Practicing my sacred democratic right

For months now, the low-slung Bulgemobile known as America has sputtered down the highway, blocking speedier traffic from passing.

The driver, an elderly man wearing a hat and peering through the steering wheel at the baffling traffic pattern before him, switched on his right-turn signal late last year and finally seems poised this election day to make the maneuver. The problem is, he’s turning right from the center lane, endangering himself and fellow motorists in his search for an idealized past, as symbolized by the abandoned Sears he’s pulling into.

Slowly, to the sound of honking horns and cursing onlookers, he hauls the full-size, gas-gulping behemoth off the main road. The car climbs a small curb, knocks down a shrub and a street sign, and comes to rest straddling the sidewalk. A pedestrian rushes over to the driver’s window to make sure the old man is okay.

“Get out of my face, Jose,” the man tells the young Hispanic who wanted to assist. “I don’t need your help. I think I know how to take my own country back.”

As I write this reflection on the democratic process, it’s Tuesday and the polls are still open. I know as many details about the predicted Republican rout today as I’ll know tomorrow. That’s because I plan to spend the next 24 hours (and possibly the next 24 months) with cotton stuffed in my ears, covered by a heavy canvas tarp, and humming loudly to block any incoming sounds. I already know the news is going to be bad; I’m not ready yet to hear how bad.

Like the conscientious citizen I am, I’ll still vote. On my way home from work this afternoon, I’ll swing by the local elementary school — likely to be closed and converted into a small business by the incoming Congress — to cast my ballot and make my voice heard. I’ll emerge moments later, proudly displaying a purple finger, not because we vote like a bunch of primitive Iraqis but because I always get my pinky bruised by a defective lever.

As I return to my car, I’ll remind myself that every vote counts, despite the busload of white Republicans from the nearby assisted living center unloading to cancel my Democratic choices a hundred times over.

I’ll vote for John Spratt, my district’s congressman for over 20 years. Spratt has been the only white Democratic representative from South Carolina for quite a while now, making him a highly endangered species. He’s lived in this area his entire life and knows its constituents and their needs intimately. At best, he’s moderate to conservative on the political spectrum, which makes him a wide-eyed radical who’d probably share one of those Snuggies-for-two with Nancy Pelosi in the view of his opponents. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, a member of the House leadership, and a man who works well with both sides of the aisle. In other words, he’s a loser. He’s widely expected to be defeated by Mick Mulvaney, a real estate developer who just recently moved to South Carolina so he could be closer to various disastrous land deals he’s managed.

I’ll vote for Vincent Sheheen, a Democrat, for governor. I don’t know much about Sheheen, except that he’s not his Republican opponent, Nikki Haley. Haley is the daughter of Indian parents, a member of the State House, a small business owner, and a sort of Sarah Palin for the South Asian set. Her conservative credentials are only slightly tarnished by the fact that her dry-cleaning business has largely failed under her mismanagement, so now she’s working as a fund-raiser for a hospital and receiving whopping campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. The married mother of two has also been accused by two Republican lobbyists of having had sex with them, though fidelity isn’t something we take too seriously in the South Carolina governor’s mansion.

I’ll even vote for Alvin Greene. Greene, you may recall, was the surprise winner of the S.C. Democratic Senate primary who defeated a veteran state legislator despite having no campaign, no website, no stump speech, and no clue as to what he had gotten himself into. He did have name recognition, however, as some have speculated he won in part because people thought they were voting for soul singer Al Green. Others have postulated he was a Republican plant, put up to run in an effort to embarrass Democrats. While his speaking style did reveal that he was indeed a plant (a type of hydrangea, according to botanists), an investigation revealed that he ran of his own volition. If you can call stumbling your way through TV interviews and wearing suits that are three sizes too large “running”.

Though he’ll doubtless lose to incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint (campaign slogan: “He brings da mint to da Tea Party”) by at least a 4-to-1 margin, Greene gets my vote because he truly reflects the average South Carolinian. He’s slow-witted, unemployed, an accused felon and his name is “Alvin,” traits shared by many of the fellow citizens he hopes to represent.

Other ballot questions don’t interest me quite as much as these high-profile races, though I’ll vote anyway. I’ll record a “nay” on the amendment to enshrine hunting and fishing into the state constitution as an innate right of all people in the state. I’ll vote against another three constitutional amendments as well, not because I understand them but because I can’t imagine our state officials proposing something that’s a good idea, at least not since that whole messy secession business a while back. I’ll vote for Bennie T. Copeland for the Soil and Water District Commission over opponent C.W. Senn, because I liked Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” better than I liked C.W. McCoy’s “Convoy”.

Eventually, I’ll check the news to see if 2010 represented a true Republican Revolution, or merely an evolution of the electorate’s political outlook (assuming “evolution” is still a word we can say). Maybe I’ll record the news on my DVR and play it back in super slo-mo, to draw out the dramatic tension of the gradual reveal, much like I do with critical field goal attempts in a close football game. Or maybe I’ll just wait to hear the jackboots in the streets as a signal that America has made a hard turn right.

We’re all going to be confronted with some new realities in the coming weeks and months. Whether or not we choose to meet them head on, or instead to retreat into a cocoon of ice cream, TVLand reruns and strong hallucinogenics, is the choice we have to make. It’s our right as Americans. Almost — but not quite — as sacred as voting.

I won't be swayed by the admittedly compelling arguments on campaign yard signs

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One Response to “Practicing my sacred democratic right”

  1. Stentorphone Says:

    Your metaphor of Uncle Sam driving a car was perfect.

    Your cynicism of the pathetic choices that were offered all over this country was fully justified and even a bit too restrained.

    I vote for ice cream, TVland reruns, and strong hallucinogenics, even in good times.

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