Although our fair state of Tennessee—and our own Knox County in particular—has been decidedly "red" in every electoral map for the past several decades' worth of elections, I'd like to deliver a small plea to you from the rest of the world: Please don't vote on Nov. 4.
I know—it's a lot to ask, but your country needs your inaction now more than ever. Just look what happened last time. And the time before that. Honestly, George W. Bush? Sure, maybe in 2000—the whole cowboy thing was kind of charming, and he made a lot of promises about compassion, reaching across the aisle, and bringing "integrity" back to the White House. But then to nominate and vote for him again in 2004... what were you thinking?
In case you're wondering why we're all so disappointed, let's go over some of the milestones from the past eight years:
• We invaded the wrong country, destroyed it, and then unleashed chaos. By plunging Iraq into a sectarian war that's impossible to control, we've destabilized the Middle East even further, sacrificed thousands of our sons and daughters, weakened our military, and become Al-Qaeda's biggest recruiter. We're also responsible for the gruesome deaths of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Need I mention that Iraq posed no real threat to us and had nothing to do with 9/11?
• We're in the middle (or is it just the beginning?) of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Somehow, our government decided that if we just looked the other way and let large corporations and Wall Street do what they want, they would magically not devote themselves to profiteering. Meanwhile, the Bush White House blew the budget surplus it inherited in 2000 (remember those awesome $300 checks we got in the mail instead?) and doubled our public debt to $10.5 trillion—the biggest ever.
• We entrusted some of our government's most important jobs and programs not to the most qualified people and companies available, but to GOP political cronies and hangers-on. That's why we've wasted billions on not rebuilding Iraq and failed to help the people of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their city. By limiting our public servants and contractors to Bush worshippers (and in fact giving them loyalty tests beforehand), our government didn't exactly hire the best and brightest. But it did keep GOP buddies employed.
• America is now infamous for its use of torture and disregarding the Geneva Conventions, with little to show for it except international condemnation. Suspending habeas corpus indefinitely for whomever Bush deems an "enemy combatant" hasn't been much of a success, either. Did you ever expect us to become one of those countries employing the brutal practices we used to decry?
And that's just the short list. We're really in a pickle now. The past eight years of Bush governance have left our country in a shambles. Even from a traditional Republican perspective, President Bush has pursued the exact opposite of "core conservative values" like fiscal responsibility, small government, personal rights, a strong military, and an aversion to nation-building. Instead, Bush's two terms will be remembered as a single-minded quest for power and profit that benefited the GOP and its corporate backers in the short term—while jeopardizing our nation's future. Although Republicans take pleasure in accusing Democrats of being elitist, they in fact have been practicing real-world elitism by hoarding power and money among a select few. Joe the Plumber need not apply.
So perhaps it would be a good idea to try someone with a different approach in the position of President of the United States of America. Our country deserves it. But I don't think Republicans can deliver it.
John McCain could have been the "maverick" to get the job done. Instead, after losing the 2000 Republican primary, he began embracing the party's far-right fringe, no doubt thinking that if it had worked for W., then it would work for him. In the succeeding years, he has mostly abandoned his independent thinking on many issues to march lock-step with George W. Bush. As he himself bragged before Bush became an albatross, "I've voted with the president over 90 percent of the time, higher than even a lot of my Republican colleagues." And, in the closing months of this election, his campaign has even cribbed from the Karl Rove playbook, using brazen character assassination, fear-mongering, and division (between a "real" America and an apparently fake one). Furthermore, his choice of Gov. Palin as running mate reflects exceedingly poor judgment; would she ever be required to take his place as president, it would constitute a threat to our national security. She is simply that unqualified for the position. Clearly, none of this is putting "Country First."
Barack Obama will indeed put our country first. We are facing crises on too many fronts to suffer self-serving politics; what we need now is someone with the intellectual vigor, strong moral sense, calm demeanor, and capacity to inspire that's required to take our nation forward. Obama is the right person at this low point in our history to undo the disastrous decisions of the past eight years and to mend our relations with the rest of the world. The policies he has outlined to deal with our national security, healthcare, the economy, and energy independence (among other issues) are more reasoned and reasonable than his opponent's. He has the ability to reconcile our differences and to deliver his initiatives without dividing us in the process. And on a personal level, during the length of this grueling campaign, he has demonstrated the tenacity, temperament, and sound judgment required to be our commander in chief.
So, Tennessee Republicans, I realize this will sound crazy, but I urge you to put aside partisan politics and do the right thing for our country at this dangerous juncture: Either stay home on election day, or swallow your pride and pull the lever for Barack Obama.