This campaign has me feeling as though I’m totally schitzo. I’m a two-headed monster. No – double that. It’s not merely Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sitting on my shoulders, battling each other for my head, my heart, and my vote. There’s also a second war raging within my own head and heart. It’s me versus me, and I’m guessing Hillary is struggling with much the same conflict. It’s tearing her campaign and her public persona from stem to stern, and it’s leaving me feeling as overloaded as the Coen brothers at the end of Oscar night.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem able to decide which Hillary she wants to be. Neither do I – about her or about myself. The media in the last few weeks has covered her mainly from the “can this campaign be saved” standpoint. What should she do to reverse what appears to be an increasingly inevitable pro-Obama trend? Should she go negative or positive? Swords or olive branches? In one venue she’s reaching out to shake his hand, noting how honored she is to share the stage with him. In another she’s shaking a fistful of papers at him like some strident school-marm and hollering “shame on you, Barack Obama!” As of the Democratic Debate in Cleveland, Ms. Congeniality returns, with measured arguments and renewed gentility. He’s consistent. She’s up and down and sideways. It’s making me a bit seasick.
I don’t know which way to go, either, Madame Senator. I think I can sense that fire roaring in your gut, the indignation over what you’ve witnessed over the past seven-and-some miserable years. The progress you and your husband achieved amid great adversity during his presidency has been turned on its head by the arrogant, deceitful wrecking crew that stampeded in after the two of you left the White House. And now, you’re seeing the Invincibility Cloak you wore a year ago rendered thread-bare. I can guess how earnestly you believe that you have the ultimate skills to bring to the ultimate job, and how you yearn to contribute them. You genuinely want to do good. It must be awfully hard to take the high road, especially when so many of those surrounding you must be telling you to go scorched-earth. Most of the time any more, I want to go that way, too. To borrow from your spouse – I feel your pain.
What the battering of the Bush regime has left me with is a deep, roiling anger. It actually goes farther back than that. I’ve watched since the Reagan era as the Republican juggernaut has gained momentum and gradually shifted the tectonic plates of American politics for the worse. We’ve been shoved, as a nation, farther toward the strident, the negative, the combative, the hostile, the regressive, the in-yer-face. Perhaps that’s why Hillary’s fiery campaign persona seems to be so off-putting. Maybe in a small way it’s symptomatic of what ails our nation on a larger scale. As a liberal, the viewpoint I hold so dear has been painted with poison, demonized and marginalized – for far too long by now. Newt Gingrich’s little book of words and phrases that he handed out to all his GOPAC pals during the ’80’s in order to win the language wars and manipulate public perception has done its job alright. It’s gone way beyond vilifying my political party to the point of repackaging ME, too, as a bad guy. Gingrich and his friends didn’t have me in mind, certainly, but the effect has been the same. I’ve watched the devolution, and I’ve taken it very personally.
I want to hit back and hit back hard. I want to hit so far below the belt that even Larry Flynt can’t find the nether-regions. I want to be the Princess of Punishment against every individual who steered us down into this national sinkhole, and all their well-meaning but thoroughly gullible and misguided followers – the “19-percenters” who reliably fall for the fear and smear, year after year. But that’s the hurt speaking. At this point, we Democrats should be about conciliation and healing. I recognize that in my higher self. So why do I want to keep with the brickbats? To see them suffer as I have suffered, over the derelict direction the arch-conservatives have taken us? To force-feed them a taste of their own medicine so they’ll learn how it feels to be on the receiving end? And would that make any difference?
Hard to say. But I know what SHOULD happen.
Perhaps this really is the dawn of a whole new era – OUR “Morning in America,” when we begin to pull our tortured nation out of the muck of fear, lies, and inner torment. The organized ugliness we’ve endured for so long has to stop. We Democrats aren’t supposed to be cloning it in our own image and likeness – especially when we seem so adept at proving we’re not as good at it as the Republicans are. At this point, I don’t think going negative will help Clinton win many converts, nor will it help us as liberals and Democrats if we stay at each other’s throats. Perhaps it’s time to take a cue from the way Obama is gaining ground as the heat turns up. He keeps his head, almost a zen master as he blocks, bobs, weaves, and deflects Clinton’s every incoming jab. I wish I could do that, get over myself and my yearning to lash out and seek revenge. I hope we Democrats can do so as a collective, particularly as we move through the rest of this very key year. We have to remember that Hillary is NOT the enemy, nor are her true believers. Rather, the adversary is the GOP ticket we’ll face once we settle on our own nominees.
It’ll take me awhile to get beyond the emotional battery I’ve felt under the “leadership” of the Bush regime and its armies of scheming enablers, wrongdoers and character assassins. They’ve rendered us all walking wounded, and boy, would a large part of me ever love to return the favor. We need the best of both our two chieftains – Hillary AND Barack – and everybody behind both of them to win back the White House not simply for the Democratic Party but for all the rest of us, not just the pirates, the corporatists, the corner-cutters, the cronies, the extremists, the have-alreadys, and the have-mores.
My higher self is still working on taking full command for the sake of this greater gain. I’ll be wrestling with this long after we Dems stop wrestling with each other.