Is There Therapy For Pragmatists Who Fear Political Commitment?


While I was burning out that spreadsheet for work, you may have noticed either on TV or on-line that John Edwards, the prettiest of Democratic pretty boys, has endorsed Barack Obama.

This isn’t really a big shock. While Edwards was playing it aloof it was always obvious that he hates Hillary. Earlier in the primary he was constantly attacking her in an effort to raise his stock only to be undercut by Obama’s charm offensive.

But when the news came down I was a little dead inside.

It was fun, I guess. And Obama and Edwards looked smashing together with their brains, good looks, Barack’s height and Edwards’ charming accent. It couldn’t be more perfect. But I can’t pump fake my own mind.

I’m not a true believer.

I’ve always struggled with good-hearted trust and belief. I didn’t believe in Santa Claus as a kid. I struggle with my own religious faith. And when my ex said he was going to New York to see an “old Marine buddy,” I knew he really meant “tramp I met on AOL.”

I’m not completely devoid of belief. I believe in love. I believe in loyalty, friendship and family. I believe in the potential of people, especially children.

I just don’t believe in political parties, pundits and politicians/prophets who offer me deliverance to the promise land. Just deliver me from bridges that collapse when I’m driving on them. OK? I don’t need my own personal, political Jesus.

I just can’t get all crazy in love for Obama and Edwards. I can get all “in like” with them. I can support them. I plan on voting for Obama in the general. But I can’t make like they’re Hannah Montana and Thriller Era Michael Jackson rolled into one.

When I look at the those crowds, those happy, screaming so hard they faint crowds I go … nope. Don’t feel it. Haven’t caught the presidential Holy Ghost. And much like when I was a teenager and would sit in church and feel nothing, wanting badly to feel what others felt I questioned my own pre-hardened heart:

Where did my childlike wonder go to die? Was it because I didn’t clap during Peter Pan and instead waited, morbidly, to see if that damn Tinkerbell would die? Is it because I never read “Dear God, It’s Me, Margaret?” I’m excited for history. I’m happy for Obama, but why haven’t I broken loose into a fit of Hope Fever? Or Hope Hives? Or Hope Avian Bird Flu?

What was wrong with me? Think, Snob! Think! Had someone sent my soul quail hunting with Dick Cheney?

I appreciate the historical aspect. I feel the pride. I feel the coming of a watershed moment. I just don’t feel … the other stuff.

Maybe it was Pat Buchanan, possibly my favorite of all the TV bigots, who summed up the feeling of the naysayers both black and white when he opined that while many want to believe America has grown up and is ready to sit at the adult table on race, on “Hardball” Wednesday, he bellowed a flat, hard, “Hell fucking no.”

I wish I could find the video because Chris Matthews tries desperately to get the bigot genie back into the bottle talking about how race isn’t an issue for his kids. How things are so different and how he wants to believe that America is a better place now. But Buchanan would not be silenced. Race IS an issue! He doth proclaimed. How could it be anything but? (It could, but let’s hear the bigot out …) Buchanan charged that all this “poor, white, working class” talk is code for dumb racist rednecks and the dumb racist rednecks know it, sir, and they are pissed.

He repeated the facts about West Virginia and rural Pennsylvania and rural everywhere that did not vote for Obama and he flung out that oft quoted stat that Obama was garnering more than 90 percent of the black vote. Part of that’s Hillary Clinton’s fault, but some of it is because some black people desperately want, need Obama to win. He is the manifestation of so many dreams deferred. Therefore the inverse might be true. For every blue collar white who is voting for Hillary because they liked her husband or liked her fighting spirit, there is a bevy of people simply voting against Obama.

As pointed out comically by Jon Stewart:

Ah. That was that other shoe I was waiting to hear drop.

Now ordinarily, I don’t care what racists think. But this is an election season, so it is worth acknowledging that maybe poor white people don’t like being called “dumb racists” by TV pundits just because they didn’t vote for Barack Obama. Even if some do hold prejudiced, racist views and are, quite likely, voting for Hillary Clinton because they can’t fathom picking and the man with the permanent tan.

As a pragmatist from Missouri I’m always sitting around going “show me. Show me why I should ignore all the static and wear the T-shirt.” I’m like a person with a pin pricking balloons going, “THE FACTS! LOOK AT THE FACTS, PEOPLE!” We’re dealing with politicians, not angels. Everyone has not advanced! Everyone hasn’t crossed the racial Rubicon!

That doesn’t mean you can’t love Obama, but prepare yourself for reality at least. Make sure it’s nice and cushiony when the world shows up and begins knocking us all on our asses.

Amongst the pundits who weren’t Patrick “The Mexicans Are Coming” Buchanan, there was this whole victorious delusion being bandied about that Edwards, who converted to populism after the Guy Smiley, go-along to get-along, routine didn’t work, could pull some of the “I don’t like Obama’s funny name” crowd. For heavens sake. A few months ago people were wondering if a videotape of Edwards fluffing his hair would hurt his POTUS chances.

