(Note: After a long day in NYC of seeing a show, accidentally finishing a quest to find Carrie Bradshaw's stoop, and getting cupcakes from Magnolia, I decided (after a conversation I had last night with friends) to re-print an essay I wrote back in January.)
This is the most important political year of my lifetime.
I’m not saying that it’s important that any specific candidate or party wins. No matter who becomes President-elect on the evening of November 4th (which we can at this point narrow down to Clinton, Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain, Obama, or Romney), the process of getting to that day will be the watershed election of the last forty years. Here’s why.
At some point since September 12th, 2001, every American (at least 71%, but I say all) has begun to hate the United States in some way. We may not all use the word “hate”, but that’s what I’m calling it. Others may call it “being ashamed” or “disliking the country’s direction” or “not feeling safe” or “wanting a change in the government”. Same may say they don’t hate the U.S. because to them that means hating the flag or the army, but I specifically use the term “United States” because it could mean that one hates the blue states for what they believe in, or the red states. We have all felt negatively about that which we were raised to love. Every school day, from Kindergarten through 12th Grade, at least those of us who went to public school declared our love for the country each morning. But now we question whether we really want to “pledge allegiance to the Republic, for which it stands” or if we truly are “one nation”. This year, the American people will reap the positives from what this hatred has sown.
It began in earnest on January 3, 2008. Remember this day. According to the Associated Press, approximately 239,000 and 115,000 people participated in the Democrat and Republican portions of the political process in Iowa, respectively. 124,000 Democrats and 88,000 Republicans participated in the last contested elections for each party, in 2004 and 2000, respectively. This turnout could partly be attributed to the fact that neither party has an incumbent President or Vice President as a candidate, but that kind of increase does not happen if people don’t flat out care and people care this year because they want to do away with their hatred.
Will it be Hillary Clinton, the first legitimate female candidate, who represents what Democrats loved about the pre-Bush years? Rudy Giuliani, who was the poster boy for the patriotism and camaraderie we felt on the afternoon of 9/11/2001, good feelings that we have most obviously lost? Mike Huckabee, the Republican who fights for the middle class and lives the honesty and values to which people feel Bush only paid lip service? John McCain, the man who was the alternative to Bush in 2000, who represents a patriotic America and a break from the neo-Cons? Barack Obama, the first legitimate African-American candidate, who has rallied the youth like no candidate since Eugene McCarthy and is seen as the biggest change from the ways of the last eight years? Mitt Romney, who is the rare New England Republican and stands for the classic conservative values of a smaller government?
All of these candidates represent a change from the current administration in some way. People are sick of the direction the country is going, they’ve come to hate the United States in their own way, and they will finally come together to decide the future with a passion that I haven't seen in my thirty-one years.
You may say that the people will never be that fired up; that the political machine in this country is pretty broken, a tool of the elite. I can be pretty cynical myself at times. I even wrote about how it’s the smart way to think. However, the danger of cynicism is that you can depart from reality just as quickly as if you are overly idealistic. Sometimes the world really does work well and you’re only hurting yourself by missing the boat, just as an optimist may be setting themselves up for heartbreak.
So look around, watch and/or read the news, open your mind to the possibilities. In one way or another, the last eight years have been horribly dark for America. We, the people, are ready to put it behind us. We, the people, are ready to love the United States again. We, the people, are ready to work towards that “more perfect union”. We, the people, are making history. This year. Last night. Right now.