So here’s that non-Misfits headline I promised. I’m going to be at the Ft. Leavenworth counterinsurgency conference next week, which means I’ll be spending the election day amongst representatives of the rising generation of defense theorist-practitioners. That means many things — including, I hope, at least one really good installment of "The Rise Of The Counterinsurgents" — but one of them is I had to either vote early or absentee or not at all. So off to 1 Judiciary Square I went.
Long line, there aren’t enough electronic voting machines to meet demand, blah blah, skip to the end. The end is that I don’t honestly know whether I think this election is more important than 2004. It’s easy to forget how overwhelmingly important it was to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. No one knows what would have happened, but the response to Katrina would have been different; we would likely be on our way out of Iraq right now; there would have been no evisceration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; no U.S. attorneys would have been fired for being insufficiently Republican; the response to the collapse of the subprime housing market would have been different — and on and on. The best thing you can say about the past four years is that we managed not to experience another civil war, and instead only got bogged down in someone else’s. It would be disingenuous to say that I was a big John Kerry fan, but I felt the need to make John Kerry president more acutely than I feel the need to make Barack Obama president.
Or do I? The catastrophe is ever greater today because of Bush’s reelection and the dangers of McCain. If there’s a different feel this time, it’s because I’ve never voted for someone who I thought could actually transform the country in a way agreeable to me. The promise of Barack Obama is the promise of a progressive America, sails untrimmed, proud and strong and forthright, and as banal as it is to say this, hope is just so unfamiliar to me. All my muscle memory has is opposition — digging my heels into the ground and squaring my shoulders and trying to make it stop. I have never believed in a politician the way I believe in Barack Obama. It’s funny the way the conservatives mock liberals for believing in Obama, given their enduring apotheosis of Ronald Reagan and the fact that National Review used to sell a $20 book compiling speeches of George W. Bush that are available for free on the White House website. Maybe it’s projection — they need to believe, and can’t quite fathom how gloomy, transaction-inured progressives have finally found their champion. And I’d further guess it’s partially because they can’t abide the idea that the country at large could love the first black president.
So I can’t honestly say I’ve never been prouder to cast a ballot in my life, and I can’t honestly say I’ve never wanted an election to go my way more than I do now, and I can’t honestly say I feel like the stakes have never been higher. But I know that right now, if we throw everything we have into what we know is right, we will force the long arc of the universe to bend more sharply toward justice. And that never stops being our utmost obligation.