Monday, November 3, 2008

Night

On a similar night four years ago, I poured over poll numbers. I did the electoral math more than once. On a similar night four years ago, I doubted the possibility of another four years of the Bush administration. The Bush administration, what is now a derailed train, far from the track it once departed.

On a similar night four years ago, I anxiously awaited the moment I would cast my first ever vote for President of the United States of America.

Not tonight. Tonight I wander the halls of my mind grasping at any indication of what tomorrow will bring as I cast my vote. I am that coveted voter who has yet to decide. I wonder how a mind so trained to offer complete loyalty to the Democratic Party can consider not voting for the Party's nominee. Tonight I wonder how I have survived the endorsements of the Kennedys, both Senator Kennedy and Caroline, without budging. On a similar night four years go, I saw comfort in the endorsement of the Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy. I expected it and I respected it.

In my second opportunity to cast a vote in the presidential election, I am torn by history. I am torn by my own party, not by any particular strength of the other party's candidate.

Instead of watching the pundits do their best to predict tomorrow's outcome, I flipped to Antiques Roadshow on a night of showcasing political memorabilia. For a moment I was reminded of elections past that meant as much if not more to this nation as tomorrow's election does. It was Cecil Stoughton that reminded me of what this country has to gain and what it has to lose. Cecil Stoughton was witness to an election some forty-eight years ago that brought some of the greatest triumphs and the greatest failures to the focus of this nation.

On a similar night four years ago, I never once considered political heartbreak or the unfortunate path a nation would be faced to go under the wrong leadership. And yet it was Cecil Stoughton, weathered and weary from a lifetime of bearing witness to history through his photography, that reminded me what a different world it would be had Richard Nixon beat Jack Kennedy in 1960. Would the country be one had Lincoln not won in 1860? Would the Democratic Party as we know it have ceased to exist had the Bull Moose candidate won in 1912?

What a stark contrast those days would have been in comparison to the days that were.

Had John Kerry won in 2004 or had Al Gore succeeded before him, would the Constitution hold greater meaning today? With absolute certainty it would not have suffered the nearly unshakable erosion it has under George W. Bush. Had either of them won would Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia felt obligated to write Letter to a New President: Commonsense Lessons for Our Next Leader? Probably not, though his contribution to an unselected leader is something every American should read. Had either of them won in 2000 and 2004 respectively, would this election hold the significance it does?

To quote Senator Byrd on the significance of what tomorrow must be:
"We need to put our people back to work on the job of rebuilding the faith of citizenry in their government. That is what they want to do. They want their belief restored. They are weary of doubting their leaders. The people want to be inspired, not whipsawed by fear and manipulation. They want to be able to hope again." (Letter to a New President, pg. 27)
On a similar night four years ago, I looked to the coming day as just another election in a nation built upon such days. Tonight I can clearly see that the coming day is so much more than just another election. I more than see it, I feel it.

Ironically, I've been listening to Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain" tonight, wondering if there truly is a "peaceful valley just over the mountain."

This election has been and continues to feel like a mountain.

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