Democrats & Liberals Archives

"The Country Will Be Lost!"

Every election cycle there are those who predict doom and gloom should the country elect the “wrong” President. Never in my lifetime though, have so many been so earnest in their belief that the “wrong” result in November bodes terrible ill for our nation and our world. It may be that the extent of the concern is overblown, but I am sure from my conversations with people on both sides of the fence that the concern is genuine and heartfelt.

Though I attempt to observe American politics phenomenologically, I am also a participant and actor and feeler in the political process. As a feeler, I understand at a personal level the urgency driven by the fear of what a Republican victory could mean. Visions of an encroaching Big Brother, further sell-out to big corporate interests, and megalomaniacal plans for world domination laid out by the blueprint of the Project for a New American Century, drive me and others to a concern that we may pass a point of no return in which dissenting voices are silenced and the great American Experiment will be lost. For my own part, I see that as a plausible concern, but by no means a foregone conclusion should Bush win reelection. Regardless of November's result, I will not give up hope for a better world.

The concerns of the right are just as vivid, whether they see a moral collapse or an economic one, or an unwillingness to stand up militarily if necessary to very real threats from outside our borders. The craziness of the world today coupled with the potential for technological destruction can feed a palpable fear regardless of one's point of view. (I'll leave it to conservative and/or Republican respondents to post links supporting their concerns.)

So the concerns are real and exist of their own accord, but there is political advantage to be gained by stoking those fears, especially when there is a sense that one is behind. Whether this is seen as shining a light on the truth or demagoguery is largely a matter of perspective. When MoveOn.org ran their ad campaign at the end of last year, and solicited our contributions to pay for them, those of us who participated felt we were exposing truths about Bush & Co. that the mainstream media was too timid (or too owned) to report on. Now that Kerry appears to have gained a slight upper hand, it is the Bush campaign which is selling the idea that Kerry isn't willing to stand up to the forces of terrorism, and would make military decisions based on political expediency. Of course it is very convenient for the Bush campaign that as a Senator, Kerry is constrained to an up/down choice on any bill. If, for instance, the Democratic rider, which would have funded the $87 billion military appropriations bill, had not failed due to the threat of a presidential veto, then indeed Kerry would have voted for the appropriations.

In evaluating the political claims of a campaign or its supporters, it's important to see them in context, seek opposing viewpoints, and especially to seek the views of those without a vested interest in the cause. FactCheck is a website I recommend which calls out the deceptions of both campaigns. It's also wise to avoid guilt or innocence by association. If a claim is debunked, it does not mean that all similar claims are untrue, nor does it mean that causes or candidates supported by those who made the faulty claim are culpable. In looking at the current Presidential campaign, I see politicians, all of whom play politics with facts, and I wouldn't expect it to be any other way. I also tend to dismiss claims that suggest that one or the other candidate is primarily inspired by an evil plan for the future of our country. They are after all human beings with faults and merits like anyone else. From my perspective, however, the preponderance of evidence points to the current administration being guided by precepts and advisors whose primary agendas are at variance with many of the values I hold closest. While I may not be especially convinced of the forthrightness or convictions of Kerry, his campaign's deceptions strike me as fundamentally and consistently less egregious than those the President's campaign is willing to stoop to, such as those used to justify the war with Iraq. We would be fools to expect to have saints as candidates for President in this age of media sound bites and influence peddling, but I think we can expect better than the current leadership. I have come to my views earnestly by examining evidence, relying on my own values, and on my gut, but that doesn't preclude me from respecting those who have reached differing conclusions.

Many of us tend to move in circles which reinforce our own predilections. This has a tendency to insulate us from reasoned opinions which run counter to our own. It makes it all too easy to generalize about those who disagree with us, without thinking of them as independent thinkers who may actually share many of our own values. My own circumstances tend to create this insulation for me, and it takes effort on my part to "deinsulate" myself. Joining WatchBlog as an editor was one such effort, but online interaction is not enough--I need personal contact as well to nurture respect for a diversity of opinion. I have joined a conversation cafe locally, only to find that its membership is currently seriously lacking in conservative opinions. Their rules and principles are sound, however, and I would encourage others to seek this type of interaction. A recent cross-country trip to visit in-laws put me in touch with intelligent thinkers of various political opinions. I know that it is healthy and energizing for me to engage in conversations with serious Republicans and Libertarians as well as fellow Democrats. It may be exhausting to do so all the time, but insulation is surely unhealthy.

In conclusion, I certainly can't claim to know whether Bush's reelection would truly threaten American democracy on a long term basis--I certainly hope not, and I'm very confident that the right will remain strong as an opposing force even if Kerry wins and the Democrats take both houses of Congress. But I would advise my readers, when you feel hysteria beginning to overtake you, take a deep breath, remain calm, and be willing to speak your truth to many audiences, and be willing to truly listen to those of differing opinions who argue with reason and in good faith.

Posted by Walker Willingham at August 20, 2004 9:55 PM