We voted (some of us, at least) on November 6th, but we also expressed our every thought on this grand debate, extolling our opinions all over Facebook, Twitter, and, for all I know, Instagram. We posted and we tweeted and we exclaimed, loudly, that these two candidates somehow reflect the Manichean cosmos of America, blithely ignoring our quiet doubts that the candidates never really debated, not in a meaningful way. Somehow we know that this election cycle was a war between pundits and handlers and flaks who battle only for their own aggrandizement. Party politics as reality television. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo in '16.
Yes, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney offered distinct agendas. And I preferred one to the other. I still do. Yet I know - and you know it too - that the parties who sustain them represent nothing more than a singular culture industry, a machine that produces little more than sound and fury, bread and circuses. At times it felt like we were watching a Coke-vs.-Pepsi Taste Test and actually caring about which sugar water quenches our thirst. It's a game of dissemination, not dialogue, and we're rotting with every corn syrup swig.
A few folks eschewed the vitriolic attacks and bumper sticker discourse that marked this sad, silly season. Jenny, to great credit, attempted a sane and responsible conversation over the past few months, even as some of her Facebook friends became increasingly unhinged. She explored the issues, read broadly, and struggled to make the right call. She tried to vote for both faith and facts. All too frequently, though, many of us abandoned our better angels. I certainly did.
More than once I said to some pals how much I hated Mitt Romney. Hated him. Not just for his policies (whatever they were that particular week) but for his pandering, his cynicism, and that sanctimonious half-smile that invariably preceded a lie. I hated him for the day, years ago, when he supposedly led a pack of prep school bullies to beat up a kid and cut his hair. I hated him for that dismissal of 47 percent of Americans as too lazy and too weak to be born a millionaire. And I hated his cowardly genuflection to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump. I admit it, I sometimes enjoyed how much I hated Mitt Romney, the clarity of it all.
And now the party's over and we're stuck with the mess. Mitt Romney will probably find a way to make a few more millions. But he'll still hang around too, if only because those Americans who voted for him aren't going anywhere. His partisans are no less sure of their votes now than before election night, and I can't blame them. We could take a walk of shame, but we'd wind up together, right (and left) where we started. It's our house, after all. Honestly I'm not sure how to start cleaning up the mess we've made. The cats are still freaked out, a stench is beginning to rise, and that gunk in the blender? I'm not sure it's pudding. At least I can take some solace in a few wise words I heard on Tuesday night:
"This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation… The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work… This election is over, but our principles endure."Those are good words, decent words. They remind us of our obligation to be a little kinder to each other, a bit more tolerant of our different beliefs, and a lot more humble. We Americans are a contentious bunch. Always have been, always had to be. We've faced imperial constraint, civil war, economic collapse, and totalitarian advance - and somehow we've stuck together. Better yet, somehow we've managed to expand the sphere of public life, slowly, to include more and more of us. We've been better than this past four years, and we can be better again.
"This election is over, but our principles endure."
Well spoken, Governor Romney.