Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Admit That It’s All Bullshit
The 2012 election will be the sixth presidential election of my lifetime, and the third one I’ve actually given a shit about. In 1992, I was barely sentient, having absolutely no idea that Bush had just lost, or that his son would eventually bring the world just shy of complete destruction. In 1996, I wanted Clinton to win, but only because my mom said he was better than the other guy. It’s kind of like how she roots for the Memphis Grizzlies even though she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about basketball. She knows I like them, and that’s that. 2000 was pretty much the same. I knew that the monkey-faced Republican who stole the election was a bad dude, but I had no clue why. Those years, I was just too young.
Then, in 2004, I started paying attention. Less out of a desire to understand where my country was headed, and more out of a desire to understand what Jon Stewart was talking about. I knew that Bush was evil, and the more time passed, the more I desperately wanted to see any Democrat take him down, no matter shitty they were in their own right. It’s hilarious to think of how naïve I was back then. Not only did I think John “Least Charismatic Human being In the History of Mankind” Kerry could be elected in a country that values whether you would enjoy getting shitfaced with a presidential hopeful above all else, I actually thought it would’ve mattered if he had gotten in. Admittedly, Katrina would’ve probably been less shitty under a theoretical Kerry administration, and maybe we get out of Iraq sooner, but other than that it would have been the same old shit. I didn’t understand that at age 14, however, and I was actually pretty bummed out when Bush won. I remember moping around for days, listening to my Replacements albums endlessly. Ironic, since I’m guessing Paul Westerberg is probably smart enough to know how fruitless American politics are.
Anyway, let’s move ahead to 2008. Now, I was probably one of very few people who thought Kerry would make a huge difference, but in 2008, everyone was wildly optimistic about Obama. The notion that he was different from anyone else was common among young people, and probably somewhat prevalent among older folks as well. Sure, it seems dumb in retrospect, but can you really blame us? We were pretty fatigued from Bush. He had fucked shit up so much that we started to wonder if we really did hate America, as the right so often claimed. We wanted someone who would quickly wash away the foul stench of the second Bush, and we figured Obama was perfect for the job. When he won, I distinctly remember getting absolutely shitfaced, and thinking it was the greatest thing I had ever witnessed.
Flash forward three and a half years. Obama has been just as underwhelming as The Beast predicted he would be, and now liberals have to ponder the question that Ian Murphy posed last week, of whether there’s a substantive difference between The Obama and The Romney. I guess the most logical reason to vote for Obama is that we don’t want to find out the hard way. At least we know what Obama does. He bends over for the Republicans over and over, and he uses drones just about everywhere possible. He also does the occasional good thing, like repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He’s been a bummer, but who the fuck knows what Romney can do?
And that’s where I find myself four and a half months before the election. Desperately trying to talk myself into what I hope is the lesser of two evils. I’ll probably be mildly happy if he wins, if only because I really can’t fucking stand Mitt Romney, but I’ll also know exactly what I’m getting; a lukewarm president who is capable of doing the right thing, but chooses not too, because just like everyone else, he goes where the money goes. Of course, some Democrats hold onto the notion that Obama might suddenly start doing revolutionary shit in his second term just because he doesn’t have to worry about being reelected, but come on, does that really seem likely to anyone with a functioning brain? Like Obama’s just gonna get in there and say, “Hey! Guess what everybody, I just legalized weed and gay marriage in all 50 states AND you all have health care!” It’s not 2008 anymore, folks. Let’s stop pretending that’s a realistic possibility.
So, after being an unrelenting optimist in the ’04 and ’08 elections, I’ve officially grown sour on everything. When I started college in 2008, I took a political science class with two dudes who were in their late 20s. One was liberal, one was conservative, and they both agreed that McCain and Obama were both dreadful. At that time, I loathed their cynicism. Now I’ve completely embraced it. My youthful optimism about the political process is completely out the door. Maybe someone can come along and get me excited again in 2016, but I’m not holding my breath.