Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Cynicism

November 5, 2008. By 8:30 AM, Pacific Standard Time, I was cynical again. It was a record, the longest I had gone since I was 12 years old, long before I knew anything about politics.

Cynics have been defined as those who "rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency". They have also been defined as most if not all people who vote for democrats. Democratic voters are lesser-of-two-evils voters. They do sober analyses of candidates, look at voting records, and make their pick based on who is statistically least likely to screw up. Republicans vote for B-list western actors, or whoever they'd rather have a beer with.

For democratic voters, crossing party lines is a rite of passage - it proves how independent minded they are. And in California, independent-mindedness came in 2003 with the recall of Governor Whatshisname, who was famously replaced by that dude who starred in Kindergarten Cop. In 2006, Ahnuld got reelected, and this time I was of voting age and got to participate in the independent-mindedness. No I didn't actually vote for the Governator. But neither did I vote for the other guy, whose name I can't remember. Independent!

Then came the 2008 election, and with it, Barack Obama. The dude was a hope factory, his campaign a disciplined army with cynicism its sole enemy. With his soaring oratory and effective campaigning, Obama did the impossible: he rallied the democratic base. Hell, the last Democrat whose oratory came close to soaring was elected in 1960.

Sure, I let myself get excited by talk of hope and change. I also let myself get excited by the prospect that I might have a president who knew what the hell he was doing. Deep down, I knew that on November 5, Obama would take all the hope, change, fired up, god bless the United States of America, and box it up for the next 3 years. Which was just what I wanted and, frankly, expected post-election. What really got to me on November 5 was the thought of all the potential stumbling blocks that might trip up the new president-elect. What would be his Watergate, his Malaise speech, his Monica Lewinsky? Would he contract Alzheimer's, or would he unleash a series of constitutional travesties, forever tarnishing this nation's good name, like our current president?

So, at 8:30 AM, I turned cynical again. The euphoria lasted twelve hours, and of those I was only awake for five. But it eventually dawned on me that, as nice as the euphoria was, it was good that it ended. Isn't constant euphoria how republican voters usually feel? Or rather, blissful ignorance - mixed with the occasional outrage when prompted by the appropriate sources. Might my cynicism actually be constructive? I'm not going to be in lock step with Obama, and that's a good thing. Sure I'm happy he won, and I think it's likely that I'll support many of his actions as president. But if he screws things up, I'll be the first to let him know. I might even abstain from voting in 2012!

So, to all who read this, stay cynical and stay proud. When Obama talks about his next stimulus package, proudly mutter, "Yeah, that'll fix the economy." It's the best thing you can do for your president, and your country.


  1. As a journalist I've been a career skeptic which might be similar to the condition you describe. But it's interesting (and perhaps this is your point) that I can be both skeptical and hopeful at the same time. Maybe you're saying we shouldn't completely drop our analytical filters -- as the Republicans definitely would once they elect a party faithful.

  2. "Career skeptic" - that's the juice. I to think we can be skeptical and hopeful at the same time. That's the goal, isn't it? Your insights are always welcome here, Mr. Phillips.