These people are not voting for Barack. He could put Jesus Christ on the ticket and they would convert to Judaism. Or better, he could put Dale Earnhardt Jr. down as veep. It doesn’t matter. It would just make them hate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and give them another reason to bitch as to why “Lil’ E,” once again, is not living up to his father.

I’m not saying the endorsement means nothing. Edwards is well-liked among unions and all the people who were alr
eady voting for Obama. And I definitely preferred “angry” John Edwards over “nice” John Edwards. If he can keep the anger up, I’d like to see him take on a role where that madness might be worth something. Like attorney general. That would be awesome. But don’t put icing on a turd and tell me it’s cake!

Wait .. I know that last part sounded bad, but honestly. I’m working on the cynicism. Really. I’m seeing a therapist about it. I just lie back on the couch and he reads me policy figures and platitudes and whispers, “Believe! Let go of your fears. What could it hurt? Unclench your bowels. Give in! Relax, relate, release! Relax, relate, release!

I’m trying, dammit!

I want to see the mountain top. It’s just … this isn’t Malcolm going to Mecca. It’s a presidential race and I expect to be fucked. I don’t want to get all dressed up thinking this is true love and we’re going to be together forever and you really mean it, politicians. You really, really mean it this time when you say you’re going to fulfill that laundry list of promises that you proposed to me. That you will give me that big white house in the good part of Washington. And that is required of me is if I’d just shut up and put out already.

Washington is a whorehouse. No one should know this better than black people. We’ve been getting fucked there for years. Sometimes you can fight the system. Sometimes you can guilt the system. But the system wants you to put out a little first. Some have resisted and prevailed. But a cast of thousands found lying on your back to not as bad as you’d think.

I expect to be fucked here. Maybe you don’t know you’re going to a lobbyist/politician/news media orgy where everyone wears tuxedos and freebases off their own cynicism, but I’ve seen it in Wolf Blitzer’s eyes. Don’t let the monotone voice fool you. He wants blood.

That’s not to say there aren’t good people trying to clean up that orgy. That there aren’t folks screaming, “For Christ’s sake! Put on some pants!” A lot of people want to do good. Be good. Act good. And they do good. I just know that things are hard and complicated and often the only solution seems to be getting drunk and having unprotected sex with Halliburton.

Someday, I might clap to bring Tinkerbell back to life but last night was not the night. I wish the happy couple the best of luck as this did, successfully, knock Hillary’s unimportant, non-game changing win off the TV. And this will move some more goodwill in Obama’s direction. But it did not improve my orange alert level of “this could still blow up in our faces.”

So, I will wrap my jaded conscious up in a box and put it away, lest I completely blow everyone’s high. It’s just, I’m not saying that Obama and Edwards don’t look all fresh-faced and noble. And I don’t doubt that they want to do good. I’m just going in with my eyes wide open.

And my knees close together.

Now, if you don’t mind. I’m going to look for pictures of Michelle Obama in lovely outfits. It works almost as good as Xanax.

13 thoughts on “Is There Therapy For Pragmatists Who Fear Political Commitment?

  1. I don’t see edwards as a good VP choice. I honestly think he should go with Richardson, but if people are having this much trouble voting for a black guy, there is no way they are going to vote for a black guy and a hispanic on the same ticket.

  2. You know…I have a real hard time worrying about the “feelings” of West Virginians. Whose fault is it that they have so few higher educated people, such a low median income and still vote GOP? Hell 7 % of those folks didn’t know Edwards was NOT running anymore. Whose fault is it that they still think “whites take care of whites and blacks take care of blacks”. And boy did they love Hilary’s message about “gas holidays” and being “White and hard working”. I’m sorry but those folks have lived on prejudice for years. Now in a “global economy” they are an endangered species.They were lucky to be able to survive this long being so closed minded. Forget about my opinion of them, the facts about their demographics SHOULD have made them see the light decades ago. The Republicans don’t give a damn about the average West Virginian. Yet when times get tough, they don’t look for accountability in the rich white folks who made them empty promises time and time again…they say blame niggers, spics, gays. This country as a whole needs to quit the bullshit when it comes to it’s leaders. Our national allergy to anyone who candidates who can complete a complex sentence has cost us dearly. I don’t believe in soley attacking the weakest of us ala Bill Cosby, but in the case of WV I think the exit polling exposed most of their dirty little secrets.

