In Texas, you can vote early (and, in the past, often), and Anne and I cast our ballots last week. By mutual agreement, we do not discuss our voting preferences, so I have no idea how she voted.
As I read down my own ballot, I voted as I always vote, mostly for people I either know or with whom I share mutual friends. I am not partisan. I will vote Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. My criteria tends to be personal, and I found, as I went along the list of state and local elections, that I was voting in practically every one. In some cases, I found myself voting for somebody I didn?t know because the person I did know I did not like, and the person unknown to me had a good record.
As a man with a very public record of what most people regard as extreme eccentricity, if not downright craziness, I want to be taken as I hope I appear, as a sane and sincere person. The people I know in the political world who treat me that way get my vote, if they are sincere and dedicated in their public lives.
I don?t mind the fact that my votes often cross partisan boundaries. I lived through the era when Alan Shivers was governor of Texas and my uncle was his attorney general. Gov. Shivers ran as both a Democrat and a Republican. His administration did not work, because this is not a country designed for consensus politics. We need debate. We need dissention. Let our majorities in congress be razor thin. Let the President and the Congress be of different parties. Good American government is compromise government.
I saved the national election for last, and when I stared down at the names, I found myself reviewing in my mind what I know of the candidates. I do not know any of them personally, although I have friends who are close to all four of them.
I would not vote for Pat Buchanan, although I thought he wrote a very intelligent article about foreign policy last summer for the English magazine, the Spectator. I have nothing against fundamentalist Christianity. I know fundamentalists who are glorious human beings, and I respect their beliefs deeply. The reason is that Buchanan is too morally rigid for him to be a good choice to lead a pluralistic society like ours. He hasn't got an ounce of compromise in his personality. Not a gram.
I would not vote for Ralph Nader, because he has, throughout his career, embraced economic ideas that are very different from what works in America. Not that he is a Marxist, not quite, but his economic approach is clearly based on the dictum, ?to each according to his need, from each according to his ability.? That idea, noble as it is, has been responsible for untold human suffering in the 20th Century?not because it?s a bad idea, but because it?s too good. We are not saints, and when you try to make us saints, we turn into real demons?as witness what life was like in the communist world until recently.
I have lived my life since the Communion experience as a private acquaintance of many public people, and I have no intention of betraying any confidences with what I am about to say. However, I have friends who have been quite close to George Bush and Al Gore, and I am very, very concerned about what they have said to me about these two men. Please understand, that I am not speaking of gossip of the sort that passes about during campaigns. I am speaking of a time when neither man was publicly a candidate, and before George Bush had even decided to run.
Incidentally, I will predict that Bush will win. This is because of the deal I heard that he made with Pat Buchanan over Dick Cheney. If he took a member of the far right on as VP, Buchanan agreed to quietly fade out of the picture, which he has indeed done. Meanwhile Nader is campaigning hard, and the five percent or so that he will get will be Bush?s margin of victory.
The fact that none of the people involved in this spoke about the deal publicly annoyed me, but that?s politics. No, my concerns about George Bush and Al Gore come from a different direction. My problem is that I think that both of these men suffer from personality disorders, and I think that those disorders are profound, and that they are very dangerous to our country.
Let me tell you why I think this. First, George Bush. After he became governor, there were stories circulated concerning a joking attitude about death row inmates and their desperate efforts to get him to save their lives. Then, last year, he gave an interview to Talk Magazine in which he was described as mimicking Karla Faye Tucker begging for mercy. The magazine described it this way: "Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don?t kill me." It's an ugly picture, but it could be of a man who is trying to push away a lot of inner suffering. After all, as governor, he has almost no real power to influence an execution. He has also admitted to torturing small animals as a child. (To read source, click here.) Considering that he grew up in Texas, that actually means that he was a pretty nice kid. Back in the old days, kids in this state were REALLY rough. I know, I was there.
Still I feel that all of this could conceivably represent pathology and it worries me. If W has emotional problems that make it easy for him to accept suffering, I hope we find that out--although I think it's improbable, this is the US Presidency we're talking about. The Presidency is, and must remain, the greatest force for the alleviation of human suffering that the world has ever known.
Now, Al Gore. I have known people partial to Al Gore, also, for years. Most of them are quite partisan Democrats, and would not, unless pressed, say anything negative about him. But the truth is that he appears to me to have a very severe personality deficit also. Were he not in the limelight, I think it would be called a disorder. Al Gore lacks normal animation. He is not just distant, but strangely robotic and impersonal, even in private life. A doctor would say that he lacks personal affect. I will give you a specific example of what I mean. He was once being photographed for a major newspaper, and a friend of mine was told this story about what happened. Gore came out of his office like a robot, spoke with a deathly, inhuman coldness, then sat and did not move at all, silently letting the photographer maneuver his body, turn his head, fold his hands for him. There was no human empathy whatsoever, no sense of a normal personality being present at all.
I feel that this is the response of somebody with a seriously deficient personality, and it worries me. There could well be something wrong with this man. If he is really like this, then he has emotional problems that make it hard for him to determine his own boundaries, to determine the limits of his own ego-structure. This might be why he has done seemingly insane things like claim the invention of the internet. He literally would not know enough about who he is to be able to tell whether he did it or not.
I am no psychologist. I?d be the last person to claim any expertise in such matters. But I know sick people when I see sick people, and neither of these men strikes me as normal, and neither--in my opinion--is fit to be leader of the free world, especially not in a time when our environment is collapsing around us and we are likely to experience both social and natural upheavals during the next administration that would challenge even a great man, let alone a normal one. We are going to need a great man in the White House, not one of these pitiful little people who have sought high office not for idealistic reasons, but for neurotic reasons, to heal agonizing deficits in self-esteem.
For the first time in my life, I did not cast a vote in a presidential election. I left that part of my ballot blank, and spent a moment instead in silent prayer for my country and my world.
NOTE: This Journal entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.