In the most recent Presidential debate, the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, invoked the 2012 Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln. I remember watching and enjoying the film, quite literally, in a packed theater in Northern Ireland and was glad for the opportunity to think back to what the movie taught me. It wasn’t surprising that Spielberg told part of Lincoln’s story well, exposing the man’s flaws or struggles and including Lincoln’s tenuous family relationships during the height of political tension. Dialogue played a central role in the film, which is probably as it should be with such a brilliant rhetorician as Lincoln. One of the surprises of the film was, of course, that it was Republicans who led the charge to free the slaves. It was the sort of film that gave me goosebumps, that even made me proud (and also saddened) to be an American. Good stories, if we let them, will break our hearts while giving us enough hope to carry on. Though I haven’t followed through, I left the theater that day wanting to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bible-of-a-book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
Some time late summer or early fall of 2015, I remember tweeting my lament that the media kept giving Donald Trump so much attention. It was essentially my belief that he wasn’t a serious candidate, that this was all a big game to him, and that the primary season would show that. How could everyone else not see that? After all, those who are labeled as early front runners often don’t win. Around that same time, I also wrote a blog post — motivated by a kind of realpolitik instinct — that predicted that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton would cruise to their respective Republican and Democratic nominations. I thought those two individuals, more than any others in the race, had the names, history, money, and power to move convincingly toward the White House.
“In the here-and-now, I vote—but always with a torn heart. I have not yet met a candidate or a political proposal that embodies all that I dream for…” -Steve Garber in “Making Peace with Proximate Justice”
My undergraduate degree is in political science, and I once imagined making a life for myself in Washington, D.C. During those years — thanks to a last-minute roommate gift and generous hospitality from a high school friend — I even attended a presidential inauguration. So it may come as a surprise that I haven’t voted in the past two presidential elections.