Saturday, July 31, 2004

Politics and Joy - Redux

Way back in January, at the beginning of the whole election process, I wrote about how politics is not always fighting and strife, thought it often feels that way. I wrote:
Only rarely have I felt something different through politics. The first time was the night that Bill Clinton won the White House. I remember meeting a neighbor in the middle of our street and drinking a beer with him, toasting our country's suddenly brighter future. The feeling was not one of malicious pleasure at running Bush from the White House - it was purer than that. It was a feeling that the country was on the right path, and people were united behind a new voice.

Tonight, watching the New Hampshire returns, I felt a bit of that spirit. Yes, there is a negative note of "anybody but Bush", but there is something else going on, too. There is a feeling that we have a group of candidates all of whom have a better vision, and each of their victories is a good thing. I'm happy for Kerry. I'm happy for Dean. I'm happy for Clark and for Edwards. I'm happy with the Democratic party, and I can't help but swell with optimism that our country may well make a bold and bright choice in November.

Bob Harris, writing earlier this week on This Modern World, articulates the same uplifted feeling:
But sitting at home, consuming the product, it feels viscerally (not just intellectually) obvious that not only are my own emotions shared by a hundred million of my neighbors, but if wisely channelled, they're what make more actual democracy possible. Interesting.

I don't know if I'd have been moved the same way tonight if I was physically in Boston. Maybe I would have been outside in the Free Speech Cage or watching Hannity and Colmes chowing down on the entrails of a Campfire Girl with rib sauce. I might have seen only the gears of the machine, not its best and rarest purpose.

Instead, tonight I was reminded of what it feels like to be inspired, even though I'm aware it's a carefully-controlled show. My disbelief was suspended for a little while. Is that good? Is it bad? I have no idea yet. But it felt fantastic. Really.

It's important to remind ourselves, from time to time, that this all is about something bigger than polls and point issues. Politics without that spiritual feeling would lose its luster.


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