Even though I think this presidential election is clearly between two opposing points of world-view, I find it hard to get caught up in the drama of it, as I have in the past. Maybe it’s my age. My generation has seen its share of pivotal elections—Stevenson v. Ike, Nixon v. Kennedy, Bush, Sr. v. Clinton, Gore v. Bush, Jr. Each time the zealots on both sides have predicted doom should the other side win. And if it were true, we are living in it. Maybe we are.
Certainly not much has been done about our changing weather environment. Locally, the river valley has endured increasing episodes of flooding of the kind only expected every 500 years since we have been living here. And Hurricane Sandy looks like it will be the largest most powerful storm to land on our part of the seaboard, ever.
On the other hand, eagles are our neighbors again after near extinction from the unbridled use of DDT in the ’60’s. The “silent spring” of Rachel Carson was averted by a thoughtful, passionate group of citizens and scientists and lawmakers. There are still dire environmental issues—the Pacific Ocean is awash in plastic debris, increasing levels of carbon emissions worldwide, unsafe water supplies and dwindling crops due to drought. The range of issues is staggering and can seem unending.
Social issues dominate this presidential election, for some. The Roe v Wade decision hangs in the balance of a teetering Supreme Court. The social safety net enacted during Roosevelt’s terms is threatened. The growth of corporate influence, strengthened under both Bush/Cheney and even Clinton and already too extensive, may expand or contract according to the outcome of this and future elections.
Still, some people vote for the president according to personal charm or prejudice. Or according to who has the nicest family, the preferred religion, the sharper wit, or best haberdasher. Political parties have been useful in the past to delineate issues and establish platforms with which voters can identify. Whoever wins this election (and I dearly hope someone actually wins it, clearly and honestly) will be dealing with a Congress deeply divided, a Congress that seems to be dedicated more to the good of the party than to the good of the country.
When I was young, we hid under desks to prepare for the blast of the A-bomb. Did anyone in charge really think that would protect us? Of course not. But they had to give us hope. Or else what? Would our parents have risen up in armed rebellion? Armed with what against a nuclear arsenal? The days of insurrection are behind us, as outdated as the Second Amendment in this age of nuclear terrorism, and that is probably a good thing. The only way people of conscience have to change things is with our vote. It is what the founders of our democracy hoped for. The change is not always a big change. It is not always global or accomplished in the four years of a presidency. That too is a good thing. Because even our chosen candidate will have his faults, his missteps and sometimes the other guy wins. But usually, it’s not the end of the world. Not yet.