“CTHULHU FOR PRESIDENT: WHY SETTLE FOR THE LESSER EVIL?”
Cthulhu, one of the malevolent demigods of H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional universe, is not actually on any ballot that I’m aware of – but to hear some commentators and pundits tell it, certain candidates may well count themselves among his eldritch minions. (Actually, come to think of it, has any candidate actually come out and explicitly distanced themselves from the noxious forces of Yog-Sothoth? Hmmm?)
Elections are frequently painted in apocalyptic terms, presented as battlegrounds between the very forces of Light and Darkness – one side for each party, conveniently enough, though which party gets assigned to which side of course varies depending on your registration – and this one has been no different. Is Obama the Antichrist? Is Romney in the thrall of Mammon? Would not the victory of the Other Side condemn us and our children to a life of unending pain and suffering?
But here’s the thing: elections really are Manichean conflicts, where good and evil struggle for dominance – just not in the way you might think they do.
The angels and the devils have not, like the Olympian gods, arrayed themselves behind each opposing army. No, it’s much more complicated than that. The battle line lies, not between the parties, not somewhere along that simple political spectrum that we know and love so much – but rather, within each and every individual participant.
Whatever your role, you get presented with certain choices. If I am a candidate, for example – will I stick to the high road, and focus on my own values and priorities? Will I try to communicate my qualifications honestly, present myself the way I am, try to sincerely connect with the individual voters that I meet? Or will I look rather to simply discredit my opponent, frighten my constituents, and create some unreal self based on what my consultants tell me I should appear to be?
If I’m a campaign manager – do I present the facts as they are, or pick and choose the ones that cast my candidate in the best light? Do I paint my opposition honestly, or do I twist their words, pull quotes out of context, and play up slips of the tongue as dark intimations of my opponent’s “true nature”?
If I’m in the media – how do I present the candidates and the issues? Do I delve beneath the surface, look to analyze the reality of each candidate’s claims, give my audience an accurate picture of the complexity of political reality? Or do I settle for the quick scandal, the “gotcha” moment, the unattributed “off the record” allegation?
And if I am a citizen – do I even bother to participate, or do I just tune it all out? Do I research candidates’ positions, and talk respectfully with other people who have different perspectives? Or do I just swallow my party’s line, without reflection or thought? Do I consider the broader implications of our elected officials’ actions, or do I just think about my own immediate interests?
And most critically: how do I handle the outcome, whether triumph or defeat?
I’m writing from here in the past, before the election has come. I do not know what Election Day 2012 will bring. You, dear reader, are on the other side of that divide. You tell me: when all was said and done, who really came out ahead?