Goodbye, Cruel Ballot Box

March 22, 2008 1:37 p.m.

To follow up on the emails I posted last night, it’s worth saying that over the last couple months, during each campaign’s moments of extremity, we’ve had supporters of each candidate (probably in roughly equal quantity) writing in and saying they wouldn’t be able to vote for the opponent in the general election. In general I just think that people are deeply invested in the campaign (which is a good thing), and in moments of disappointment and frustration need some outlet, even if only expressed within themselves, to put some contemplated action to their angst. Threatening to upset the applecart in November is the most emotionally satisfying way to do that. Certainly too, when a campaign gets this intense and hard fought, there’s just too much cognitive dissonance for people to be on the one hand seething at the other candidate and then also contemplating working for and voting for the same person.

So I see most of these promises as the emotional equivalent of things friends or lovers can say in the midst of heated fights — the vast number of which they recant later and wish they’d never said.

Clearly though there are some people who really do mean it. A very small fraction I think, but there nonetheless. And there’s really no better example of emotional infantilism that some people bring to the political process . One can see it in a case like 1968 perhaps or other years where real and important differences separated the candidates — or in cases where the differences between the parties on key issues were not so great. But that simply is not the case this year. As much as the two campaign have sought to highlight the differences, the two candidates’ positions on almost every issue is extremely close. And the differences that do exist pale into insignificance when compared to Sen. McCain’s.

That’s not to say that these small differences are reasons to choose one of the candidates over the other. But to threaten either to sit the election or vote for McCain or vote for Nader if your candidate doesn’t win the nomination shows as clearly as anything that one’s ego-investment in one’s candidate far outstrips one’s interest in public policy and governance. If this really is one’s position after calm second-thought, I see no other way to describe it.

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