October 28, 2012

A Reluctant Voter

I will be voting sometime this week, God willing and the Frankenstorm don't wash us away. Maryland has early voting, something every state should adopt. I worked in elections for several years, and I can tell you the difference made by early voting is enormous, both for the workers and for the voters.

Truth be told, I was thinking about not voting at all, my reasoning being that it's time to step aside and let the younger folks, who will have to live with the consequences of forthcoming elections a lot longer than I will, have the decisive role in selecting their political leaders. My generation has done enough. Time to let the next shift take over.

The other source of my reluctance was the candidates. Mitt Romney may have been the best of a bad lot of Republicans, but his choice of Paul Ryan made that ticket an absolute non-starter for me. Ryan's ideas for government are so antithetical to mine, there is no way I want to see him get to within a heartbeat of the presidency.

Obama has my reluctant support, but he remains a mystery to me. There are so many things I really like about him. He is thoughtful, patient, and decisive. In a crisis, I believe he is a near-perfect combination of prudence and boldness.

What he isn't is a politician. Unfortunately, that is a huge part of the job description, one that he kind of sucks at. I respect President Obama. I loved Bill Clinton. The difference? Clinton was as smart a guy as you could want in a room, but he also loved the game of politics, the give-and-take of deal-making that drives things forward. Obama is the guy who strikes me as something of an outsider. He seems uncomfortable in a room full of politicians who smell blood in the air. Clinton just ate that shit up.

Of course, that's who we want running our country these days, political outsiders or businessmen. This idea that we shouldn't have politicians in charge of a political system is both foolish and dangerous. The president is not a CEO. Running the government is not like running a business. A president's board of directors are 535 unruly personages each of whom cares more about their next election than the president's agenda. You don't give orders; you don't rely on men of good will. Governance is a blunt-force trauma business, where the big stick better back up the soft words or you won't get anywhere.

There is a famous story told by a senior adviser about how Ike went to the White House and issued orders like the general he used to be, thinking that would be the end of it, and then couldn't figure out why nothing was getting done. Men like Johnson, Reagan, and Clinton figured it out. Maybe Obama will get it in his second term, if he gets one.

The way I look at it, whoever wins this election will be a single-term president. I'm already praying for Hillary in 2016. I see no other political figure capable of leading us out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into. Damn, guess that means I might have to vote one more time.

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