Electing Mr. Right
Every girl dreams of finding her “Special Someone.”
We make lists, giddy with excitement: he’ll be handsome, but not unbelievably so; he’ll be firm yet unconditionally loving; when he enters a room women will swoon, men will want to be him, and foreign countries will bow before his progressive social agenda that forwards global humanitarian goals, yet in no way inhibits his ability to regulate our national financial sector.
I want Mr. Right for Commander in Chief.
In this time of crisis, its easy for us, guys and gals, to look at our elected leader and lament. Right-wingers hate the President. Left-wingers are disappointed. The middle is just confused: how can a man who is overseeing the unprecedented expansion of green jobs also stifle those looking for transparency with BP?
All I wanted from the man I elected was that he would do what said he would do. Hell, my standards were low enough just to want someone who wouldn’t torture people!
Where was my duly elected Prince Charming?
Gee whiz, what’s a girl to do?
Looking for him, my president, the one I can look up to without any reservations, I scour the past. Abraham Lincoln springs to mind, and I happily look him up, secure in the knowledge that this President is unassailable. I mean, he kept the country together and freed the slaves!
Well…except he suspended civil liberties during the war, appropriating powers no sitting President ever had before. He imprisoned suspected Southern sympathizers and held them without trial indefinitely. And he was willing to keep slavery legal…if it would keep the Union together.
Ok, I think as I close the history book, not the man for me! I like FDR (being a socialist and all) yet I stumble on the same problems: abolishing constraints on presidential power, interning Japanese citizens, etc. Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin’s cousin and creator of the National Parks, evokes a similar response–how can I love the conservationist without hating the jingoistic hawk inside?
President after President, I search for my Elected Official in Shining Armor. Taft almost makes it with his trust-busting, but loses me by installing a Nicaraguan dictator and turning National Park lands over to private interests. The founding fathers kept women out of the Bill of Rights and upheld slavery. Jackson committed genocide, as did Van Buren, Tyler, and Polk. Millard Fillmore joined the political party equivalent of the KKK.
I keep searching, determined to find the Perfect President. Who do people think of when they become nostalgic for the past? It can’t be Ike, who claimed to be fighting Communism while using U.S. forces to overthrow the democratically elected leaders in Iran. It can’t be Kennedy, Bay of Pigs Kennedy, Pentagon Papers Kennedy, CIA backing the Iraqi Ba’athist Party Kennedy. Truman dropped the Bomb, Clinton dropped his pants, Hoover dropped the ball.
And don’t get me started on Nixon.
I can’t even be happy about our secret gay President (James Buchanan) because he let the Civil War happen!
There are Presidents who died too soon to form an opinion, Presidents whose actions contradicted their ideals, Presidents who–quite frankly–did nothing. I’m at the bottom of the barrel, wondering if I can look past Woodrow Wilson’s tolerance of segregation, when I start to question if there will ever be a president I fully support.
Which makes a girl think.
We like to have things in absolutes. We are the good guys and they are the bad guys. We are right and they are wrong. A good person only does good things and is always right; a bad person only does bad things and is always wrong.
But that’s not how humans function. In our everyday lives we understand that to err is to be human. Yet remove us one step, add the abstraction of a title, and suddenly we expect people to start acting like gods.
Some very bad Presidents have had very good policies. Some very good Presidents have had very monumental fuck-ups. I’m not going to find the Prefect President because he doesn’t exist. No human fitting that title ever has, or ever will.
What we look for in a leader must be the same thing we look for in ourselves: stalwart principles, the ability to compromise, and the wisdom to know which to employ. Elector, elected, we’re all in this together: working imperfectly towards a more perfect future.
Unless you find your Perfect President in Jimmy Carter! Excuse me while I gloss over the economy and Iran Hostage Crises–I have a Presidential portrait to gaze lovingly at.