Moms through the ages have advised their kids, if you can’t think of anything nice to say, just don’t say anything. I think of those moms lately when the political ads come on. And here we are, Election Day, and I can’t think of anything nice to say.
I should stop there, shouldn’t I?
My political evolution has had four steps so far, four “a-ha” moments.
The first was in the fall of 1978, when Lee Sherman Dreyfus was running for governor of Wisconsin. I was there, a young reporter, when he said something along the lines of, “Government has three duties: Defend our shores, deliver the mail, and stay the hell out of our lives.”
The second was in January 1981, when newly inaugurated President Ronald Reagan said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
The third was in the fall of 1992, when I had a chance to interview Andre Marrou, the Libertarian candidate for president, and he told me both political parties want to be our parents: Republicans want to be the daddy, and Democrats want to be the mommy.
And the fourth was in the summer of 2008, when I was writing about another election with an impossible choice between two men who wanted to run my life, and an epiphany stopped me in mid-thought. That was when I wrote: “Freedom is not about having the right ruler. Oh, wait, yes it is. Freedom is understanding that I am the boss of me.”
I included that essay, “An election party where nobody came,” in my book this summer, Echoes of Freedom Past, in which I wrote about reclaiming and restoring freedom in a time when no one in government seriously wants us to be free. In that moment I realized that freedom is an internal thing, not something imposed from the outside.
It’s a liberating thought, quite literally. It’s why the results of today’s election may trouble me but will not send me soaring into extreme joy or sinking into extreme despair. That’s the theme of the second book I released this year, the one where I point out that, if you hang onto the realization that freedom means you are the boss of you, it’s going to be all right.