I kept remembering a quote, "Euphoria spreads across the face of our nation like the broad grin of an idiot."
I was certain it was H.L. Mencken who had penned that line, but repeated Google and Wikipedia searches proved fruitless, as did a cursory search for a collection of Mencken's essays that may be under something on the floor of one of my apartments. My father said the quote sounded more like Mark Twain than H.L. Mencken. I don't even want to start searching Twain.
I remembered the line as I was staring at a video screen in a voting booth at the local elementary school. I had come to the school to vote in the Texas Democratic Primary. I had come to vote for Barack Obama because popular wisdom said we needed to select a candidate and avoid a contentious convention, because Obama had the momentum, because all my friends are voting for Obama, because Obama has a better website than Clinton does, the mark of superior savvy in the realm of what's happening now.
I have not heard Obama speak. I have not been touched by his inspiring spell. I went to his site and clicked on "issues." I did the same with Clinton's site. Her home page put me off somewhat, lists of credible people who endorse her, links to videos, a tinge of desperation. Obama's home page is more poker-faced, homey pictures of the man with wife and kid, cool sort of sepia tint. Click on "issues" on either site, and the words that come up are nearly identical. Clinton's a bit tougher on health care, favoring mandatory coverage for adults. They both like the cap and trade thing for global warming.
Neither candidate has that much experience. I don't like Clinton's fear tactics; they remind me of Bush's fear tactics. I don't care what either candidate would do in the event of an emergency phone call in the White House at 3 a.m. They might do right, they might do wrong. No head of state can keep his or her population safe, if they could, there'd be no bus bombings in Israel. I'm concerned with the average. Which one of them is going to make the right decision, on a full range of issues, most of the time? Which one of them is better at making deals, which one of them is going to work harder?
I looked at the names on the screen in the voting booth and I clicked on Clinton's with barely a second's hesitation, a visceral, unstoppable and inexplicable action, like a douser's witching stick arcing downward toward the hidden well. Voting is a weird thing.
I don't think the battle is really going to hurt the Democrats. As long as they are battling, they'll own the press. McCain is no story, and he won't know whom to swing at for a while. I could have voted for McCain once, but he lost me with the "Bomb bomb Iran" gaffe, a gaffe which should have instantly disqualified him from the race, and would have if the mainstream press had any sense of responsibility. It might have been funny had it been a line in a Mel Brooks movie. Presidential candidates, aspiring to be world leaders, aspiring to be respected by other world leaders, can not be so reckless. McCain obviously has some loose wires up top. Hopefully, the press will take issue the next time he short circuits.
I can't say there's anything about Obama that puts me off other than the euphoria surrounding him. But I am suspicious of euphoria. Some say we need a leader with the capability to inspire. Maybe so. If Obama can inspire his way to a nomination, he'll get my vote, and I'll pray he can keep inspiring well past election day. He'll need to inspire all of us to pitch in and dig our way out of this mess. There will be no savior. We'll have to save ourselves, regardless of who's in the White House. And for now, I'm backing Clinton for her grit, her ability and willingness to move against that euphoric tide.