The creeping sense of letdown

This feeling has been creeping up on me in recent weeks, and it’s just emerged into my consciousness in the last days. I hesitated to mention it, and it seems particularly inappropriate given the fact that people are turning out in droves to vote, but…

The election has been a real letdown for me. And I didn’t expect that.

Remember back in January, when I said that if our two endorsees for the major party nominations both made it to the November ballot, it would be a win-win proposition for the country? Well, I did say it, and I meant it. But somehow, between then and now, my enthusiasm has just dissipated, like air slowly but steadily leaking from a balloon.

Part of this is just due to the fact that I was never going to enjoy the general election campaign as much as I did the primaries, nor would I appreciate these two candidates as much as party standard-bearers. They were SO much more appealing as insurgents — McCain running and prevailing against all the diehard GOPpers, over their vehement protests, and doing it even after his candidacy was declared dead. Obama running as the alternative to continuing the vicious, pointless partisanship of the Clinton-Bush years. But the climax of this drama seems to have occurred when they triumphed over their parties’ orthodoxies. Nothing has seemed that fun or that inspiring since then.

McCain picking Sarah Palin to please the base was bad, but Obama leading the charge of the crowd pretending that John McCain was some sort of incarnation of George W. Bush was, if anything, worse. All of it was dispiriting. I first noted that during the Democratic Convention; and while there were moments in McCain’s acceptance speech where he was almost the guy he needed to be to keep me applauding, he fell short of the mark.

Beyond those factors, three things contributed to my present political ennui:

  1. McCain utterly failing to put his best foot — or even his second-best foot — forward. Every time he opened his mouth, I kept hoping he would explain clearly, in a way undecided voters couldn’t miss, why he was the guy. I still thought he was the guy myself, but it would have been nice if he had helped others see it. It’s like he was going through the motions ever since he upstaged himself with the Palin selection. This is a weird and unfair thing to say, but… you know those appearances he did on SNL Saturday and Monday nights? He was game, and I give him that, but… he just fell flat. It wasn’t funny. No, he’s not a professional comedian, but he can be funny — one moment when he was his old self, but I think too few people saw it, was at the Alfred E. Smith dinner. He was hilarious. His timing, and his feel for his audience was impeccable. But the SNL appearances were a letdown. Blame the writing if you will, but it was sort of symbolic to me of the way he generally failed to connect throughout the fall. Sometimes you click; sometimes you don’t. Yeah, I know that seems stupid, but what I’m trying to say is that he no more clicked as a presidential candidate during these weeks than he did on SNL. If you don’t know what I mean, go back and watch the debates. He was saying the right things, but not clicking. As I mentioned in a previous post, our endorsement was about his record, not about what we saw in the campaign. I’d endorse him again given the chance, but next time I would hope he’d help himself out more.
  2. That shouldn’t have mattered given the "win-win" situation I had predicted back in January. With one guy faltering, that left us with Obama. But I found myself less and less enchanted with him as the campaign wore on. He, unlike McCain, never missed a step. He was on his game at every moment of every day, with a steadiness and discipline that seemed superhuman. That wasn’t the problem. The one real up-side I saw to the future, contemplating the future with a President Obama, was that he has consistently shown such stellar abilities with the intangibles of leadership, from his general unflappability to his rhetorical talents. The problem was that I started paying more attention to what he actually had to say about some issues, and started doing so in a more critical fashion, as I pondered our upcoming endorsement. And, as I’ve said in recent days, I got really, really disturbed about some of the things he said, because they were SO off-the-shelf, liberal Democratic dogmatic. (Ironically, the debates had a big impact on me here — even as I was disappointed at McCain’s political skills on those occasions, I became more and more disturbed by precisely what Obama was saying so smoothly.) Before, I had just accepted that he and I wouldn’t agree on abortion, for instance — something I had to accept in backing Joe Lieberman or practically any other Democrat. But then I started peeling the layers, and each new layer worried me more. First, his lack of concern for the moral value of the unborn seemed to go beyond most Democrats, and I just started fully noticing that near the end. Then there was his unwillingness to consider judicial candidates who didn’t agree with him on the issue. Then there was his equating the nebulous "right to privacy" with the right to free speech. Then there was his utter dismissal of the rights or duties of the political branches to decide such issues with that "state referendums" nonsense. Then I saw similar patterns on free trade, and there was a disturbing willingness to be doctrinaire on Big Labor’s agenda, not a transformative figure at all. Combine that with the inevitability of bigger Democratic majorities, and instead of a post-partisan president, you’ve got textbook Democrat, and that set us up for more partisan warfare in the coming years, not less.
  3. Finally, there was the staggering economic news of the last couple of months. On a pure electoral plane, this as much as anything is what has delivered the election to Obama. But I gotta tell you, I sure wish I could be as sanguine as the Obamaniacs are about his ability to lead us through this. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think McCain could, either. It’s just that I have seen little to make me think Obama has a better idea of how to approach this. I wasn’t kidding when I said, several weeks back, that what we need is another FDR. And neither of these guys fills the bill, the way I see it. This factor has done as much as anything else to grind down my enthusiasm, day after day. Did you see the lead story in The Wall Street Journal today? That’s our reality, folks. I really, really hope that the Obama supporters are right and I’m wrong, and he WILL have what it takes to lead us to turn back the tide. But I remain worried.

Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe this is just physical exhaustion. Maybe it’s the wild ride of the past two years, all the excitement — all the fun we’ve had here on the blog, for that matter, with page views now essentially double the year before. And so on pure adrenaline, I’m due for a letdown. But I think it’s more than that.

In the last few weeks, I’ve said a bunch of times that I looked forward to this being over. But I just realized today that I won’t feel that way at all. Instead, I fear, the letdown will be complete rather than merely imminent, and I’ve just come to realize that. No, not because "my guy" lost the presidential election. It’s more because I thought it was win-win, and then I realized that it wasn’t, and that whoever won, we were going to have a mess that we still have to get through. The economy will still be a mess. We’ll still have the same problems with Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China… and ourselves. We won’t even be poised to solve our health care crisis, because even with a bigger Democratic majority and a liberal Democrat in the White House, no one will say "single-payer." The irony of that is palpable to me. (We’ll get the BAD stuff of liberal Democratic ideology — the activist judges, the intimidation of unwilling workers into unions, trade isolationism, and the like — without a National Health Plan. Sheesh.)

Basically, I realized fully, on an emotional level, that neither McCain nor Obama was going to deliver us from all that. And once the election is over, we no longer have the luxury of pretending that they might do so. So I think that’s why I’m down.

Sorry to rain on the parade. Y’all go ahead and have a nice time, though …

26 thoughts on “The creeping sense of letdown

  1. KP

    I agree on all points. I ended up voting for McCain but never wanted to. And Obama’s doctrinaire liberalism is disturbing. We’ll have buyer’s remorse no matter what happens. Probably as early as tomorrow.
    Maybe Obama will be better than we expect, though, when he wakes up and realizes that he has inherited a real mess of trouble. Maybe his presidency will be more nuanced than his candidacy.

  2. Brad Warthen

    I hope so. I sure do wish President Obama the best. For the nation to succeed, he has to succeed. I just wish I had a better feeling about it at this point, the way I did earlier.

  3. Sometimes Reader

    Don’t take it personally. Ronald Reagan could have come back from the dead and couldn’t have squelched Barack Obama’s momentum. It’s just a freak storm — Freedom!
    No need to pout. Unless you have money on this thing. Gambling never appealed to me, being a tightwad and all.

  4. Ozzie

    But we saw it coming, didn’t we? There is just too much frustration out there in the electorate, from a long war in Iraq to CEOs grabbing the golden parachute where too many folks, such as my parents, lose most of their retirement. Regardless of who is really to blame, or how extensive the problems are–we know where the buck stops.

  5. Barchibald T Barlow

    How does Obama represent freedom specifically? Which of his policies represents freedom?

