Four years ago I announced I would be voting for Barack Obama for President, the first Democrat I voted for in quite some time. The decision had nothing whatsoever to do with politics or policies. It had even less to do with programs or a worldview. But it had everything to do with a cultural event. I viewed the election of a black president as a great step forward out of the festering pool of racism that is a virulent, still unspoken legacy of American history. I viewed his election, I believe I said at the time, as a "cultural signpost." A marker along the highway of our history. It wasn't going to change the idea of race or automatically improve racial relations in this country (some people change, but the only real cure for bigots is that they will eventually get old and die). I didn't view it as an instant panacea or celebrate how it is a New Era and everything will be different now.
My argument back then wasn't that there would now be a magic wand curing all the ills that lay deep in the hearts of white America. Or that this was the pinnacle of a crusade to change the country for the better forever. My argument was that this had to happen in order to continue our national evolution, to improve our veracity when we say we stand for freedom; a sometimes questionable mantra.
But that's not the issue any more. The reason I'm endorsing Barack Obama for re-election comes down to a little thing called intellectual curiosity.
Intellectual curiosity is an endangered thing in the world. If you consider yourself a conservative, you may have even snickered when you read the words "intellectual curiosity," because those aren't words real men use.
But the truth is that "intellectual curiosity" is put in danger by religious zealots. It is put at risk by media-personality hatchet men like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Hannity, and O'Reilly, who build cult followings of people who just nod and agree. It is put in jeopardy by people who manufacture shit and throw it against a wall and walk away, not caring what sticks and what doesn't. Intellectual curiosity is endangered by being suspicious of education. Intellectual curiosity is endangered by engineering specious facts when the truth doesn't suit your purposes. It is endangered by the kind of twisted logic that says that liberalism = fascism, a crank the liberals in America have allowed conservative bullshit artists to get away with without challenge. God knoweth how.
The fact that the Right has spent every minute and every dollar possible in lying about Obama, continuously throwing shit against the wall - even ridiculous shit - and being happy with anything that sticks there, no matter if it is the truth or not, is proof to me just how soulless the Right has become. And I lament that because I used to think of myself as part of the Old Right. But I wouldn't want to be anywhere near that these days.
There is, in fact, an anti-intellectual bent in what screeds out from the Right. Even though at times it provides the Republican candidate with millions of dollars more than the President is getting, and is certain that liberals are, quite plainly, trying to destroy the country, it somehow manages to maintain a pathological fear of some nameless "elite" that runs the country from some hidden liberal bastion in the Evil East. And why, exactly, those who control the country would want to destroy it is cognitive dissonance at its most oblique. It frets about where to hide its guns. It champions congressmen who shout that the President is a liar before the entire world with complete impunity, and not even so much as a rebuke. It has no idea the country they live in was meant to be secular so that religious freedom is guaranteed. It imagines whole swaths of the country awash in voter fraud. It believes there are 35 terrorist training camps right here in America, being protected by the ACLU. The health care bill has created some sort of Kafkaesque panel of faceless communists who decide who lives and who dies. Diplomacy is weakness. Compromise is surrender. Teachers are the enemy. Unions are un-American. The President is a secret Muslim with no birth certificate. And to make matters worse, they've even changed the spelling of the word "moron."
A lack of intellectual curiosity stifles science. It stifles art. It locks an entire culture - or tries to lock it - into some 1890's idyll or a 1950's innocence (neither of which actually existed, in history). It puts Creationism in the schools on an equal footing with actual science.
All that said, I can't think of anything off the top of my head that President Obama has done that I can easily get on board with. The health care bill doesn't go far enough. The drone attacks have gone way beyond what I personally thought was reasonable. And the continuation and enhancement of surveillance that began with President Bush's Patriot Act makes me dubious about how our leaders see the constitution.
And a good part of me thinks that if Governor Romney is elected there won't be that much changed. He was put in this position by the part of the GOP that wishes the Tea Party would just go away. And he'll spend his term(s) explaining why they can't get what they want.
But I'm not casting my vote in the name of either Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney.
I'm voting for some semblance of reason, rather than shrill whining, and in opposition to the dumbing-down of America which - to my way of thinking - certainly appears to be the actual agenda of conservative America.
A stupid electorate is easily swayed by shit on a wall. And if that is the Republican grand strategy, I'm voting to stop it.