Well, the election is over. I feel kind of like how I do after a test: regardless of what the outcome ends up being, I'm just glad to be through with it. It's done, and now all that's left is to deal with the consequences. That offers its own set of challenges, for sure, especially in a time as important as this one, but at least there's no more anxiety over who will win. Then again, I've kind of figured for at least a month that Obama would win, and I would have been really surprised if McCain had, so I guess I was already resigned to that outcome. On top of that, my feeling that things wouldn't be particularly better under either of them compared to the other, when all is said and done, adds to my sense of complacency, so I'm not really surprised or aggravated by the outcome. That's definitely not to say that I'm happy with it, but it's happened now, and it was pretty much inevitable, so why be aggravated?
However, something is still bugging me about what I've witnessed. I think the biggest issue I have with the whole election is the disdain and cynicism coming from both sides, directed towards the opposing side. Some people are dumb, that's true. Maybe they deserve disdain and cynicism, but that doesn't make it okay for us to dish it out. And certainly not everyone deserves it just because they're on the other side. But the “throw your hands up in the air and shake your head” sorts of responses that so many people have–the rants against those morons for the so obviously uninformed, uneducated, gullibility-driven votes–really don't sit well with me. There is fanaticism on both sides, for sure. Obama fanatics seem to be all 100% gung-ho for Obama–big surprise there. McCain fanatics, on the other hand, usually seem to be 100% against the “Obama cult”, rather than 100% gung-ho for McCain. The direction of a passion is markedly different between the two groups. This is probably because Obama tends to draw the idealistic crowd, and so people who don't fall into that category are by definition “realists,” which make them much more inclined to being bitter and cynical by comparison.
However justified these stereotypical emotions may be, I really think that bitterness, disdain, and cynicism are uncalled for, unhealthy, damaging emotions in any situation, and especially one that puts you at odds with literally half the country. Those feelings tend to redefine any opposing (or even slightly different) viewpoints into a category that could be labeled “ignorant,” “idiotic,” or “evil,” or anything in between, when the reality is that the opposing viewpoints often have many aspects that are worth hearing. Lots of people voted for Obama because that was the conclusion they came to after plenty of careful thought and consideration. They aren't ignorant, idiotic, or evil. They have a different perspective, a different understanding of the world, and different priorities. While I would agree that some of these things are wrong from a moral standpoint (a pro-abortion stance, for instance), not all of them are.
You or I might think that Obama's proposed tax changes are a bad idea, and we'd have good reasons for that belief. But that doesn't mean there are NO good reasons to be in favor the tax increases–depending on your station in life, they could be very beneficial to you. Similar arguments could be made for foreign policy issues, or the health care system, or even the dramatic pro-abortion perspective he has. People who don't see abortion as murder find his emphatically pro-choice views to be a refreshing change, and a definite positive reason to vote for him. Again, it doesn't mean they're idiots–it only means that they don't think abortion is murder. If I thought the same thing, I might be gung-ho for Obama right along with them. It would only be logical, based on that viewpoint. But I (thankfully) don't believe that, and I am not pro-Obama. However, I don't hold it against those people that they voted for him. I only disagree with their worldview.
If this election prompts any desire to take action in us, it should be to address that root cause of what we see to be the problem: talk to people about their worldview, find out why they believe that way, and communicate the truth to them at every opportunity. At the same time, remember that it isn't up to us to change them–only to present the truth. Of course, this really requires us to be intimately familiar with our own worldview, and also pretty darn sure that our own is in line with truth, which is its own immense challenge. But that, I think, is the right response. Not cynicism. It's okay to think that people who disagree with us are wrong, and that they should change their viewpoint. I'm not advocating pure tolerance, or relativism. I'm only saying that the focus should be on communicating truth, not on just how inept everyone else is because they don't understand our interpretation of truth.
So, you might ask, who did I vote for, if I'm not pro-Obama? Well, obviously, the other choice would be McCain. But I'm not pro-McCain either. I wrote in Ron Paul. I have no issues with telling anyone. I knew he wasn't going to win, yes. It was only recently that his name in the write-in field became one what would be officially counted. But of all of the candidates, Ron Paul was the only one that I could actually put my name next to. He has an incredibly outstanding and consistent record, true to honest Conservative principles, Republican in the classic sense, not like what the party has become. I agreed with him wholeheartedly on nearly every aspect of his platform, back in the primary election. His policies would have made a significant positive difference, and so I voted for him.
I have come to the conclusion that people only vote in two ways (if they put any thought into it, and don't resort to flipping a coin). They either vote conscientiously, or pragmatically. People of one persuasion often vehemently disagree with the other persuasion. “How can you vote for someone you know won't win?!” or “How can you vote for someone you disagree with?!” There are arguments to be made on both sides. The most solid, clearly stated argument that I've heard recently for the pragmatic view came from my fiancee, who asked “Given only two effectively possible outcomes, knowing that one of them is absolutely going to win, why would you not vote for whichever one you would rather have win?” By this same perspective, a vote for a third party candidate is equivalent to a vote for the person you would not rather have win. I can accept this argument; it's logical. But it doesn't solve the problem that drives people to vote conscientiously, namely: their conscience.
Now, I'm not saying that people who vote pragmatically are immoral, or that their consciences don't work, or anything like that. I don't think it's right to judge someone based on this particular decision. People (the very same people, in fact, across multiple elections) seem to base this conscience vs. pragmatism choice on how much they deem to be at stake. I think this measurement is directed by what their conscience is telling them, but that's beside the point. For example, living in California, I personally had no doubt whatsoever that my state would go to Obama regardless of my vote. This freedom (if you can call it that) allowed me to vote for exactly who I most wanted to, without fear of possibly changing the outcome of the election. I felt that very little was at stake. As another side note, I think if everyone took this approach to voting, elections would be a whole lot more interesting. But anyway.
My fiancee, on the other hand, lives in Virginia–a traditionally Republican state that was showing a lot of signs of tipping over into Democratic territory. This was a very real concern for them, and as it happened, the state did in fact go blue by the end of the night. It wasn't by an enormous margin, either. She felt that a lot was at stake, and therefore, despite not agreeing with McCain on everything, she voted for him because she considered him the lesser of two evils–the pragmatic approach. If I had to vote in the same state, I'm not totally sure what I would have done, honestly. I can't stand Obama's domestic policy and pro-choice views, and I can't stand McCain's foreign policy and neo-conservatism. Abortion kills millions of innocent children. War kills hundreds of thousands of civilians (at least, this war has). Obama's power over abortion is actually rather limited. McCain's control over war, after the last eight years of executive abuse of power, is actually just about limitless, and he would be commander-in-chief over the entire U.S. armed forces. That's a frightening prospect. Yes, this is a bit of an oversimplification over the abortion/war comparison, I realize that. Both are horrific. The fact remains that I really can't stand behind either major candidate, and I probably wouldn't have voted for either even if I had been in VA.
Did you vote for someone I didn't? I can understand that. Did you vote against someone you didn't want, instead of for someone you did want? I can understand that too. You aren't an idiot because of it, and I'm not going to pretend my decision was inherently better than yours. But at least now you know where I stand.
I knew I'd have a political post one of these days. This was it.