Pre-Election Rant-A-Day 5: Stop Yelling and Say Something!

Blogger’s Note: The Rant-A-Day blitzkrieg continues. Check the past few days to see what’s got me going.

I have a hard time voting. I love the concept. I love the sense of civic duty, the solemnity of the retiree election judges. I love having voted, and watching the returns roll in. But I’m a visceral guy — I trust my gut, and it doesn’t respond well to well-oiled answers and million-dollar smiles. So the voting booth often feels like a trap.

If you’ve been reading these rants, you may be thinking that I lean to the right, politically speaking. That’s true enough — although I voted for candidates from four different political parties in the 2008 election, I’m getting progressively more conservative (see what I did there?). My good friend Jinglebob, whose Dennis Ranch blog is to the right of here (literally and politically), once told me, “If you’re not liberal when you’re young, you’ve got no passion…and if you’re not conservative when you get older, you’ve got no sense.”

Not long after that, another friend described me as an “old soul.” There you have it. Storm’s comin’…feel it in my knees…

So yeah, I lean right. The only thing that keeps me from tipping over completely is that it seems like too many Republicans have forgotten that there is a conservative intellectual tradition* that is deeper than the handful of talking points they’ve memorized, and actually could be employed to change minds and solve problems. (Yes, that’s right: you can be a conservative intellectual; they just don’t give you a talk show.) The folks on the Left like to describe the Democrats as the Party of Ideas and the Republicans as the Party of No. I think they’re half right on both counts — I see the two as the Party of Bad Ideas and the Party of No Ideas. I often disagree with our Democratic candidates’ approach to issues, but the Republicans rarely get specific enough for me to make an informed judgment about their approach.

I guess I’m supposed to trust that we’re like-minded, provided the candidates are minded at all.

And this year in Minnesota, politicians and newspapers of all stripes are endorsing the Independence Party candidate, who, according to the Dems, is a once and future Republican in disguise, and according to the Republicans, is only Right relatively speaking, insofar as he is right of the Left. He seems completely rational, has a balanced approach to every issue, and appears to be personally principled and professionally pragmatic. Perfectly positioned to appeal to the thinking public.

I can’t stand that: Where do you stand, sir? Right here in the middle. What’s your opinion? Well, I can see both sides. We should do this AND that.

Peachy. Except everybody can’t be right and everybody can’t win all the time. Too much compromise is the same as “It’s all good.”

Where are the lines you won’t cross?

I am a conservative, and a Christian, but not a “Christian Conservative” as it is popularly understood. I am a Catholic, but what does that mean, come Election Day? Does it make me a “one-issue” voter? I suppose it would, if I were a one-issue Catholic. What most people — many Catholics, even — don’t understand or have forgotten is that the Catholic Church also has a rich intellectual tradition, rooted in philosophy, and history, and (dare I say?) science — a tradition that, once understood, suggests new ways of thinking, new solutions to problems, and even new responsibilities for believers, both in their public and private lives.** We like to wear our various faiths like badges of honor, and point to those on the outside as the problem — but in truth, our beliefs make demands primarily of us. And the same holds true of the candidates.

My point? It’s easy to spout off. The donkeys bray; the elephants trumpet; and no one moves an inch. I lean right, and further every day, but my vote’s not guaranteed. I do my homework as best I can. I’ll vote third-party to have a clear conscience.

So stop shouting — I can hear you even with my hearing aid turned down. I know what you’re saying. Now tell me what you’re thinking. AR-TIC-U-LATE something. Let me in on the plan. If you need my vote, convince me. And if you don’t need me, stop junking up my mailbox with oversize postcards that say the same thing as last week.

Now get off my lawn.

* As a teen, I lived 5 miles or so from a big old mansion in the tiny village of Mecosta, Michigan. Rumor was that an eccentic old writer lived in that house. When Jodi and I bought our first house in Mecosta after we married, we lived just a few blocks from the mansion, and the old writer’s widow invited us to dinner. Russell Kirk: Father of American conservatism, with a little Gothic fiction on the side. And I left town and went to Yale…

** Kirk was Catholic.

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