Necromancy and Election 2004
A few days ago, I was thinking about great presidents and the current election, mostly by way of contrast. Arguably the best Republican president was Abraham Lincoln. He showed tremendous strength in our nation's darkest hour. The obvious choice between Lincoln and Bush is the one printed on a five-dollar bill, right? Well…except for that whole thing about Abe being dead for the last century… But the Constitution doesn't specifically prohibit Undead-Americans or people with massive cerebral trauma!
The real case against voting for zombies is not strictly constitutional. (Whoops! I just lost the Libertarian's interest.) The reason you don't vote for the restless dead is that they do not share a common sense of the present. The events that shape our current understanding and how the candidate responds to them are what we are voting on, when we decide to vote honestly. Abraham Lincoln did not experience September 11th, 2001 and did not change because of it. Although Lincoln's administration was formed in a crucible and came out strong, the strength required then is different than what is required today. Lincoln had an ineffective staff and mediocre military commanders to overcome on a daily basis. Today there is an abundance of extremely qualified staff and superb military commanders. Today the President faces different challenges, and acknowledging that difference is the crucial step to not voting for a memory.
Morbid grief is a common reaction to stressful change. Those stories of kooky aunts obsessing about dead husbands are classic examples of morbid grief. Living in a world of attractive memories is strongly tempting for people with limited prospects. Due to a combination of factors, the people of the United States have are very likely to engage in morbid grief. Victim culture is one manifestation of this pathology. Trial lawyers prey upon this cultural illness, and now it has become the dominant theme of one of our presidential candidates. Not surprisingly, this candidate represents the interests of the Trial lawyer lobby. While it might seem far-fetched to claim that we are on the cusp of becoming a nation of kooky aunts, the lack of a meaningful agenda by a campaign makes it difficult to distinguish a convention from a giant séance.
Electoral necromancy is not the answer to this year's decision, however tempting it might seem to the desperate. We need a President who is alive and in the present, however tawdry and confusing that moment is. The pace of change in the world demands a capacity to learn from the past, bury it, and move forward. Our nation is in a fight, and that fight is not the Civil War, the Second World War, or even Vietnam. Overcoming the siren call of dead ideals with integrity is a constant challenge and the key standard we must judge our President on in this time of change.
If George W. Bush has anything to recommend him, it is that his Vietnam-era service is not so distinguished that he must dwell on it. George W. Bush has shown at least some adaptability when it comes to burying dead ideals, alliances, and policies. If there were other candidates who had shown better commitment to the process of living, I would vote for them. Regrettably, the only other candidates cannot shake off the dead hand of the past.