There will not be a great parting of the clouds.
There will not be brighter flowers and happier puppies. There will not be massive choruses of angels singing and birds chirping and dolphins finally standing upright and speaking fluent Latin and saying we knew it all along.
Let's be real: Should Kerry win this election, we are most likely not in for a spectacular and unprecedented ride of shiny progressive glory that will astound the world and reignite the collective soul and float us all to the hereafter on golden wings of sparkly well-lubed bliss. OK?
I know, this is not a popular angle. After all, we desperately need this feeling. We need to be ignited by raw hope and urgent hyperbole and to feel that some massive, silly platitude is at work, some hollow line like Reagan's infamous "morning in America," supposedly heralding a huge transformational rebirth and not, as Reagan actually brought, massive deficits, and ignorance, and homophobia, and corporate welfare and deregulation and environmental destruction and class warfare and self-righteous conservative indignation, amen.
We want to feel, with every new president, like we are finally turning a corner, like history is about to be written anew, like massive glittery change is afoot and the world is about to get a whole lot better and God will smile and our children's IQs will jump 50 points just by witnessing it and everyone will have happy delirious sex in the streets.
But deeper down, you know it's not really true. You know after almost any election it all usually and very quickly reverts to business as usual and politics as usual and insider jabs and senatorial scandal and snide congressional bickering, same as it ever was.
We know, after all, that Kerry can only do so much. We know, deep down, that he is not some sort of demigod and that he will face a cutthroat Senate and that he has his flaws and policy shortcomings and that no matter how you slice him, he's still a professional politician and he will not give us, say, universal single-payer health care or legal same-sex marriage or a quick cure for cancer or a guarantee that our oil gluttony will soon be an afterthought and everyone will be able to buy a sexy solar-powered flying sports car for one hundred dollars within a week.
However, this is not to say Kerry isn't fully capable of being a truly fantastic president, that he doesn't beam with deep integrity beyond the norm and vision beyond the immediate and intelligence so far above what we have now, it's like comparing Richard Feynman to Barney the Dinosaur.
And this is not to say the country can't move in fresh directions, rediscover its civic pride and its place in the world and maybe suck down a much-needed dose of humility and self-respect, alongside. If Kerry wins, we will, perhaps more than anything else, regain our absolutely decimated international respect, the friendship of our estranged allies, a shred of honor. The appalled and disgusted mocking of this wrathful, hissy United States will die down. The planet will not laugh and then cringe at our inarticulate, simpleminded dolt of a leader anymore. We will, in short, be able to hold our heads up high again.
But Kerry, like any "normal" presidential candidate, is not a miracle worker. After all, under Clinton we had an unprecedented run of astounding prosperity and peace and record budget surpluses and international respect and even today, throughout the globe, Clinton is admired and respected like no president in recent history, especially among those very nations that think Bush is an imbecilic child. Which is, of course, pretty much all of them.
But Clinton was also the most reviled and attacked and hunted Democratic president in history, courtesy of the furious and appalled Right, who simply could not tolerate sex and intelligence and outstanding environmental progress and not a single smack at gays and not a single slap at women's rights and not a single major multibillion-dollar war in all those years to boost the portfolios of their cronies in the military industries.
So you know that even the best and brightest have obstacles and roadblocks and vicious detractors aiming to take him down, just for being wildly popular and successful and coherent. All signs point to the fact that Kerry could be absolutely excellent. But he will also still be just another president, facing many of the same demons as any.
But here's the thing: Given how this is pretty much the most important election in your lifetime, given how much is at stake and how deeply BushCo has rammed us down the bleak hole of fear and war and environmental gluttony and abuse, a "regular" president is a blessing we can only dream of.
And the presidential debates have shown Kerry to be a formidable intellect, forthright and fluent and the absolute antithesis of Bush's fast-blinking aww-shucks dumb-guy smarminess. You know, like a normal president should. And the bottom line is this: never has normal looked so good.
Because this is the point in history where we say, oh my freaking God we never knew how good we had it. Sure we all knew the Clinton era was something special and even Bush 1.0 was tolerable and relatively benign and gutless, but oh my God, we had to suffer the appalling, warmongering neofascism of Bush 2.0 to really appreciate what America was, and what we should try to be again.
As the song goes, you don't know what you got 'til it's gone. And man oh man, once BushCo is gone and Kerry starts mopping up the carnage, we can finally begin to get it all back.
E-Mail Mark Morford firstname.lastname@example.org
2004 San Francisco Chronicle