Commonplace (Election Day)

“The prevailing American superstitions are: one, there is a Supreme Being, omnipotent and benevolent; two, some sexual predilections are more natural than others; and three, there is no class system in the United States. No one who denies any of these things can be elected to high office.”

 –George Scialabba, “Civic Virtues: Gore Vidal’s Selected Essays

“I didn’t vote again until 1976, when I was nineteen and legally
registered. Because I was at college out of state, I sent my ballot
through the mail. The choice that year was between Jimmy Carter and
Gerald Ford. Most of my friends were going for Carter, but, as an art
major, I identified myself as a maverick. “That means an original,” I
told my roommate. “Someone who lets the chips fall where they may.”
Because I made my own rules and didn’t give a damn what anyone else
thought of them, I decided to write in the name of Jerry Brown, who, it
was rumored, liked to smoke pot. This was an issue very close to my
heart—too close, obviously, as it amounted to a complete waste. Still,
though, it taught me a valuable lesson: calling yourself a maverick is
a sure sign that you’re not one.”

–David Sedaris, “Undecided

“Has there ever been an election that some people didn’t
narcissistically proclaim the most important in their lifetimes?
Perhaps, but such episodes are evidently so rare that they never get
recorded. Consider, if you will, the 1924 contest between President
Calvin Coolidge (Republican) and challenger John W. Davis (Democrat).
Would the Jazz Age have turned out much differently if Davis had won
instead of Coolidge? Few historians have lost sleep over the question.
Yet Joseph Levenson, a New York Republican leader, announced that year,
“I look upon the coming election as the most important in the history
of this country since the Civil War.” 

–Christopher Clausen, “The Most Important Election in History

“George Orwell said something once about how the end of democracy is
heralded by millionaires leading dishwashers; what’s unexpected for me
is the extent to which the Republican party in the new millennium has
not only convinced the blue-collar to vote against its own
self-interests by waging class warfare against liberals, but also begun
to turn against the intellectuals in its own party. ‘Georgetown
cocktail party’ conservatives are now painted with the same broad
brushstroke as ‘Latte-sipping’ lefties–and this idea of abandoning the
middle class takes on the onus of not just money and privilege, but
education and eloquence as well. The logical end-point of wanting a
President as ill-read, venal, and feckless as your alcoholic born-again
Uncle Festus is a figure like Governor Sarah Palin, whose chief
qualification appears to be her ability to blend into your local
chapter of Oprah’s Fan Club without a ripple. Hate, division, ugly
innuendo, and racism: sowing fear and reaping the political benefits
until the house falls down.”

–Walter Chaw, in a review of Oliver Stone’s W.

And, finally, who I’m voting for…

“I’ve spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in [Philadelphia] from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

“I’ve spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

“I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past eight years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I’ve continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people’s hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

“They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don’t know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.”

—Bruce Springsteen, at a voter registration rally in Philadelphia, 4 October 2008

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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3 Responses to Commonplace (Election Day)

  1. Wax Banks says:

    My God, what a speech from Springsteen. Worthy of the man he’s speaking for. Wonderful!
    I voted this morning at 8:30am or so and haven’t stopped smiling since then. I feel like I’ve done something right for the kids I hope someday to raise. Maybe the first right thing.
    Yes!

  2. The Springsteen rally speech is indeed masterful. I voted on my lunch break–not much of a line, unfortunately–but I still haven’t gotten the smiles yet. My eternal political pessimism is in full force…

  3. Lo says:

    I was already back in love with Bruce over Your Own Worst Enemy, but this speech is just perfect. What a good day.

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