If there's any justice in the world (a dubious proposition, I admit), then about this time tomorrow I'll be congratulating myself for having done my bit to help move my country in a better direction. (I prefer not to dwell on the alternative: screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" while trying to determine whether I qualify to emigrate to one of the Balkan states.) I live in one of the bluest of all states; in fact, most pollsters don't bother with Maryland because, well, what are the odds? So I could abstain on the grounds that Senator Obama doesn't really need my vote, and maybe that's true, but he's going to get it whether he needs it or not.
It's not just that voting is a duty for everyone who is fortunate enough to live in a democratic society (though it is), and it's not just that if you don't vote, you really have no right to complain about the monstrous way your government sometimes behaves (though you don't). And it's not that any of the previous elections were unimportant: in the past, I've felt that I had to vote even when I could take it for granted that my guy was going to lose (Mondale in 1984, Dukakis in 1988) or win (Clinton in 1996). Important as those elections were, though, this one is more so.
In terms of important matters of governance and our understanding of the constitution, this election promises to be the most important election of my voting career (so far). It's clear that America's been led off in disastrous directions for the past eight years, and it's equally clear that Senator McCain would double down on those bad decisions. He'll call it something else, but, well, lipstick on a pig, and all that, you know?
But there's more to it than that. As important as putting America back on a better path is, I think it's an open question whether it's even possible to fix the damage of the Dubya years. It seems entirely possible to me that our international reputation and financial bases have been damaged beyond the point of repair. Which is not to say that, if the ship is going down, it would be better to torpedo it straight away than to try to keep it afloat for long enough to get everyone into the lifeboats.
But as important as having the right person to lead the country is, the political considerations seem to me almost as important as considerations of governance. Senator McCain has run the ugliest in memory. He has as much as acknowledged that he has nothing to offer except for not being the other guy, or, to put it more plainly, John McCain's campaign boils down to "If you're not voting for me, you're voting for the n_____." If McCain wins tomorrow night, it won't be a vote for smaller government: it'll be a vote for racism and swift boating.
I'm not saying that a vote for Obama is a vote for all that's good and holy, but I am saying that if Obama wins, in addition to a chance to set the country right, there's a chance that the future of political discourse will be permanently changed for the better. There's a chance that the model for future elections will be gaining support (financial and otherwise) from a large base of the populace and for leading people by hope rather than fear. I'll be honest: Senator Obama wasn't my first choice. I always thought he was a good man and a good candidate, but I initially thought that hope was far too simple a message for someone who wants to lead our country in especially trying times. But Senator McCain has convinced me that I was wrong. It really is as simple as that: you can vote for hope, or you can vote for fear. I recognize that some people would substitute entirely different nouns in that last clause, but even if you feel that way, you must still recognize that tomorrow's election will be transformative. And you still have to vote.