November 01, 2004
No link or associated article this time. Just my semi-random observations.
So, last Sunday, I watched a debate between 5 of the nine contenders for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, sponsored right here in L.A. by the League of Conservation Voters, a progressive environmental group. One of the things that struct me was how much time they all spent talking about why they are capable of beating President Bush in a general election. In many ways, it's more of the same mantra that has really burdened our political process for years - "Don't waste your vote on a loser."
This brings several things to mind. At a philosophical level, it just reinforces for me how much failure is equated almost with immorality in the American Dream. But that's a different discussion for another time.
On a more practical level, it makes me wonder how much time do we devote to thinking about who SHOULD be president as opposed to who CAN be President, because the two are clearly not always analogous. When Bob Graham says "I'm from the electable wing of the Democratic Party", my knee-jerk reaction is to castigate him for lauding his appeal to the other side as a virtue. There's so much talk about electoral calculus, i.e. if I can get the people in just the right number of states to vote for me, then I can squeeze my way into the Oval Office.
Number-crunching aside, I think that this approach is, quite frankly, beneath the ideal of what America is supposed to be. Just like, for all his virtues as a candidate, I thought Al Gore's approach of "I'll protect you good Americans from the bad Americans" is beneath America as well.
America is bigger than that.
America is, for lack of a better term, a symphony.
It is the blueprint for a song that calls upon the very best from every single instrument in the orchestra. And the President is the conductor. A conductor cannot take the elements of the piece meant for the brass section and give them to the strings simply because he likes the way the strings sound. On the other hand, the conductor can't take from the strings and give to the winds because he thinks the strings are too arrogant and full of themselves. And he certainly can't make the symphony work by catering to the natural divisions between the various sections.
The conductor's goal should be rousing, fulfilling, beautiful harmony.
Which means the President of the United States of America has to represent the entire country. Not just the red states or, my personal favorites, the blue states. Every section has a role to contribute to the endeavor, and the President's job is to led the way by which ALL sections contribute and are provided for. He must be the President for the workers, the poor, the underclass, but he must also be the President for the business community and the wealthy, those who provide the opportunities for the others. He has to find ways to balance the needs of the industrial sector to prosper with their civic function to provide for the society, by both the goods they provide and the jobs and benefits and wealth they create for employees and shareholders alike. He has to protect and defend the downtrodden and the disenfranchised while calling for responsibility on the part of those who reap the most benefits from being members in this club we call America. But, at the same time, he has to find ways that the disenfranchised can contribute to the nation as a whole, while helping the successful protect and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
The President is not beholden to PACs and lobbyists and interest groups and big donors and protest parties or the DLC or the Green Party or the Electoral College.
The President is a servant to an idea. The idea that all men & women are created equal, and deserve an equal chance here, in this place, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of their own happiness.
So, as you think about the upcoming election, don't let them drag you down to their level. Don't let them trick you into believing these false choices, that only certain people are "electable", and only this person or the other deserve to be there.
That, my friends, is an aristocracy.
Reach out with your hearts and think about who SHOULD be there. Who do you dream about being there.
It's only when we stop settling for the lesser evil that we can ever hope to get the good.