Cara’s Team Pick:
Back in August, when the sun was still bright and Paul Ryan’s nomination was but a twinkly data point in Mitt Romney’s cyborg-eye, publishing house McSweeneys quietly launched “90 Days, 90 Reasons,” an online compendium of short essays by “a wide range of cultural figures,” each explaining exactly why he or she is voting to re-elect President Obama. Now the voting booths are opening, the pollsters are baying, the ninety days are up, and the website is full of pocket-sized reminders of why Obama is my larger Team Pick for the day. But he was too hard for me to sum up, so I’m leaving the job to these other ninety (ninety-three, actually) smart people.
I spent a while rereading this today and was pleasantly surprised by how many of the Obama administration’s accomplishments I’d forgotten. Mary Williams, for example, reminded me that Obama increased funding for national parks by 10%. Molly Shannon let me know that he’s hired more high-ranking openly gay officials than any other president, and Colin Meloy added that he also appointed the first openly autistic person to the National Council on Disability. Some contributors also captured aspects of each candidate that I’ve felt often over the course of this campaign, but haven’t been able to put into words – Julia Alvarez makes a great case for Obama’s power as a storyteller, and Elizabeth George nails it with her diagnosis that Romney “lacks a sensitivity chip.” If I hadn’t voted already, I’d be newly fired up to pull that lever, press that button, fill that bubble, or (not) hang that chad.
If you’re still trying to sway an undecided friend or relative, or if you’re still on the fence yourself, there are Reasons that are itching to persuade. Maybe your acquaintances who don’t believe in big government will take a minute to hear Emily Barton explain the social contract, and maybe those who don’t believe in government at all will be reinspired by John Sayles’s opinion that Obama “actually believes in democracy, or at least its potential.” For those who are gravely disappointed with Obama’s failures in specific policy areas, Reza Aslan wants to commiserate with you about foreign policy, Jonathan Franzen about the environment, and Sherman Alexie about Native American issues. And for those who don’t think any of it matters, that legislation is but a straw in the wind, constantly bending back and forth with each new administration, Andrew Sean Greer has six words for you – “Supreme Court Supreme Court Supreme Court.”
McSweeney’s is a publishing house, so a large number of these ninety contributors skew literary. This is not a bad thing, as is made evident by Marilynne Robinson’s clear-eyed history of employer/employee relations, Elizabeth Gilbert’s enthusiastic endorsement of Obama’s cool, and Joshua Ferris’s moving biographical sketch of his sister, a teacher and mother of two in Florida. But there are also educators, CEOs, environmentalists, musicians, comedians, artists, and at least one Muppet. (A lot of the contributors skew pretty white and male as well – and could they really not even find one gay person to write about marriage equality, DADT, hate crimes legislation, or anything else? – but reading through them all gave me hope that four years from now there will be even more space for what rapper Dee-1 calls “the voiceless people.”)
Here’s hoping that by tomorrow this rhetoric will be unnecessary. Until then, it’s a well-harmonized call to arms, a veritable chocolate box of diverse political arguments, and a pretty good way to spend ninety minutes. In between refreshing your election-day apps, of course.