  6. Lee Muller

    The last thing Barack Obama represents if freedom.
    He has spent his live surrounded by communists.
    I do have money riding on this election. Lots of money.
    So do the rest of you, if you work in the private sector and expect to retire on your own money and leave something to your children. Obama and many other Democrats plan to take that money from you.
    Even before the Democrat bank bailout which double the deficit for 2008, government was growing at a rate of 13.8 percent a year, in an economy that is growing at 2.8 percent, this year, and as an average since 1993.
    That divergence of rampant spending from mediocre economic growth cannot continue very long without dire economic consequences. Obama and the socialist ideologues around him are sitting on a powder keg, and lack the knowledge, experience, and judgement to make the right decision. They will most likely destroy this positive economic growth with the same sort of taxes and trade barriers which sent us into the Great Depression.
    What is needed to solve all the economic and social problems, most of which are economic, like medical costs, involve abolishing the socialist relics of FDR. Instead, we have a bunch of delusional ideologues who think they are set on Earth to complete the socialist revolution begun by FDR. They are 180 degrees out of phase with reality, and with history.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Lee reminds me of a woman I once worked with, in the newsroom of The Jackson Sun.
    Just before the 1976 election, we got into a discussion of the candidates. And she said she was supporting Gerald Ford. That was fine, I thought — President Ford was a fine fella. I much preferred Jimmy Carter, but not because I had anything against Ford, and it seemed reasonable for someone to support him.
    But then she told me the REASON she supported Ford, and I was appalled. She said she and her husband had sat down and figured out what their taxes would be under Ford and under Carter. How on Earth they thought they could do that with any accuracy still amazes me, but set that aside — the point was, they had decided that their taxes would be $1,000 a year higher under Carter. So she was supporting Ford. My jaw dropped. I was flabbergasted. I did not know what to say to her. I could not believe that anyone would a) decide such as important thing as who should be president on the basis of something so small and narrow and petty and personal, rather than on their reckoning of what would be best for the nation and the world, and b) I couldn’t believe anyone who DID make such a shameful calculation would admit it to another soul. Yet she thought it the most natural thing in the world.
    Yes, I sound ridiculously naive, and I’m tempted to protest that I was very young and leave it at that. But as much as I’ve been battered by the reality that many (perhaps even most) people vote their self-interest, and many are unashamed of the fact, it still shocks and appalls me. I can’t imagine making such a calculation. So it is that I was shocked by Reagan’s “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?” and Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid,” and similar instances of betting on the voters’ cupidity. Including all that nonsense about Joe the Plumber, as well as the stuff about those “bitter” members of the working class.
    I’m still hopelessly naive, I suppose. But I continue to believe that there’s no point in this system of ours if we don’t look to the greater good in our electoral choices.

  8. p.m.

    “Of course, if Obama had been running against Ronald Reagan, I would have voted for Obama. But let’s not change the subject.”
    Wow, Brad. Reagan remade the world, but you want a community organizer.
    McCain is a gnat in comparison to Reagan.
    No wonder you work in Columbia.

  9. Lee Muller

    Brad Warthen,
    How many times have you said you supported Obama because you want him to pay your medical insurance with someone else’s wealth?
    You dare to criticize those who expect to keep the money they earned.
    The crowd celebrating Obama was just like the youngsters and deluded middle income whites I remember celebrating Jimmy Carter in 1976. Most of them live off their parents or a government check. They don’t understand the economy and don’t care, because they want to escape economic responsibility.
    In 1976, a wealthy commodities trader told me he was voting for Carter. Incredulous, I asked why. He said, “Because he is a childish fool, who will quickly finish using inflation begun by LBJ, to wreck the economy. He is predictable in that respect, and I will invest in metals and make far more money that he will tax away from me.”
    Cynical, yes. Correct, yes.

