Perhaps you watched the Democratic debate on MSNBC last night, and you heard many of the candidates talk at length about their foreign policy experience, the bills they wrote in Congress, their experience negotiating with dictators (if I hear Richardson talk once more about how he went "head to head" with Saddam I think my own head might explode), in short, all of the stuff they have done.
If you are anything like me, you felt... what's the word... glassy-eyed?
The strange and wonderful thing about democracy is that it is entirely forward-looking. Sure, we want to know the basics of where a person has been, but our vote goes to the person who we think will, from this point going forward, represent our views best.
You can't rest on laurels. Past performance is not relevant. I was watching for who they are now, not who they were or have been.
An experience I had as a dad last night, which happily coincided with the Democratic debate, brought this point to mind.
Just as the debate started, at 6 pm, you could find me outside on our front deck, with Cole and George, a large pumpkin, a sharp knife and a trash bag. As the sun set, I carved a goofy, toothy face into one side of the pumpkin and then scraped out the pumpkin pulp and seeds and transfered them to the trash bag. George was willing to reach in and grab handfuls of "mushy" pumpkin to help; Cole chose to abstain, responding to each of my offers that he reach in the pumpkin with a soft-spoken but definitive "no."
Then I had an idea. I asked George to go get one of his Batman shirts from upstairs. He brought it down. Carefully following the design on his shirt, I carved Batman's bat logo on the opposite side of the pumpkin.
George got so worked up that he was running circles by this point, screaming about how the "ghost Batman" would be coming to our house that night. Understanding but a few words of George's monologue, Cole nevertheless got worked up into a fever pitch himself. As I lit the candle inside the pumpkin, the two of them were spinning around like two Sufi mystics.
Cut to a half hour later. They are both now in pajamas, their teeth brushed, tucked in bed. They begin issuing various demands, each boy using his own variation of "Daaaaadddyy!" in a rising vocal pattern not unlike the rhesus monkeys of the Himalayas.
Cole wanted a "rock hug" on his chair. George wanted another story. Then when Cole was finally down, George started shouting for Daddy to show him the moon. We went out to see the moon. No moon (fog). At which point Cole woke up again... what with the noise... and needed another "rock hug." Then he insisted on making some unintelligible point about his bunny, to which he wanted me to respond appropriately. Then George wanted to read another book. Which request woke up Cole again.
My wife, downstairs, was doing the dishes and oblivious to all of this.
I tried to get stern. I pleaded with George not to wake up his brother again. I pointed at him in a vaguely threatening way, without any idea what the consequences of more noise would be except to plead with him some more. Now both were crying. I went to Cole again. George started shouting something about his night light, which was on as usual.
And that's when the thought came to me: But weren't they happy, these two little sons of mine, a half hour ago? Didn't I deserve some quiet, and a gentle "Goodnight, Daddy," now? Did I or did I not carve a fucking bat logo into the back of the pumpkin?
But I couldn't play that card. I couldn't make the technical point that the day was a good one, and Dad is tired because he's been attending to your needs for two hours straight, and Dad deserves a break.
They're only two and three. They're tired. They feel like fussing. And anyway, that was old news.
Past performance is not relevant. Being a Daddy is always now.
And like an elected office, it requires a permanent campaign, always looking forward to the new day.