December 20, 2007 on 3:12 am

There was a certain election. In it, the incumbent debated the challenger on national television. It wasn’t pretty. Ill-prepared and never at ease, the incumbent was unresponsive to many of the questions, and oblivious to counterpoint opportunities. The incumbent not being my preferred candidate, this was just fine with me.

During an interview following, however, my pleasure was greatly diminished. One of the President’s top advisors, “Pat” for our purposes, opened with enthusiastic praise for the incumbent’s performance, speaking the party line forcefully and with greater effect and accuracy than had the incumbent. In responding to specific questions, Pat spun and bent the incumbent’s words to confer what should have been said but had been fumbled. Twisting in my chair with every spin and bend, I finally rose in frustration, my arms thrust forward at the screen, “How can you possibly say that? What debate were you watching, for heaven’s sake?”

This soon passed, however, and my frustration gave way in part to a sense of compassion. Here was a top tier administration official, one whose parents and children were no doubt watching, forced by circumstance to praise and promote a second rate performance, even a weak one. Poor thing, I thought, imagine having to do THAT for a living. YECH! As I turned off the TV, the counsel of an elderly neighbor came to mind: “Never vote, young man,” she said. “It only encourages them.”

But we must vote, of course, and on this thought I felt the labor of my mind trudging through the debate and the spin. Can enlightenment be depressing? That was certainly where I saw myself headed. I was going to figure out something. I could feel it. I was going to come to an understanding of the forces of fact and sense pressing from different sides on a highly complex issue of national importance. But, I sensed, it was not going to be a “YES!” moment. No, it was going to be more like an “I guess so…” And this is how it came out: Is it in the country’s interest that an election for the President of the United States be determined by one candidate having a bad hair day in a nationally televised debate?

The answer has to be “No.” Had Pat in fact spoke the obvious, that the President had lost the debate, the election may well have been over that night. Now, I’m not suggesting that Pat nobly reached deep inside and took one for the country. No, not at all. Pat’s motives, not to mention enthusiasm, were clearly partisan. But in the coincident interest of the election, a bullet had to be bitten and Pat bit it. To have done otherwise would have been a disservice to the process and, in course, to the nation. If not depressing, then, this particular enlightenment was certainly uninspiring.

I was soon, however, to come to another enlightenment, a new level of personal awareness, one with which I found great comfort, and it was this: I could not have done what Pat did short of being threatened with the murder of a loved one. For good or ill, my strengths are not to be found in partisan politics. By nature or nurture, I am disinclined to party structures. I see politics primarily in the context of the issues and the candidates, not through the lens of a party. Increasingly inclined to express myself on political matters, having come to this understanding and awareness of where I fit politically has been highly empowering.

I am an Independent.


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