I followed this political season more closely than I’ve followed any other. There’s the narrative that this just wasn’t the Republicans’ year, the brand is too tarnished. There’s the narrative that Obama is a cool customer, and the narrative that McCain squandered his honorable “maverick” brand. There’s the it’s-the-economy-stupid-redux narrative. There’s the Obama’s-shady-associations narrative.
What to make of these narratives? Which one is true?
None, I think. It’s all euphemism. I think that every four years, but perhaps in this presidential election cycle in particular given Obama’s historic candidacy, the American electorate trots out its metaphysical angst for all to see. And there’s a big rush to put the just-so stories out there to cover it up.
The angst to which I refer? It’s your garden variety can-I-cope-with-reality angst. American voters get the opportunity to choose which story they prefer to tell themselves about why the problem isn’t within, but in the world they never made.
Some people tell themselves that someone is trying to take what they have, some “other.” That other might be after their money, or after the spiritual values that they claim make them feel good about themselves. When they seek an answer to why their self-image is threatened, they look down at the threat from “below,” from the people they consider beneath them in moral stature. These people run Right with the Republicans.
Some people tell themselves that others got unfair advantages, that those others have forced inequitable bargains on everyone else. When they seek an answer to why their life seems harder than they feel they deserve, they see the threat as coming from “above,” from people who get to enjoy the high life because of the luck of the draw. These people run Left with the Democrats.
Both today’s Left and Right are really two sides of the same coin. (Yes, I know, depressingly unoriginal observation, there.) They’re both asking for the same thing — they want the government to steal from someone and give to them what they feel themselves incapable of producing on their own. Those on the Right are looking for unearned moral status. Those on the Left are looking for unearned material wealth. Neither those on the Left nor on the Right realize that asking for the unearned is always a single problem, and that there’s no real difference between them.
The Right needs to wash out its soul with soap and water. The Left needs to recognize the crook that looks back at them when they look in the mirror.
I sometimes despair of either side accepting that theirs alone is the responsibility for living and enjoying the good life.