Crossposted at Clintonistas For Obama
This race has not disappointed us who are junkies for presidential politics. I am not going to review here all the twists and turns the primaries took. Neither will I rehearse even the surprises that have occurred during this astonishing general election campaign. But for those of us fascinated with the narrative of presidential politics, yesterday was not a day that let us down, and it is that to which I wish to address myself.
The Republican nominee for president has built his career on a premise of fastidiousness to principle even when it meant he had to step on the toes of his friends and party. For his willingness to do this, he garnered for himself the appellation maverick.
Yet his ambition to be president of the United States has so consumed him, he has been willing to lay aside every virtue that made him appealing during his long career in order to pander to a small but powerful segment of his party’s base. During the general election campaign, he has found himself up against a young and charismatic politician with broad and deep appeal during a time of great national crisis when circumstances in the crisis have favored his opponent. The things that have caused some in the nation to hesitate at the selection of the younger man are personal heritable characteristics, such as skin color, name, and rearing. Basely, and perhaps exposing some heretofore unrecognized corruption in his psyche, John McCain has sought to exploit unhealed wounds in the American spirit to gain the upper hand against Barack Obama. Unable to make a case against his opponent based on the great issues of the day, McCain crassly chose instead to make people aware and afraid of otherness in order to advance his personal aggrandizement.
Terrifyingly, McCain has come close to fanning the flame of the sort of hatred that fueled the Ku Klux Klan for more than a century; his behavior caused myriad observers of the race, observers in both parties, to fear the tenor of his campaign might lead to unthinkable violence. Moreover, McCain has fomented a narrative among his base to doubt the legitimacy of Obama’s election to the presidency, if in fact, this be the outcome of the election on November 4.
Part of McCain’s effort to exploit the ugly underside of American history was the cynical nomination of Sarah Palin to be vice president of the United States. Attractive, voluble, and energetic, the governor of Alaska on even cursory examination has proven unequal to the call she received. Her appeal to a section of the electorate most vulnerable to fear-mongering was apparent from the outset to those of us in the progressive movement. But her selection brought to the national campaign unresolved legal problems related to per diems, unpaid taxes, and abuses of power that have proven unwelcome distractions to the Republican ticket. Blinded by a lust for power, McCain rashly chose a running mate who has brought to his campaign a relentless string of problems.
Over a few hours on a Friday evening in the first third of the month of October, a mere few weeks before election day, the whole program became derailed. His poll numbers crashing and concern at the tenor of his campaign publicly voiced by honest brokers in his party, John McCain had to say that Americans had no reason to fear Barack Obama as president. Having abandoned the issues to Obama, the only thing that McCain had left was fear, but because fear as a tactic had raised the ugly specter of unthinkable violence, McCain was forced to retreat from the raison d’etre of his campaign, that is, that the embrace of change was too risky.
Even more astonishing, in the same several hours, a bipartisan committee of the Alaskan legislature composed of a majority of Republicans and a minority of Democrats, voted to issue a report that, like some petty despot, the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States, meanly did abuse her public trust to pursue a private vendetta. Let us make no mistake about this: presidents of the United States have been brought to trial in the Senate for removal from office for charges of lesser magnitude than the crime the report purports Palin has committed. As Gerald Ford famously said when he succeeded to office upon the resignation of Richard Nixon, “We are a government of laws, not men.” For justice to be served, Sarah Palin ought to be impeached for her actions, and if found guilty by the legislature of her state, she should be removed from her high office. That’s a fact, whether or not it occurs.
So there we have it. Who knows where this will end and what paths the tale will take to reach the last period of the last chapter, but there are in this story the makings of a Greek tragedy: a hero with an Achilles’s heal in his lust for power that caused him to eviscerate his legend to achieve his ambition, and if justice be served, in the end, neither to possess the prize for which he compromised himself nor the legend for which he congratulated himself.