Much has been said on this list about Kerry's weakness and failure to take a stand, his letting us down through the concession and his being away on January 6th.
I have seen barbs hurled at him that, in my opinion, should be reserved for Joe Lieberman-- as they rightfully are this week for his shameful endorsement of Gonzales, not to mention his blithe "video violence" red-herring chasing and his bending over and kissing corporate butt every chance he could get. (That last reason, by the way, is why I'm glad Daschle's gone. Go Reid.)
I read a quote-- in Reader's Digest, no less-- that changed my thinking about politics and politicians forever. It essentially said that ALL politicians lie, because it's part of the job... but the honorable ones lie only when they have to.
That being said, the more I found out about Kerry, the more I liked him. And I still do. Whether he'll be president or not in 2008, he's got a vital role to fill: shadow president, opposition leader-- and, yes, cultural inspiration.
You might think I'm odd for saying that last one. After all, he can't connect with ordinary Americans, let alone inspire, right?
Only if you think that being born rich automatically renders you incapable of empathy with any other social class. In any form.
Only if you think that you must fit a bubbly, extroverted mold to successfully connect. (And Kerry's not even that big an introvert.)
Only if you make the all too common fallacy of Americans, of believing that you must actually share the lifestyle-- and in some cases, the physical appearance-- of the people you are trying to reach, if you want to be successful at it.
This idea has conditioned too many us to stay out of politics. And that's tragic.
Not married? Don't have children? Don't believe in God? Didn't go to an Ivy League school? Wasn't 'most popular' or 'most likely to succeed' back in high school or college? You won't hack it. Or so goes the meme. And it becomes true because too many of us believe it.
Frankly, I'm sick of it. We cannot wait to become important, well-liked, or sufficiently possessed of the lifestyle of our constituents, to make a difference. Not anymore. Those unspoken rules ARE the problem. It's nothing less than psychological bondage, scare tactics intended to keep us out of politics, out of the public eye, and away from our potential.
What attracted me to Kerry? In a word: alchemy. Creating a new possibility right out of thin air. He sees a false dichotomy-- for instance, on January 6th, the choices are either support the election protest outright, or not ('flip-flop'!) -- and what does he do? He makes a third way.
He sends out e-mails to 3 million people, instructing them to jam the phone lines of Republican leaders, demanding that they investigate the election. His timing of his Middle East trip for Election Protest Day was deliberate: he had been planning it since at least the end of November. And of course, once he's there in the Middle East he's acting like a real statesman and diplomat. Something we sorely need to counteract the isolationist, proud-to-be-ignorant factions.
Everyone says you can't have it both ways. However, it's always seemed to me like the most advanced and influential people in history, DID have it both ways. They created a new way. Some had role models and guides from earlier times, but plenty didn't.
I have to respect anybody who does not let himself get bogged down by either-or choices. Who sees that more of the time that most people think, the most effective response in somewhere in the middle of those two choices. Or something different altogether. I think that Kerry is possessed of a very subtle and creative mind for doing this.
And amazed as you may be to read this, I found his personality and character an inspiration too. I'd posted a reply on a thread some weeks back, about how he could make his own brand of charisma by recognizing that he cannot be pigeonholed... that he possesses a mixture of traits from the original values the Founding Fathers intended, to the best of the modern world, to a smattering of traits we think of as European. That he has traits in common with young and old alike, rich and poor and middle-class alike... that ANY of this combination he could exploit to give himself a powerful persona.
In a word: he's a human being. A highly intelligent, complex human being. Being born rich did not take away from any of that. Read this article for a deeper insight into his character: that despite his upper-crust upbringing, he has something important in common with the middle class: he is a striver. He is nakedly ambitious. And he has been hated in high school, and probably for a good deal of his life, for it.
Who cannot relate to that? Which of you Kossacks cannot relate to being hated for your obvious love of learning and knowledge, for your obvious questioning and skepticism; for *not* covering it up with a false veneer of devil-may-care... or of religious faith?
He deserves my respect for his choice of life partner alone. Not simply that I personally adore Teresa... but that he has avoided, flat out, what I call the spousal comfortability trap: men professing to like intelligent and unconventional women, while unconsciously being too uncomfortable to actually make such women a part of their lives-- in short, actually let them reap any benefits.
He overrid the unconscious, instinctual desire to put comfort and security above all, and chose a relationship that is genuinely pleasure based. He heeded the call of a higher voice, if you will: the voice of the true seductress, the strong exemplar and model of vitality and possibility. That, to me, is true happiness... not the stasis and predictability everybody wants America to believe.
Money is not the root of all evil. The desire for comfort, putative security, and stasis is.
I don't think it was Kerry that the (thinking, at least) public rejected in November at all. I think it was the Democratic Party as it stood. The thinking people were sick of their accommodationism. Their failure to stand up in any meaningful, beyond-lip-service way, even for civil rights.
Unfortunately, Kerry still had too much-- or was at least perceived to-- in common with that old party. He never did show completely what was in his Senate record, and he did do his fair share of playing dead in the past-- after all, if not a single Senator either challenged the 2000 election results, or bothered to read the Patriot Act draft before approving it... he was obviously one of them.
But he's showing some signs of learning from that. He's acting as if he actually were president, at home and abroad. It will be interesting, and heartening, to see his evolution from an establishment Republicrat to a true populist over the next several years. It will be interesting to see what leading by example really looks like, in a way that does not feel suffocating-- free of all that "must be perfect" role-model baggage. I personally see great possibilities for him.
We are a product of our political environment. Kerry is a product of the current environment. The environment is the problem now. It's time to build a new one. And who better than a flawed man who acknowledges his own complicity and works to move beyond it.