  10. bud

    Lee reminds me of a woman I once worked with, in the newsroom of The Jackson Sun.
    But then she told me the REASON she supported Ford, and I was appalled. She said she and her husband had sat down and figured out what their taxes would be under Ford and under Carter.
    Lee reminds you of a woman who is trying to stretch her family budget to try and make ends meet? Here is someone making a rational assessment of how her choice of president will affect her and her family and you suggest this reminds you of someone as idiotic as Lee Muller and his mindless rants about socialism and birth certificates!!! You need to loosen up that bow tie I think it’s choking off oxygen to your brain.

  11. Lee Muller

    Obama was raised and mentored by communists, and campaigned on a message of socialist wealth transfers to his slobbering followers.
    The reason most of them support Obama is because they expect to get someone else’s money.
    And Obama has never produced his birth certificate, so we don’t know where he was born. The doctored Photoshop JPEG file on his website is no substitute for the real document. If he had one, why does he hide it?

  12. p.m.

    Bud, “reminds me of” doesn’t necessarily mean “is a lot like.”
    Besides, Lee’s diatribes aren’t idiotic or mindless. They’re usually reasoned, unlike your pronouncements, which typically offer no chain of proof.
    But congratulations! Not only did your candidate win, but you managed a post without misspelling a multisyllabic word.
    Perhaps Obama is the one after all.

  13. bud

    Is Obama “The One” or “That One”. One things for sure, when he goes places it will be in “Airforce One”.

  14. Sometimes Reader

    Poll in today’s “The Jackson Sun”
    Were you surprised to learn that an alleged plan to kill blacks and assassinate Barack Obama was hatched in rural West Tennessee?
    Yes X
    Will be more surprised to learn it didn’t REALLY hatch here.

  15. Bill

    Brad, I came to the blog to contribute something in retaliation to your endorsing John McCain. But after reading most contributors above, I see no need to do so. But let me say two things: One, it was a big disappointment when you did not back Obama, as I thought you’d finally ‘seen the light’. Secondly, I think you are guilty of Reagan idolatry. He unleashed a form of nationalism coupled with subtle racism that still permeates #and ruined# a generation. I remember well that his first campaign stop was Philadelphia, Mississippi. He later cried faux tears at every flag-waving event he could conjure up. He was such a good actor!
    So Brad, why don’t you join the 21st century, then seek another profession. Else, The State will become The State-Observer, headquartered in Charlotte, that enlightened city to the north, due to cancelled subscriptions.

  16. p.m.

    Just as soon as you put flowers on Reagan’s grave, Sometimes.
    And, bud, Air Force One is three words, not two.
    It’s looking like public school has done nothing that last 30 years but indoctrinate potential Democrats.

  17. p.m.

    Gee, Bill, Brad hated Reagan and still does. I’m the one who thinks Reagan was the best president since Lincoln. Brad idolizes McCain.
    What blog have you been reading?

  18. Capital A

    If you idolize Reagan, then you obviously have no idea how his policies directly led to the creation of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and our current economic crisis.
    Still waitin’ on tricklin! Or maybe for p.m.s., those Reaganomics have produced a steady flow…despite not doing so for the majority of Americans…ever.
    If you idolize Reagan, you were rich enough to benefit from his policies or so young that you’re still drunk on the heavy dose of lionizing that poured from his funeral.
    Whatever the case, there is a little “blog” called history that you’re free to read and that will back up my assessment. Where Reagan is concerned, there is a song from that general time period that is entirely applicable: Don’t Believe the Hype!

  19. Lee Muller

    Democrats voted with Reagan to fund arming the Afghan guerrillas fighting the Soviet Army.
    Democrats voted with Reagan to give just enough funding to Iraq for them to stop Iran’s attempts to conquer Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the oil baronies.
    Those were realpolitik choices that paid off very well. Unfortunately, they left two bad guys on the loose, who refused to settle down, especially when Clinton armed the Muslims in Bosnia, and then ran from Al Quaeda’s attacks in Kenya, Yemen, and the World Trade Center.
    Democrats voted overwhelmingly in 1998 for the president “to remove Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction by any means possible.”
    Clinton made a half-hearted effort at Iraq, and not effort to capture Bin Laden.
    Voters rejected Al Gore.
    President Bush had to finish the job.

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