A Second Chance

One of the more minor recurring themes of this podcast (yeah, I know - I got nothin' yet) is politics, U.S. and Canada, because as a dual citizen, I'm eligible to vote in both countries. As I explained in Description 26, I vote in the U.S elections I can vote in because of my family and friends in the States, and for non-U.S. citizens who wish they had some say in choosing American leaders because some of what those leaders do affects the world.

I heard from more than a few of the latter in the last several months, and especially in the last few days leading up to "Super Tuesday", a day that had many U.S. states holding primaries for the Republican and Democratic parties. To review, primaries are basically votes on a hundred different levels in a hundred different ways to pick whom each state's delegates are going to vote for in party conventions, and it's usually as lame and confusing as that sounds. Certainly I'd never voted in a primary before. But this election year is of course different, which is one reason why foreigners who usually couldn't care less have gotten swept up. The same is true for Americans themselves, including me.

And so, when I found out Democrats Abroad, an association of people like me without U.S. residency but with U.S. citizenship and voting privileges (yes, there's a Republicans Abroad too), was going to have a "Global Primary", with delegates and everything, I went for it.

A few days ago I got a ballot number and a PIN in my email with an exclusive link to the online voting. People can vote online, by fax, snail mail, or even in person at one of a couple places here in town. I put that in present tense because the primary started yesterday but doesn't end until next Tuesday. I put it in my calendar to vote today, the day after Super Tuesday.

Although I don't think this primary will be very significant in the grand scheme of things, that hasn't stopped me from agonizing about who would get my vote. For months, when I bothered to think about it, I bounced around mentally among Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. In any other year, if each of them was running on his/her own, each would easily get my vote against whomever-else. But here they were running against each other. A perfect circumstance for the phrase "an embarrassment of riches". For a while, I was leaning toward Edwards, because he had so well-refined his ideas and plans regarding domestic poverty over the past few years (when he last ran) and was speaking in the most practical terms. But the media started paying less attention to the "token white guy" and momentum rolled away from him. Finally, he bowed out.

So here I was with Obama and Clinton, Clinton and Obama. Back and forth, over and over in my head, week to week, day to day, and today, hour to hour, minute to minute. If you follow me on twitter, no doubt you got sick of my vacillations. I did too.

The question really boiled down to this: who will accomplish more great things: someone who long ago went in with great dreams and passion, fought and tried but had more losses than wins? Or someone who has great dreams now, not knowing who or what will need to be fought, and not caring because the dreams and passion will win the day? Both are such tempting scenarios.

In Description 14, I ruminated over the concept of the "Philosopher King", at a time I was thinking about Michael Ignatieff sort of like people now are thinking about Barack Obama. Okay, maybe not quite like that, but despite their differences (like in charisma), we still have the romantic idea of the person who comes from atypical experience, out of political nowhere, to sweep through the old musty halls of power and make everything all right with the power of his ideals. Americans like to associate that sort of thing with John and Bobby Kennedy, and they still can because they died before they could screw much up. Canadians like to do that with Pierre Trudeau, although not as much since he lived a long full life well after he did screw some things up. Trudeau was really a special case - to crib some of Obama's words, he accomplished as much as he did because he had as much audacity as he had hope, and that was a lot.

Since RFK was killed the year I was born, I did not feel the hope around those Philosopher Kings. I did have Jimmy Carter, a man of great thought and ideals who proceeded to run through a buzzsaw of politics and circumstance for four years. It was only after that could he really accomplish great things, and he has. And then there was Bill Clinton, with his capable wife at his side, very much on the team. I remember when I was back home in exile in 1992 and we voted him in, and I could hardly believe it. Could things really be different? Is the U.S. truly entering an age of enlightenment?

Kinda, but not really. The buzzsaw would grind on, and many of his actions only sharpened the blades. As soon as he backed down on "don't-ask-don't-tell", my heart sank. As much hope as he had, his audacity would mostly be reserved for the wrong things. Still, like Jimmy Carter, he came out the other side to accomplish a lot of good. His wife, however, chose to do some more time with that buzzsaw. And here she is now, telling us it'll take a ton of work to deconstruct that buzzsaw bit by bit, screw by screw. :-)

Back and forth I would go. Does Hillary have too many connections, or Barack have too few? Does Hillary's aggressive health care plan trump Barack's aggressive plans to get out of Iraq? A better understanding of different genders or a better understanding of different cultures and races? Back and forth, back and forth.

I took my own Trudeau-esque Walk In the Snow. And I came back with this: if a Philosopher Ruler is actually given another chance, what would happen? She could screw up again, which is just as likely as the new guy running into that buzzsaw for the first time. But I've seen new guys run into buzzsaws before. That second chance? Never. What would happen?

So I came back, clicked on that Global Primary link, entered my ballot number and my PIN, and voted for Hillary Clinton.

STILL I go back and forth. My comparisons are messy, am I misdirecting my trust, etc. But that's where I was at the moment, and that's all a voter can go with. And believe me, after the primaries and the conventions, whoever is on the Democratic side on that ballot in November, there will be no hesitation.

(Note: if you're like me, a U.S. citizen living abroad, please go to VoteFromAbroad.org and find out how you can vote in the U.S. elections in November.)

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