Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thoughts in a Cold Season

It's early December in Rochester, New York. Everyone knows what that means; ice, pelltings of sleet, lacings up of boots, layering of sweaters; lake effect snow bands promiscuously picking up moisture over Lake Ontario, only to drop off their ill-gotten gains on the peaceful villagers of upstate New York. In the immortal words of Ezra Pound: Winter is icummen in
Lhude sing Goddamm
Raineth drop and staineth slop
And how the wind doth ramm!

But no singing of Goddamm for me. Obama Hosannas instead. Because one of the less-remarked upon novelties of an Obama presidency is that he will be the first president from a cold weather climate in a long time. It does my heart good to see photos of him bundled up in a winter coat, wearing a hat with ear muffs. And after a long run of sunbelters, Obama returns the presidency to those of us who know the difference among the four seasons. Our recent presidents have hailed from, in reverse order, Texas, Arkansas, Texas, California, Georgia, Michigan (the brief interregnum of Gerald Ford), California, Texas, Massachusetts (a cold enough clime that), Kansas/Texas (Eisenhower’s a tough one to locate), and Missouri. And the first upper-Midwesterner (Ford once again excepted) since Herbert Hoover.
What do we get from a cold weather president? A president from a state people are moving away from, and not to. A state with a declining industrial base, that will not be able to support itself through software engineering and asset bubbles in housing, a state that has seen better days. We desperately need a president who has witnessed the underside of America over the past thirty years. Texans, Californians, and Arizonans (this means you, John McCain, need not apply.) A blast of cold air is just what this country needs. As a northern Minnesotan once said, the times, they are a changin’.

Item two: Now that Hillary will be moving on, and we need to pick a new senator, let me add my voice to those upstate who think it might be nice to have an upstater picked. The only way an upstate pol gets to statewide office these days is by appointment—the last upstate senator was Charles Godell, appointed by Rocky to finish out Robert Kenendy’s term. Various names have been bruited about, and let me add one, former Rochester mayor William Johnson, who is probably too old to be considered, but he is one of the most thoughtful politicians I have ever known, and he would be an ornament to the Senate. Andrew Cuomo has plenty of time to do his greasy pole climbing.

Item three: Congrats to the Canadians for figuring out a way to topple Stephen Harper’s Bush wannabe-ish government. It was nice while it lasted, a few weeks when United Staters would tease their Canadian friends about our country having a more progressive government than theirs, inquiring if they were making their plans to move south of the border. One question—a coalition government between the NDP and the Liberals seems so natural, a center-left government, that why wasn’t this tried before? Canada evidently, like Britain, doesn’t really do coalition governments, but this link up, to one who doesn’t know the intricacies of the Canadian system, seems like something that should have been tried a long time ago. Anyway, this winter seems like a decisive shift, all over North America, to progressive, cold weather politics. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

No comments: