22 November 2008

winner's remorse; a/k/a folding up my freak flag

Chapter 1. Guilty.
Sometimes, one idea can haunt you. Michael Shermer's Jonestown: You can believe at all costs introduced me to "confirmation bias." Here I am, wanting to believe that I am impartial and rational, and that I can make decisions with some intellectual rigor. Shermer's piece skewered my assumptions.
  • "This is when we look for and find evidence to support what we already believe and ignore or rationalize away evidence that does not. And because we are so tribal by nature, we employ confirmation bias with extra vigor when it comes to defending the groups we belong to... It is for this reason that we need to look for disconfirmatory evidence. to listen to the arguments of those with whom we disagree, [and] to ask for constructive criticism of our beliefs."
My own confirmation bias was tested sorely during the last two years of the presidential election process. It became too easy to judge from the most basic, tribal perspective: Us vs. them. The last 8 years have been a disaster, and we need something Utterly Different - truth. Not even the Republicans defended the last 8 years.

However, I found myself pulled between that truth, and other, older, personal, inviolable touchstones for any candidate who wanted my vote - biases I have developed over decades by reading and listening to the members of my lefty tribe. For example:
  • I never will vote for anyone who favors capital punishment.
  • I believe that the Democratic and Republican parties are, essentially, one bird with two right wings. (Thank you, Mr. Vidal.)
  • I believe in redistribiution of wealth to prevent spectacles like auto industry executives taking separate private jets to Washington in order to beg for bail-out money. I believe in redistribution of wealth to ensure that workers do not lose their jobs or benefits while management earns enough money to finance a flight of the space shuttle.
  • I believe in universal health care, period. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are impossible if you do not have access to health care. Period.
In other words, my own Tribe lost its sachem when Abbie Hoffman died. Presidential candidates for whom I would vote happily (i.e., Dennis Kucinich) are unelectable. Clearly, I either had to compromise or abstain from voting. So, I need to investigate other possibilities. But here's the problem: where? Where could I go for confirmatory OR disconfirmatory evidence about the candidates?

If you have radical left views, can you listen to moderate voices on the right? Really? They're still blaming Hillary Clinton for the death of Vince Foster. They never told each other to cut out the accusations that Obama is Muslim (or said, as Colin Powell finally did, so what?). They never stopped saying that Obama hangs around with bomb-throwing radicals. They still think we have brought democracy to that most tribal of nations, Iraq.

How do I know? I listened (as much as I could stand) to right-wing voices on radio and television. It got to the point where I was beginning to consider Pat Buchanan

I also tried very hard to maintain my respect for John McCain. But once he hired the people who had been used in 2000 to destroy him with rumours about his children, how could I?

I ended up supporting Barack Obama. He represents something very new: an unashamedly intellectual approach to problem-solving. (Maybe "new" is the wrong word. Maybe "retro" would be better. We once had politicians like Patrick Moynihan and Jacob Javits, who thought issues through without being tethered to party lines.)

Given the way the campaign went - the selection of Sarah "go ahead and interview me, just ignore the dying turkeys back there" Palin as a VP candidate, the "he's a Muslim/he's not a citizen/he's a Communist" rhetoric from the GOP, the implicit racism by one candidate's husband who dismissed Jesse Jackson's historic victories, the scary prospect of candidates who didn't believe in evolution - I'm glad that we will have an Obama presidency.

Of course, I violated all of my touchstones by voting for him. And you know something? I feel as if I violated my own tribal taboos in the process. Not even my husband can talk me back up from that feeling of failure. I voted against my own basic principles in the name of Change You Can Believe In.

Chapter 2: This is Change You Can Believe In?
Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State? WHAT?
I don't f-ing believe this. Make it stop.

Chapter 3: In which teabird realizes she swallowed the Kool-aid.
I'm not more disillusioned with the process than I was before. I'm not disillusioned about Obama. (Yet.) I am disillusioned with myself. I live in a state that would have elected Rin Tin Tin as the Democratic candidate, and yet I threw away my vote by not making a choice I could believe in. Is there such a thing as winner's remorse?


kadezmom said...

Really, is there any winning in politics? I haven't made peace with that question yet. All we can do is what we think is best at the time.....in fact, I tell my daughters that when they are in therapy (and they will be, they live with me) that they are to tell the therapist that I messed them up with the best of intentions. I did what I did out of love and what I thought was right at the time...that doesn't mean that I'm not making a gazillion mistakes along the way.

Stop beating yourself up, it hurts you and changes nothing.

Larjmarj said...

I believe that everything in life is a trade off in one way or another, from elections, employment to marriage.

KnitNana said...

I wish, too, that you'd stop beating yourself up. (You don't deserve it, hon.)

In any democracy, we can only choose the better of two candidates (a third just pulls from one of the other two). If you want to say "lesser of two evils," fine. It's often the case.

This time, I think we did better than that.

None of us can get exactly what we want. If we don't (each of us) compromise on some of our closely held principles, we'd have no government at all. And I don't think that would work very well.

Obama has to walk that fine line, too. Hence some of his compromises...working across the aisle, and holding his enemies closer...

wrtrmaus said...

If I were still updating my blog, I could have written something very similar to this post. I voted for Obama as well, but I did it with my eyes open, knowing full well that there are things he espouses with which I do not agree, and knowing that the change people think will happen on January 20, 2009 will take much, much longer, and may be much different than many seem to be looking for. However, I knew that if McCain/Palin won, the possibility for ANY change for the social good would be sunk to new depths. (Voting for Nader would have gotten me disowned)

I would have loved to have voted for Dennis Kucinich, and, even though he is likely to never make it to a nomination, I honestly hope he keeps running in the primaries, because he puts issues on the table that would otherwise go undiscussed by more centrist candidates.

Long way of saying "I know how you feel."


Carrie K said...

It could be worse.

Stacey said...

It was great reading your thoughts this morning since we tend to be on "opposite" sides of our voting record. I do hear what you are saying and I often say, "many of us want the same thing we differ about how we get there." I do pray, because that is where I get my strength, that Obama does surround himself with men and women that will help him carry out his vision that he has spoken of for the past two years.

I hear your pain as many of us vote for the lesser of two evils and feel the hurt and dissapointment as we see what they begin to do when elected. It often looks like a very different picture than we had envisioned.

We all can make a differnce personally in the lives we touch daily and you do so many beautiful things for the causes you are passionate about. You are making a difference and the World would be a better place if each of us took that upon ourselves. I personally believe that greed and selfishness has gotten humanity in this mess we are ALL in globally. Having a young foreign man living in our home this year has opened our eyes to what it happening everywhere, not just in our little part of the World. We will forever be changed by this experience including him.

Keep up your good works and passion as that is what one really only has control of, you are making a difference.

Larraine said...

Politics always has been and always will be about compromise. Pat Moynihan worked for Nixon for a while. If you are going to freak out everytime a politician you voted for makes a choice you think is wrong, you'll always feel abused and wronged. Hilary Clinton will make a fine Secretary of State. If Obama is not willing to show some toughness, is not willing to use the expertise of people who came before him, he'll just end up as another Jimmy Carter. Carter ran on being an outsider. He brought in people from Georgia who had NO idea how anything worked. They got resistance from both parties. Change happens slowly and incrementally. It's time to suck it up and be grownups now.

teabird said...

Larraine, I think I am being a grownup. I'm making decisions based on the collective good even if I think the collective has some problems - isn't that grownup? Believe me, I realize that my politics will never match those of any viable candidate, but I still wish for a candidate that matches my #1 touchstone: abolition of the death penalty. Those have become rather rare - probably because an angry electorate needs (pardon the expression) terminal scapegoats. I wish our country's views on capital punishment matched those of most other industrialized countries. Ah well.

I don't think Obama would ever have the potential for being as ineffective as Jimmy Carter was - but - he also does not have the kinds of ideals that Carter had. Carter has done so much good post-presidency that the four years of his presidency pale in comparison. I wonder who else can make that claim?

By the way, I'm not one of those who demonizes Nixon. I think he was a terribly flawed human being who managed to do some good, politically, despite his flaws. Opening up China, for example.

I'm glad you visited - please visit more often!

Donna Lee said...

I think Obama has a hard row to hoe in the next four years and no matter how well does, it won't be enough. No one person could carry the burden of expectations that he has and succeed. I would like to see the death penalty abolished, too. It's about time. I hope that the kool aid won't hurt too much as we digest it.

KSD said...

The thing about Kool-Aid is, it passes.

Keep hope alive.

KathieB said...

Oh, keep that freak flag flying proudly! I think the election came out as well as it could have, given the realities of the situation. No doubt there are some bad times ahead, and we'll probably be hearing more than a little bad news.

My hope is that Obama and his administration will be given an even chance to effect some badly needed change.

adrienne said...

I wish you didn't feel as though you threw away your vote. :( I think you did what had to be done to get anything done. Look at the pressure he's already under before he can even start to try unraveling some problems(not to mention what Bush is doing this minute, thanks to Rachel Maddow's lame-duck watch). I don't envy Obama what he's about to undertake, but I'd be in Canada if it were McCalin. Holed up with the Harlot, knitting into oblivion to forget.

Is it bad that I now find Pat B. funny?