The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Monday, October 31, 2005

Psychic in Chief?

This passage really struck me:
The last time America seemed to be sailing on such smooth seas was in the early sixties, with the economy booming, civil rights laws promising a more just future, and Vietnam a distant blip on the horizon. Within six years the economy was sagging, there were race riots in the streets, John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed, and Vietnam had consumed America, driven President Johnson from office, and ushered in a new era of division in our politics. Good times are to be seized and buit upon, not coasted through.

[p. 893]
This closes his summary of his 2000 State of the Union, and of course is eerily prescient - or would be, had he written it in 2000. But even when he wrote it, a couple years ago, it was far from clear that the US would be in its current dire straits. But of course the man is not only brilliant, but also has the outstanding intuitive feel for people and trends that made him such a formidable politician. The tragedy is that I don't think he succeeded in communicating to the American people the message above. I don't recall whether I caught that address - it was a huge transition period in my life - but I'm not sure I viewed the election quite in that way.

In a sense I did: I had been energized by Seattle, and thought we might be on the cusp of great (positive) change. As Rage Against the Machine was singing, "It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime: what better place than here, what better time than now?" It may be that Gore's biggest failing that year (aside, of course, from failing to be loved by the Alpha Girls) was failing to capture that sense of possibility. Instead, for much of the race, he seemed like a more cautious continuation of Clinton, rather than the man to seize the reins and move forward.

Bitching about Gore's campaign is cheap, of course, and if Scalia, Rehnquist, and Thomas weren't anti-American hacks, he would have won, but it wouldn't have been with a mandate regardless. His mandate could have come by inspiring both those who believed in Clinton - and his evident belief that we were at a crossroads of opportunity - and those who took to the streets of Seattle. Instead, the latter group looked to narcissist Ralph, and the former group disengaged.


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