On the night of the presidential election I had more pressing things to worry about than which state was being “called” for whom and what the electoral tally was looking like. The skin around my wife’s shunt had developed a hole and we were looking at a weeklong hospital visit to remedy the problem (see the Caring Bridge link for more details about that facet of my life). Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist turning on the television to see what was happening. And once I did, I felt the onset of something akin to the flu: Obama Derangement Syndrome (an affliction similar in symptoms to Bush Derangement Syndrome, but with a clearly different set of triggers). More on that later.
Earlier in the day, while we were at Dartmouth Hitchcock, a nurse had asked if we had voted yet. I informed her that we had indeed voted earlier in the day. Then she made the comment that it was “a historic vote.” I didn’t have a response. What was I supposed to say?
Of course, by calling this election a historic vote, I think most reasonable people would assume that the nurse was talking about the fact that a black man was one step away from the most powerful job in the world in a country that has had a long history of struggle with racism. I suppose that she could have also been referring to the fact that a woman was potentially two steps away from holding the most significant positions in our country. Or maybe she was even referring to both of those possibilities in one election.
Once we had left the nurse and were halfway out of the hospital, it finally occurred to me what I should have said in response to her comment. Every presidential election is a historic vote. We live in the greatest country in the world. We arguably live in the greatest country in all of history. Keeping in mind that we live in a fallen world and no one, or country, is perfect, everything we do as a country is motivated by the highest of ideals. Therefore, it seems reasonable that almost anything we do as a country can be considered historically important even with something as “ordinary” as a presidential election. Unlike many of the countries in our world today, we have been able to celebrate a peaceful transfer of power over 40 times in the last 200 plus years. So yes, it was a historic vote.
Flash forward to election night. By the time I turn on the TV the electoral count is already well in Obama’s favor. By the time I turned off the TV it was evident that Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states we were told McCain had to win, were being called for Obama. Unbeknownst to me, Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS) was beginning to settle in.
I am compelled to confess that I woke up the next morning almost unable to drag myself out of bed. I had not checked the news yet, but I was pretty convinced that Obama had won. A quick check of the news confirmed what I had already suspected: the president-elect of the United States of America was Barack Obama. I was depressed. Or perhaps more accurately, I was profoundly upset (in a sad sort of way). I had no appetite. It wasn’t until later that I realized these were the early warning signs of ODS.
I quickly recognized that I couldn’t go through the rest of the day in mourning (for fear of giving the more annoying Obama supporters in my life an opportunity to say, “Nah, nah, nah boo-boo, stick your head in pooh-pooh.”) I turned on the computer and after looking at the electoral damage wreaked by the Democrats, I flipped to National Review Online. I needed some level-headed encouragement to stave off what was rapidly accelerating into ODS. It worked.
I read a number of articles from NRO on Wednesday morning, but two comments stick out in my mind as having helped me to come to grips with what had just happened in our country. First, I read a level-headed accounting by Yuval Levin in his post, Our Election:
But this campaign has had a positive side that went beyond political strategy. I think our country made a serious mistake in its choice of a leader today, which is something democracies do very frequently. But we also showed that we can make our judgments—right or wrong—without the taint of racism that used to burden America’s big decisions. That’s a very real silver lining in what for some of us is a very dark cloud of an election. We looked at two men of different races and we judged them as two men, not two races. Obama did not win because he was black, and was not set back because he was black. It’s another reason to love our country. We have shown ourselves that we are better than we used to be in at least one important way. We didn’t need to elect Barack Obama to show ourselves that; we needed only to treat him as we would any candidate in his position. And I think that’s all we did. I only wish that in judging these two men as men we had judged them correctly.
I agree that “our country made a serious mistake in its choice of leader” when we chose to elect Barack Obama. Seeing this written helped me to realize that, yes, it is okay to be upset with America’s choice of president. There are certainly many reasons (which a different post for a different day). The remainder of this paragraph helped me to see the “silver lining” in the outcome of the election.
Next, I read Mark Steyn’s post, His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in which he writes:
As for us losers, there’s no point going down the right-wing version of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Any shrill vicious ad hominem invective would be much better directed at each other. The Republicans lost this election.
Ah ha! There it was in black and white. What I was experiencing was the onset of Obama Derangement Syndrome and by acting as I did in seeking the wisdom of more experienced politicos than myself I managed to stop the maddening thoughts and discouraging feelings and fight back against this debilitating disease of the psyche. Now that a couple of days have passed since the election, I am feeling cautiously optimistic that I will be able to beat this disease and live a normal life for the next four (please, please, only four) years.
PS Here are some pictures of what ODS might look like in the ones you love.
Shock and disbelief