Voting Decisions

I spent my entire therapy session last night talking about politics.

Seriously. Except for one sentence at the beginning about something else, I spent the entire 45 minutes talking about the presidential race. But it was not a waste of money — it tied into my psyche.

I’m taking my vote in the New York Democratic primary next month very seriously. I’ve never thought so hard about a vote before. This is my first time voting in a primary, so it’s my first time having to choose between two or more Democrats.

Voting is a completely irrational act. The idea that my single vote will make a difference in an election is ridiculous — rare is the election that has been decided by one vote. There’s no need for me to spend so much time deciding whom to vote for when it’s extremely unlikely that my vote will matter.

And yet my vote does matter, because everyone else’s vote matters. Each individual voter, making up his or her own mind, is an important molecule in a large weather pattern.

And anyway, we should all think hard about our opinions on important issues, whether we get to vote on them or not. Thoughtful opinions lead to thoughtful discourse.

So, I keep going back and forth between Obama and Clinton.

I’m wary of anyone who’s too enthusiastic about Obama. All the Obama-worship is unsettling. This comment touches on much of what I feel about him. “Obama is a self-conscious messianic figure who is running a messianic campaign.” Yes. I find it creepy.

Our civic culture is going down the tubes, and it goes beyond the White House. Special interests control Congress; the media is lazy, distorting, and entertainment-driven; the American attention span shrinks by the month. A charismatic president alone can’t fix things. In fact, the executive branch isn’t supposed to be able to fix things all by itself. Our constitutional system is set up to resist change. It’s naive, idealistic and foolish to think that one incredibly well-spoken man (and he is incredibly well-spoken) is going to bring us all together, that he’ll inspire the Republicans and the corporations and the insurance companies to hold hands with all of us as we solve health care and skip down that happy yellow-brick road into a land filled with rainbows.

New Hampshire was a relief. Some people were speculating not if, but when Hillary should drop out. I saw or read something like the following: “The Clintons will have to decide if they really want to be the ones who tried to get in the way of this amazing historical moment.” Something like that. It felt like drug-induced euphoria, and even I got caught up in it, and looking back at those giddy five days from Thursday through Tuesday, it was really, really weird.

On Tuesday night I decided I was probably going to vote for Clinton. And despite what I just said in the previous few paragraphs, I’m ashamed to say that the reason was almost entirely emotional. Call me a sap, but when Hillary got on stage and said, “Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process [pause, then softly:] … I found my own voice,” it touched something inside me. I’d never heard her say anything like that before. It built on her famous emotional moment the day before. (Which was not “tears” or “crying,” by the way, and I wish people would stop mischaracterizing it. And fie on anyone who thinks she was faking it. One, she’s not a good enough actor to fake it, and two, why would she want to, when conventional wisdom told us that an emotional breakdown would mean instant death to any female presidential candidacy?)

What really got me was the next day. I was talking to my mom over the phone the day after the New Hampshire primary, and I asked her what she thought. “Good for her,” she said emphatically. She said Obama seems to be all talk and she liked seeing Hillary win.

Listening to Hillary, talking to my mom, hearing my mom support Hillary… this all mixed together in my brain, and I realized what was behind my feelings. When I finally saw Hillary’s softer side this week, to me it made her seem… maternal. I love my mom, and I received enormous affection from her when I was growing up. So I guess something in me adores middle-aged maternal women, and I saw it in Hillary in those two days.

And I thought, that’s the only thing Hillary had been missing: heart. She has experience, she’s tough-minded and practical, she knows how to deal with Congress — and on top of all that, she’s actually human after all.

I’d yell “You go, girl!” if it wasn’t such a cliché by now.

All of this started to fade yesterday to the point where I don’t know anymore. I’ve realized Obama isn’t an idealistic empty suit after all; it’s just that the messianic fervor around him turns me off and makes me wary. But Clinton isn’t a valueless Machiavellian; she really does want to make the world a better place.

I’m still leaning toward Clinton right now. But I reserve the right to change my mind again and again before February 5 — and I probably will.

7 thoughts on “Voting Decisions

  1. Let me avail myself of this opportunity to perhaps stir you up a little more. My choice– by default rather than outright enthusiasm– is John Edwards.

    I believe your Senator stands for dynastic opportunism that definitely is not what our country needs. She excels at the same prevarication that served her husband so successfully. When he saw that the prevailing winds were blowing Republican, he reinvented himself as more Republican than the Republicans. That’s probably why the Dittoheads hated him so much. Who knows what Hillary really stands for, other than becoming President? Her track record in the Senate isn’t encouraging, since she faithfully voted for the Iraq war and most of what the Bushies sent for rubber-stamping. I wouldn’t expect her to have balls, but she shows no evidence of ovaries either.

    Obama isn’t part of a dynasty, but his meager voting record in the Senate can only be called “white bread.” He also shows little evidence of balls, and has reliably delivered what the special interests ordered. That’s not what our country needs either.

    Edwards is lacking in “experience.” But he at least has the courage to speak out against the corporate hegemony over American society, and to call for a single-payer health scheme. That’s something neither Hilly nor Barry seem willing to do, presumably because they don’t want to offend their precious donors. If they do address those issues, it’s because Edwards forced them to. Edwards seems the best of a rather mediocre lot, standing out only somewhat from opponents distinguished only by their unconventional race or sex. And since I really do want a Democrat in the White House, I can’t help but question whether a woman or a “hapa-haole” could win election when so many parts of this country remain deeply racist and sexist.

    I’m old enough to have voted in seven primaries. With only one exception, I can’t recall ever voting *for* a candidate as opposed to voting *against* his opponents. Oddly enough, that one exception was John McCain in 2000 (I’m an independent in California, which then had a fully open primary). I thought he was the most qualified candidate at the time. Alas, since then he has mortgaged whatever soul he might have had and utterly bankrupted his credibility.

    I hope I haven’t cost you another therapy session.

  2. If you think your vote doesn’t count, just remember how close the last TWO presidential elections were.

    And I think Edwards would be the only reason I’d vote for a Republican President. How does that saying go – “A Tiger Doesn’t Change His Spots”? Edwards is a TRIAL LAWYER for Christ’s sake!

  3. “Yes, he was a trial lawyer… your point being what?”

    I can’t tell if you’re serious or just “hyperboling” me. So many political discussion on blogs turn ugly that I’m very wary. I found your email link and will use it.

  4. I’d like to suggest that you reconsider voting for Obama.

    Before all of the fervor, and the pressure of the campaign to appeal to all comers, I was a regular listener to his podcast. I was consistently impressed by his diplomatic intelligence. I won’t call him a Messiah, but his ability to reconcile both sides of a political issue and come up with a solution that works for everyone is something I haven’t seen in a politician in a long time.

    Like you, I don’t believe one charismatic person can fix things. In fact, I’m feeling more and more that the executive office should just be eliminated entirely. But since we have to have a President, I would like to have one, first and foremost, that will change the impressions of people around the world about our country and heal some of the huge rifts that have been created by Bush and Co. Think about it- a black man with an Islamic middle name becomes our President. How is that going to look to the Middle East, and Africa, and France for that matter? If Hillary becomes our President, it looks like more of the same, a continuing legacy of two families in the White House for 20 years.

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