I feel two opposing instincts when I write many of these posts. Especially those that are closer to the news of the 2020 campaign. One instinct is idealistic and the other is practical.
The idealistic instinct is the strongest on days when I’ve spent more time with friends and family (phone, Zoom, socially distanced walks, etc.). Real-world connections remind me of why policy and culture matter. Convictions shared with friends are a reminder that I don’t stand alone. Hearing personal stories from friends with children out of school, Coronavirus infections, unemployment, rent bills overdue, and stories of neighbors in crisis make the need for strong public resources we can trust more urgent. I become more critical of both moderation and the go-it-alone, “pox on both their houses” mentality. My idealist instinct would have me point out the flaws in the positions and actions of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Explore the ways that they are less than perfect, insufficient. I begin to resist celebrating them because their proposals and histories aren’t those of the mythical perfect progressive/ socialist/ environmentalist candidate.
The practical instinct kicks in when I spend time on social media. There is so much noise already: voices sharing memes on the election and the pandemic without researching their veracity or considering their potential harm; contrarians cherry-picking stories that endorse doing whatever path they’d already decided on; rage over the latest incomplete fragment of news. In this environment, the controlled and careful writing of friends and former colleagues in the thick of campaign work has an obvious logic. Now is not the time for idealistic dreaming, these voices might say. Now is the time to bring the campaign across the finish line. Don’t confuse people with nuance and second guessing. Send a simple message that Biden and Harris need every vote.
This tension between the ideal and the practical drove me to spend week two of this series exploring different writing styles from the truthful to the untruthful. And I concluded that we need both the practical and ideal, both the truthful and the artfully truthful.
Friends I spend time with are far more likely to read these ramblings than anyone else. It is important to me that I am true to our friendships, true to myself, true to the idealist. It is always the time for idealistic dreaming, I might reply to the practical campaigner.
Besides, who are these mythical undecided middle-of-the-road Wisconsin voters? If you are one and are reading this, how did you come to be undecided? How did it happen that a 100-part election anxiety memoir became your tie-breaking influence? What more can I say get you out to vote for Biden and Harris over the next 73 days?