Going Abroad, Thinking of Home: Personal Reflections about the Elections

I am off to Europe today, leaving the excitement of the elections with ambivalence.  On the one hand, I won’t be completely up to date and in touch with the latest developments and won’t be able to work for the re-election of the President. On the other hand, to be honest, I haven’t been working on the campaign this year, apart from occasional small contributions and apart from my clearly pro-Obama commentaries. I also must admit that being away, I hope, cuts down on my anxieties about the election results. This election is driving me crazy.

I have been trying to figure out why I am so tied up in knots about it, why it seems to me that the election is so important and why I am so invested in the results. After all, there is a chance that moderate Mitt, and not severely conservative Romney, is the alternative.

Moderate Mitt, perhaps, wouldn’t be so bad. Perhaps, he is honestly revealing himself as he has been rushing to the center in recent days, with the identical foreign policy to Obama’s, guaranteeing that the rich will pay their fair share and promising to work with Democrats in forging a bi-partisan approach to economic growth and fiscal responsibility. Proud of his great accomplishment in effectively insuring universal health insurance to Massachusetts residents, perhaps, I shouldn’t even worry about his pledge to repeal Obamacare on day one.

Then again perhaps not: there is no way of knowing what Romney will do, who he really is, and that scares me. And even scarier, are the people who support him and will make demands upon him. From the crazies who denounce the President as a post-colonial subversive, bent on destroying America, to The Tea Party activists, to the neo-conservative geo-political thinkers, to supply side economists, who imagine that austerity is the path to growth (as in Great Britain?), to those who want a small non-intrusive government on all issues except those concerning sexual orientation and women’s bodies, to all those who just want to “take America back.” I am far from sure that moderate Mitt could resist their pressures, while I am quite sure that severely conservative Governor Romney wouldn’t, and would be, in fact, at the front of the barricades.

On every policy issue, in comparison to the Republicans, I support the President.  Yet, that isn’t the reason for my passion or my anxiety. Rather, I think, it has to do with feeling at home, feeling comfortable in my country. Something I am thinking about as I get ready to leave for a while.

Obama’s election opened our country up. It was something I was privileged to observe and celebrate with my friends at the Theodore Young Community Center, a rich, diverse community, primarily African American. I fear that Romney and especially the forces around him seek to close my country down. I share these fears with many of my friends. Especially with Beverly McCoy, the receptionist at the center, her passion for Obama is unmatched. She recognizes a competitor in my wife Naomi, and the three of us have become very close friends, along with other friends at Theodore Young. Beverly is sure that the passionate opposition and hatred of the President is ultimately because of race. I can’t disagree. I hope my leftist friends, those quick to be critical of Obama, remember this on election day, and also when they get carried away declaring that there is no difference between Romney and Obama.

I am off to see these friends now. I am off for a swim before my taxi to the airport and flight to Paris to visit family. Then on to Rome, Warsaw and Gdansk to give lectures and take part in discussions about the politics of small things and media, and the elections and my most recent book, Reinventing Political Culture, which has just been translated into Polish. It should be an interesting trip.

Yesterday, Beverly and I agreed that we would meet after the elections and celebrate our friendship no matter what. She wants to tell the world that our friendship is thanks to Obama, but it will live whether “our guy” wins or not. But I do hope that when I come home I will feel comfortable. To that end, Naomi and I cast our absentee ballots two weeks ago.

  • susan rattray

    I really enjoy most of your articles, so thank you. Have a great trip and Christmas. My stomach is in knots as well. I have no idea who Romney is but I know this President and wish him all the luck in the world. There are too many crazies in this world and a lot of them surround Mitt Romney – scary thought.