In 1972, my mother pushed me in a stroller, wearing a George McGovern button, as she canvassed our suburban neighborhood. In 1980, I argued the case for John Anderson in our fifth grade classroom’s electoral debates. In 1984, my high school debate partner and I went to see the first major party’s female nominee for Vice President, Geraldine Ferraro. In 1988, I put a Dukakis poster in my college dorm room window and listened attentively as his addressed our campus.
In 1992, I begged Hillary to make her relationship with Bill official and run as his Vice Presidential candidate. My now husband won my heart by making me tea with honey to assuage a sore throat and allow me to stay up and watch US electoral result from a the Clare College MCR in Cambridge, England.
As you will have already discerned, the first time I experienced electoral victory, was the first time I was not in country to enjoy it. I have always suspected a correlation. Just as I suspect my beloved Northwestern University Wildcats only win football games when I neither watch nor attend.
My superstitions were confirmed when I moved back to Evanston and stuck a bumper-sticker on my sons’ red wagon and canvassed as a precinct captain for John Kerry. Mr. Kerry won Evanston but not much else. The benefit of my failure was two-fold. I got an up close exposure to then Senate candidate Barack Obama (who I knew would be President in short order as I narrowly avoided being trampled by the stampede of normally staid soccer moms desperate to shake his hand), and I built a great kitchen island with my frustrated energy following Kerry’s defeat.
My frustration in 2004 had as much to do with what I saw as the United State’s embrace of oligarchy as Kerry’s loss in and of itself. Bush v. Kerry was the battle of oligarchs. Had Hillary won the nomination in 2008 McCain v. Clinton would have been a repeat of the depressing trend: two people given access through their private relationships – parent & spouse – trading in those chips for their own ascent to power.
My disgust with this year’s Republican ticket begins with their political platform but culminates in the hypocrisy of two oligarchs’ feigned affinity for meritocracy. The Horatio Alger stories Romney and Ryan supposedly desire for every American bears no relationship to their own networks of financial and cultural capital cultivated over generations.
My moment of greatest disgruntlement with Democratic National Convention came when Van Jones praised South Carolina State Representative Bakari Sellers as “another great son of a great father”on Morning Joe. The ‘another’ referred back to Beau Biden. Democratic oligarchs generally avoid hypocrisy by acknowledging the good fortune that permitted their rise. However, I am a historian who remains prone to believe the aged observation that power cannot help but corrupt. While I realize that the mere presence of African-American, Catholic, and Mormon oligarchs reflects a dissipation of prejudice long overdue, I still get fidgety whenever someone of whatever color or creed inherits his or her role in the public sphere.