  3. I agree with Tblack too but I also think this goes beyond fear of the educated – it is also about people’s need charismatic leadership which I think is maybe a sign of insecurity – not that I have all my stuff together! But national politics for TOO long in the US has been about the cult of personality and this stuff is happening in Europe too (where I live). I voted for and will vote for Obama in the general but I don’t have Obama fever either and EVERYONE I know has Obama fever (even the Europeans I know have Obama fever!) So I can feel weird for not having it either. But I am cool with it because I just don’t get wooed by anyone or anything. And when did that become odd? No one, and particularly not the president, is the messiah. But maybe that is something many of us can’t handle in such insecure times? I don’t know. This campaign drove me to read on a liberterian webmagazine yesterday because I was so disillusioned with the Democrats! The libertarians at that magazine are actually the most positive about Obama so I don’t think we should let West VA get us down 🙂 The Cato Institute is putting out what might be an interesting book called the Cult of the Presidency. Now I know nothing about the Cato Institute and but the article I read about the book seemed interesting but I am really skeptical about libertarianism and blame Hillary for pushing me to such corners of the Internets!On the race front I think it would be awesome to see a black first lady but I am not going to get down about it if it doesn’t happen – we are going to get ours. I have to admit I get a kick out of the idea of people that look like me being in the White House because Europeans in particular have this “Oh, life has been so hard for you poor black folk” attitude and I’d like them to see how far we have come. Not that life has been easy for black folk but I just don’t like pity!I am always impressed with your honesty, keep up the great writing!

  4. I like what “anonymous in Europe said”.BTW: The Cato Institute is a conservative think-tank in DC. It’s usually the conservative think-tanks that take the lead in denoucing something. It is then that the liberal groups then counter.I think what you said is crucial and substantive. It is terribly creepy where we are. We are giving Obama credit and personality for contributions and attributes he has not offered or rendered yet. I think his one saving grace is his probability to broker alliances with other countries in ways the US has not in decades. But as for really changing the country, the people have to change it. One man or woman can’t. People put all of their hopes in the religion of belief in one person when that one person needs people to move, shift, and also hold him or her accountable to reciprocated challenges.

  5. I never understood the whole “cult of personality” thing that people say surrounds Obama. I know people that will vote for him, and some who won’t, but no one I know or ever came in contact with thinks of him as a “messiah”. I would like to talk to one of these “Obama is savior” people because I have never met one. It seems a lot more like media hype than anything else. I think Obama is the best candidate this country has for president, but I never understood the whole “savior” thing.

  6. @dewfishThis is anon in Europe. I need to think of a name for myself! Maybe messiah is too strong of a word but I experience people gushing over Obama and looking confused and unresponsive when I say his policy positions are not that that different from Hillary’s. They then usually start talking about how they read his book and really connect with him and just like him. That’s the cult of personality part of it for me and like Andrea said I think it will hurt him because he needs support to get things done. I think he will be a much better president because he has shown he can build consensus and weather storms. Somebody blowing hot air only couldn’t do what he’s done. So I won’t say I like him (I don’t dislike him either though) but I am impressed by his interpersonal skills – not the charm – and that’s why I am voting for him. But like I said, I am not too crazy about his positions though. They are fine but I am just not excited about them. But we’ve had enough excitement. I am ready for 4 really boring, stabilizing years and I hope that’s what he does 🙂 And then he can get all innovative for his 2nd term. But anyway, I think you know more reasonable people than me then!

  7. I agree with you and understand you (because I have been there myself) on being unconvinced about Obama.I started out an Edwards supporter and once he dropped out I had to confront just what didn’t quite add up when it came to the idea of supporting Obama.For me it came to my own attitudes about a whole multitude of things, race, bigotry, the idea that some cracker was going to shoot him at some point, etc… that didn’t have a damn thing to do with the man’s positions.The problem was what was going on in my head.I came to support Obama and become excited at the prospect of his presidency because of his ideas and how he handles himself.I did research. I went to him website and read all his position papers and I read the critiques good and bad about those positions. I’ve listened carefully to what he’s said and how he’s responded to the GOP attacks against him.I think that’s the only and most appropriate place to start. Get to know the man’s mind and what he intends to do. Obama is not a blank slate. He is not an empty suit. There is so much information on the web about his views that frankly a intellectual person like you should have no problem coming to understand him on an intellectual level. It’s not all neo-revival meetings.Now, all that said, I’m not going to lie. Am I also happy at the prospect of having a black president. Hell yes! Am I also laughing at the racist fools who oppose him get angrier and angrier as he proves that he ain’t goin’ nowhere and he very well win this thing. Hell yes!WV did not discourage me. I believe in reaching out to everyone but I’m not either shocked or disappointed in the kind of bigotry we saw from some on Tuesday.I hate to say it but some folks just can’t be helped. They’re not only ignorant but proud of their ignorance. There are plenty of videos of those idiots on the web calling him a Manchurian candidate terrorist, having those views being corrected by whoever is interviewing them and still refusing to believe the truth.We need to go through a political triage in this country. Save those who can be saved and let the others go.I don’t think Obama is some mixed race messiah who will go through trials this campaign to account for this country’s sins.What I do think he represents is first a hell of a candidate and second a person who can force some needed conversations about bigotry in this country.

  8. Having committed to Obama early, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:I don’t need a Messiah – I got Jesus. But, I can’t accept Hillpatine.If the only things he does as President are rid us of The Imperial Presidency,and keep himself free of scandal – that whole role model issue – then that will be enough for me. I said that I believed my vote for him ultimately was for my mother and my 7 week old great-niece.

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