As I write, monster storm Sandra plows its way towards its projected target. In like manner, our rancorous politics will soon funnel into Election Day. I wish I could say November 6 will, like refreshing rain, bring our national rancor to its close, but I know better, and so do you.
Whatever the result, our ills are likely to continue and may even worsen: a sluggish economy; soaring deficits; the shrapnel of sequestration in January. Abroad, a tiltering Europe; an Arab Spring gone wrong; the progressive materializing of Iranian nuclear capability. Perhaps we should lament the winner’s fate.
As it stands right now, I’m not tethered to either candidate. Both have proven themselves masters of solipsism masquerading as wisdom. Not wanting to be manipulated by party interests, I registered as an independent several years ago. Wary of the dangers inherent in political partisanship, I found unanticipated support one day in coming upon George Washington’s remarkably visionary Farewell Address (1796), warning of the destructive capacity of political parties to vest themselves in parochial partisanship rather than the national interest:.
It [party faction] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of ;party passions.
My father was a life-long Democrat, despite admiring Teddy Roosevelt. I think he’d have liked Reagan as well had he lived, though probably wouldn’t have voted for him. I married into a family much the same way, for whom “Republican” probably came close to a dirty word. And obviously there are Republicans who have never opted to vote Democratic. All of this just tells me how much we’re shackled by the culture we’re embedded into, beginning with family, rather than filtering the debris through that best teacher, experience.
Political rancor isn’t anything new, of course, but then you’d think in the digital age we’d have our wits about us and not fall prey to demonization and snake oil promises.
In closing, let me quote another distinguished American, Walt Whitman, on the corruptive legacy of partisanship:
America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the perfect equality of the States, the ever-overarching American Ideas, it behooves you to convey yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators, but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them” (Democratic Vistas, 1870).
And that’s why I’m an Independent. I’m just not going to drink the snake oil!