One of the things I always respected about my parents’ marriage was this:
My father is a Democrat and my mother was, as the joke in our family went, “a little right of Ronald Reagan.” When she died in 1995, their marriage was sound, and in 42 years together they had never once voted for the same person for president.
This meant when I was growing up that dinner conversation was spirited in the weeks before a presidential election. My father, in those years, was passionately liberal. These days he still votes Democratic, but he does live in Florida, which means that he is legally required to vote against any initiative that might encumber a senior citizen’s right to drive even though his eyesight is somewhere between a bat and a mole on the DMV‘s animal blindness scale. Also, he is required to vote against any law that puts the environment before a strip mall or protects a wetland. Let’s not forget that Florida was the state that in 2006 passed a law that defended billboards from the greatest natural threat to their existence: The tree.
I mention this because we are now in the final two days of Election 2008 — which, of course, has been going on since 1993. OK, that’s an exaggeration. It has only been going on since 2000. As with most presidential elections, by the time we get to this stage in the race there are supporters on both sides who are suggesting that the other candidate has human body parts in his refrigerator. OK, that’s an exaggeration, too. No one ever says the body parts are in the refrigerator: It’s been a long time since a presidential candidate has been called an actual cannibal.
This year has been no exception. Some Republicans have suggested that Barack Obama is a socialist, a communist, and friends with terrorists (note the plural). None of this is true. Likewise, some Democrats have accused John McCain of being willing to say anything to get elected. That’s not true, either. He will only say almost anything to get elected.
And, of course, we had the blood sport that is Sarah Palin. The woman has done more for hockey moms, pit bulls and Neiman Marcus ($75,062 in clothes for the campaign trail) than anyone in the Republican Party had any right to expect. One of the things I’m looking forward to most in the coming months is that regardless of who wins Tuesday, we will finally get the inside scoop on what John McCain was thinking when he went from maverick to crazy horse one fine day in Alaska.
In any case, my parents always had a poignant marital rapprochement once the dust had cleared, the ballots were counted and someone had figured out what to do with the Florida ballots that voted for Jimmy Carter for Justice of the Peace. (My sense is that even before the chaos of November 2000, Florida elections were not exactly well-oiled golf carts.) And that is not unlike what occurs across this great land of ours. Whether we have a President McCain or a President Obama on Tuesday night, Americans of both major parties will reach across the aisle, shake hands and together start the important work of bashing Ralph Nader. The honeymoon sometimes lasts as long as two weeks before the allegations of voter fraud start flying like confetti at those conventions we had back in the summer. Remember late August and early September? We had long days, a little hope and stock portfolios worth more than a four-pack of Charmin.
My sense is this election will be no different. Come Wednesday morning, once again we will be one nation. We will be focused on the tasks before us, our dreams of a better tomorrow and the universal relief that the campaign ads are gone from our TVs. Once more prime time will be filled only with ads for sport utility vehicles the size of school buses and drugs that combat erectile dysfunction.
Don’t forget on Tuesday: Vote early and vote often.
(This column originally ran in the Burlington Free Press on November 2, 2008.)