that things were a hell of a lot easier when I believed the two parties were equally bad and I always voted for minor parties. Back when I could say confidently, "Both Bush and Gore are capitalist bastards; I'm voting for David McReynolds." Back when I worked to bring McReynolds to Austin College to speak about how Socialism could be an American movement. Back when I was the only vote for McReynolds in Grayson County, Texas (but my vote was counted - I saw it on the election board's website.)
Being in that kind of bubble is so comforting, so satisfying, so self-reinforcing, but, also, alas, so wrong-headed and unrealistic. It's also much more difficult to justify such naivete now, because of what this country has been through over the past 8 years under Bush. To operate based on the realities of what's actually happening, and engage in the real battles of ideas currently taking place within and between the two major parties; that is the challenge today, and it's an very difficult place to be. To shove aside greater ideological questions in favor of fighting like hell for incremental change - to go from hardline Marxism to a kind of nebulous "progressivism" - that's the great intellectual leap I had to make, and it was always a tough sell.
But this election, and even the '04 election before it, is too important, and even the small questions seem huge. The differences between the parties are cavernous, and the dangers inherent in another Republican Presidency are enormous and terrifying. Even the most strident left-winger has a choice to make. Either join the battle where it is being waged, or go off and tilt at your own personal windmills. That's the choice I made in '04 when I backed Dean, and this election when I ultimately voted for Hillary, and in November when I'll vote for either Hillary or Obama.
The larger questions are always in the back of my mind, but political reality requires me to keep them there.