After a prolonged legal debacle like the 2000 election, I suppose it's only natural for the media 'story' this time around to be about how divided we are as a nation. But, as Megan McArdle rightly points out on Instapundit.com today, a little historical perspective makes the differences seem a little less impressive. Yet Time this week ran with a dramatic editorial printed right on the cover moaning about the stakes being 'higher than we could ever imagine'. A man tried to run Katherine Harris down in his car in FL just now, and he becomes the perfect poster boy for the Divided Nation by screaming "I was exercising my political expression!" at the cops who arrested him. In an incident that would have normally been reduced to a late night episode of Cops, we now have an election internet meme already making the rounds.
As usual with overwrought conceits like this, this one falls apart almost the instant you begin to study the logic behind it. Let's start with the painfully obvious: of course this is a divided nation. That's kind of the whole point of a two party democracy. If one side only had enough support to make a 30% appearance at the polls we would really be talking about a de facto one-party state, with a token opposition party. This is the part of the American political experience that truly perplexes me. After only a couple of hundred years on the geopolitical block, we all seem to have forgotten that we fought very hard to have this rather poetic two-party government that keeps itself in check by remaining in a state of gridlock the majority of the time. It is an inherently conservative process, which is what I love about it. Things change slowly, and only after much gnashing of the teeth and compromise, so that in the end you get a watered-down bureacratic action that couldn't really harm a flea. It makes us a slow-moving beast, which isn't always good during times of conflict, which is why it is necessary to put the reins in the President's hands during times of war. We all have rather fresh memories of how this process works, unfortunately.
But if you listen to the vocal fringes of both sides, what we really need in this country is a lot less of that other side. You know, the guys that stifle us, attempt to use their power to keep us silent, claim to be fighting for the average American when in actuality they are only in it for themselves. Those guys. Take your pick, either side fits the bill.
After four years of soul-searching, a lot of reading, and some rather vivid arguing with friends and loved ones, I have emerged from this election cycle a new man. For the first time in my life on Nov. 2 I will be able to stand up as a fully-informed American citizen and pull the lever (or whatever the hell we're going to do this year) for the man I think would be the better choice to lead this country. As a proud independent, it will be an even more fulfilling feeling to know that it took me a while to get to this point. I genuinely didn't know who I was going to vote for just a few months ago, and it was the electric, abrasive coverage of the elections that helped me make up my mind. What on earth could be wrong with that?
The man in the picture above is from Taiwan, where they were having a discussion about a US arms agreement in their parliament. Things got a little testy, and they all started throwing their lunch at each other. The man above is in the process of literally throwing the book at someone. There's something encouraging about the passion pumping through these men's veins when dealing with the weighty issues of their government. I think a little dose of it here in the States might be just the thing we need to prime us for the difficult journey ahead.