Here's what it is: I like to make predictions - especially about things I care about, like this election. I like to say things like 'Palin will give McCain a nice bump this week, and by the middle of next week, the race will have stabilized - basically, we're looking at a tie by Tuesday.' Part of why I do this, of course, is because it's fun; part of why I do this is because I like to think I'm good at it -- but I think the biggest reason I make predictions can be boiled down into one word:


When you predict something, you are trying to take control -- you are saying, in essence, that you know what is going to happen -- and more than that, you are inoculating yourself against the pain of what you don't want to happen actually happening. (For instance, I think the Palin pick quite clearly represents the most odious kind of political electioneering; it's not, as so many have pointed out, a serious choice; it's about winning the election, not governing -- and I think that she, as a political animal, is a dangerous, horrible phenomenon, quite capable of turning the election McCain's way. She taps into a deep-seated fear of Obama-as-Other, and she will quite demonstrably galvanize the Republicans' Christianist base, and yada yada yada and the bottom line is, I am terrified that McCain has, with this disgusting, cynical act, won the freaking Election and set us down a really horrible path for the country.)

But so, given that, I make predictions to guard myself against the pain of McCain's actually winning the election. This way, when he does, I will be able to console myself with the fact that I saw it coming - I knew this would happen and I even blogged about it - and 'by the way, I am so glad,' I will tell myself, 'that I didn't get my hopes up.'

But this kind of self-protection, of course, is the antithesis of the Obama campaign - a campaign that has reveled in placing hope over cynicism, in promoting honesty over the typical political gamesmanship and disingenuousness.

Which makes me and my need for control, when you think about it, fairly McCain-like.

And when you look at the Republican convention this week, as I forced myself to do, you see the same thing throughout -- the safety of cynicism, the easy comfort of 'control', of thinking clearly and uni-directionally about the world and its problems, a simplistic worldview that values the quick answer over the right response, the mean and snarky one liner over the complicated, inclusive reality that Obama, almost always, exudes and embraces. In other words, the same old thing.

So what to do? Stop predicting things?

I predict not.

Thank you very much, I'm here all weekend....!

The answer, I think, is to resist, no matter how hard it can be, the urge to fight cynicism with cynicism. What I continue to find remarkable about Barack Obama is that he does this: on The odious O'Reilly factor last night, when confronted with cynical, mean-spirited, supposedly knowing questions from Senor Loofah, he not only maintained his composure, he spoke forthrightly and with dignity; I clicked on a video this morning and saw him campaigning in Pennsylvania and in talking about the Republican convention, about his only 'polticial' action was adapting a mildly 'country' accent. He didn't fight fire with fire; he didn't snark back at the Governor for her crude twisting of his record, or lash out (as God I would have been tempted to) at the allegedly Honorable Rudolph Guiliani for his outrageously disgusting suggestion that Obama thought Palin's hometown wasn't 'cosmopolitan' enough. He spoke calmly, decently, honestly, with a genuine half-smile at the Republican's willfully ignoring both their own record and the sorry state of the Economy.

And I think that, more than anything, is the lesson of his campaign. It really is all about Hope. I have no idea if it will work, either in the election on November 4, or, more important, if he does somehow win. I am not sure how the country would respond to such an actual Presidency. I make no predictions, but I sure as Hell hope we get to find out.

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