Monday, November 5, 2012

My Endorsement

I will cast my vote for Mitt Romney tomorrow. I will make the joyless slog from the Short Pump elementary school parking lot through the partisans handing out sample ballots on the sidewalks. I will check in at the A-H table and smile at the white-haired lady after she finds my name in her registrar’s book. The thought will enter my mind,…when the baby boomer generation has to be depended upon to provide these election day volunteers, will there be enough of us who can be bothered? I will enter the booth and follow the instructions carefully. It will surprise me, but my heart will begin to beat faster, my soul’s way of telling me that in the grand history of civilization, what I am doing is rare… precious. The first vote will be for President, then there will be the Senate contest between George Allen and Tim Kaine. I will vote for neither man, so disgusted as I have been with this Hobson’s choice. I can either give George Allen another shot, who promises if elected to do all the things he never bothered to do the last time he was in the Senate, or I can reward a career rubber stamper like Tim Kaine, whose one claim to fame is that he balanced the budget as governor, something all previous Virginia governors have also done since our state constitution requires it. Then I will proceed to the Congressional race between Eric Cantor and William Powell. Again, I will refrain from rewarding either one of these mental midgets, Powell being an untested party hack, and Cantor being thoroughly tested and found utterly incapable of an original thought. Then there will probably be several ballot initiatives that no one knows anything about, a couple of paragraphs of government-speak asking the citizenry to give local town councils the authority to paint every third house red in the event of a nuclear accident, or some such thing. Then I will exit the booth and pick up my “I Voted” sticker from the nice Rotarian volunteer beneath the exit sign of the gymnasium.

This will be my 9th Presidential vote. My first was as an 18 year old when I proudly pulled the lever for James Earl (Jimmy) Carter. I remember that my hands were shaking. I remember thinking, now, I am a man. With each successive vote, my hands have shaken less. The event loses a shade of its romance with each exercise, becoming less and less noble, more and more civic duty. Part of this is my fault. Cynicism has eaten away at the great expectation of possibility that should always accompany the democratic process. I have wrongly held politicians to a standard of consistency and statesmanship that I have not been able to achieve in my own life. I expect politicians to askew self interest while I merrily look out for number one in most of my endeavors.

The tipping point was 2000. Bush v. Gore. Hanging chads. Battalions of lawyers. Ugly accusations of cheating, collusion, and the visceral hatred on the faces in the crowds in Palm Beach County. Ever since, election day has brought with it a sadness for me. The ideological battles have shrunk from principled to grubby. Bad faith is the coin of the realm. Instead of proudly backing a champion, I vote for the guy least likely to fiddle while Rome burns, the candidate who embarrasses me less, the guy who insults my intelligence less frequently, the one less likely to drive us all off a cliff.

Then I will go to work, and forget about the whole thing for a few hours. After dinner, I’ll watch the returns. My guy might win. The other guy probably will win. As soon as a winner is declared, I will move on. No balloons will drop from the ceiling of my house. No confetti will be flying. And I will be silently annoyed every day that I still see campaign signs in the median.