Well, I am no longer frustrated or bored, although I am still a little angry.
That has something to do with my own hopes for change in the United States of America. Although I have no doubts that our country is remarkably blest in its commitment to give everyone a voice, in its economic, health, educational and media achievements, and in its great victories won for religious liberty, women, blacks, labor folks and the poor, I have deep-seated worries about the path set by the last few administrations. Power, property and popularity have driven many of our communal and political decisions, but these goals are essentially divisive within our country and alienate us from most of the worlds nations.
It is not surprising, then, that the themes of change and hope stir in me the dream of another way of doing things. But those very words, if you could smear them in inkblots, are little more than a political Rorschach test.
When I look at the blot of hope I imagine a world less hostile, a nation less arrogant and a politics less calcified into ideology. I hope at least for reasoned conversation based on evidence rather than name-calling and screeds. I hope for a community of nations, the majority of which do not regard my country as the major threat to peace in the world.
And change? I would like a change on the life issues. Although I think the genetic evidence dictates that human life begins at fertilization, I think we could reach consensus that, once you have a unified organism with a beating heart, youve got a human being; and that only when that organism has shut down, do you have death. This would modify all our discussions on abortion and euthanasia. I think we could find a consensus concerning human dignity: not a dictate of the state, not legality as an immigrant, not innocence of crime, not being an American, but the fact that one is a member of the human family. This would modify all our discussions on capital punishment, universal health care, illegal immigration and the sea of humans dying in poverty.
The range of my hopes for change has newly engaged me in the present presidential campaign. These days, I am tempted to hope for true change.
But where, how, who?
If I were a Democrat, I would bemoan the fact that Biden, Dodd and Richardson were eliminated so early. They probably had the most experience, but maybe that was their problem. People do not want the old way of doing things. This is Hillary Clintons problem, the shackles of a dynasty and the rigidity of a party line anchoring her in the past. John Edwards, although a trial lawyer and former senator, at least has a populist message; but he is harsh and divisive.
That leaves Obama. He is, in some ways, as Bill Clintons sly innuendo puts it, a roll of the dice. But Obama does offer real change and real hope. He wants to change the habit of our relationships with each other and our relations with other nations. He ignites the hope that we might deal with our problems and differences in more civil, reasonable and virtuous ways.
If I were a Republican, Romney would appeal to me as a person grounded in his identity. His family is telling evidence of who he is, and his Mormonism is an asset. (Have you ever met a Mormon you did not respect and admire?) But he does not exhibit the moral vision I hope for.
Huckabee does. His Christian humanism, his take on the penal system (despite his support for capital punishment), his concern for illegal immigrants and the plight of the poor draw me as much to him as they repel some conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Fred Barnes and the editors of National Review. These issues, by the way, are the same that infuriate some conservatives in the case of John McCain.
McCain elicits my greatest trust among the Republican candidates. He is able to enter into coalition with opponents even Ted Kennedy on the burning issue of immigration. He is willing to lose an election on principle. He listens to the people: They want us to secure the borders before we give access to guest worker programs and citizenship. And he is willing to take a stand. Disagreeing with him on the Iraq war, I am with him on torture. So where am I?
The election might easily be overtaken by events. Disaster in Iraq or mad terrorist acts could swing the vote to McCain or Giuliani. An economic collapse might promote Edwards or Romney.
But right now, if I were left to choose between Obama and McCain, I could vote for either of them. Could you? If you are a Democrat, is there any Republican you could vote for? If you are a Republican, is there any Democrat?