I had a blog topic planned for the week, and then that all went to hell because I watched the debate Tuesday night. In fact, I have watched all the debates so far, figuring it was the least I could do to inform myself. I tried to ignore the first decade of campaigning (it WAS that long, wasn’t it?), but I figured I should at least hear the man I intend to vote for speak a couple times.
I have to say that I’ve been pretty disappointed by the debates over all, mostly because the ratio of answers to questions is not the 1:1 I would hope for and expect. These debates are a job interview for one of the more important positions available in our nation. If I walked into a job interview, listened to the questions, and then answered a question of my own creation instead, if I bothered to answer anything at all, ‘twould be a short interview, and rightly so. I definitely would not get the job, and the employer would be well-served to keep looking for a better candidate. Unfortunately, we don’t have that option. These are our two applicants, and we, as the employers, have to hire one, despite their apparent inability to answer a direct question with an equally direct response.
Another thing that has bothered me is the seemingly adamant ignoring of the existence of poor folk in our nation on the part of both candidates. I am fortunate to be among the middle class, and from the sounds of the debates, it seems like a great time to be here. Every program, every benefit, every tax break, every one of the excessive praises is for me and my fellow middle-classers, because we are what ostensibly makes the nation keep running. We are, if the candidates are to be believed, the backbone of America, and it is to us that all federal beneficence should accrue. They talk about us as if we are the ones most in jeopardy in these hard times, which doesn’t make sense. We aren’t middle class because we’re teetering on the edge of financial ruin; that would be the working poor. I suppose in some sense, we ARE what keeps the nation going, because we are the people who think we should pay our bills, buy houses we can afford, and actually write the check to cover the mortgage each month, and are generally fiscally responsible. The very poor don’t have any fiscal to be responsible for, and the very rich don’t feel the need, as when they are fiscally irresponsible, they will be bailed out by whom? Why, the middle class, of course! We are the heros of the current election season, soon enough forgotten after November 4th.
Regardless, it seems to me that either they’re confused about what it means to be “middle class” (and I suppose for a couple of millionaires, the difference might seem negligible), or it’s just rude to point out that America has poor people living in poor housing eating poor or no food and sending their poor children to poor schools. Evidently, neither candidate has a program planned for these poor souls, so they don’t mention them at all. And certainly, it’s gauche for them to speak directly to the rich, who are their friends and contributors, and who know that they will be taken care of in any case. So it is the middle class that they can speak to without fear of embarrassment or reprisal, which is ironic because it is the middle class that is shrinking as them that gots get more, and them that don’t sink further into hopelessness. If you’re targeting a demographic, you might want to choose the one you’re not squeezing out of existence. That’d be the smart bet.
While I don’t consider myself a party-loyal Democrat (they’re a little too far to the right for me, and inching further right every election, frankly,) my views and those of the average Republican are so far apart that I would probably have to have actual video proof of the Democrat candidate putting babies on spikes while actively (and enthusiastically) consorting with the devil before I would vote for an R over a D. That’s just the way it is; it’s not that I’m blindly loyal to the Dems. It’s just that the GOP has nothing to offer me but greed, divisiveness, bigotry, and classism, and I’m just not down with that. This election is no different. Even if you tortured me with hot pokers and put bamboo slivers under my fingernails, you still couldn’t get me to vote for McCain. I’m still waiting for the candidate I could have real faith in; but the people I admire don’t run. Nor can I blame them.
The intrepid Ghost, (who is my political and philosophical opposite to such a degree that neither of us can understand why we’re still talking after all these years), asked me why I would vote for Obama, and the short story is that I could not, in good conscience, vote for McCain. That was not always true, and when I first moved to Arizona a decade ago, I had some respect for the self-proclaimed “maverick,” and I liked his views on campaign finance reform. However, his appeal has waned, at least for me, as I’ve seen his behavior on display during this campaign, and as a citizen of the state the Senator represents (or did before he decided to call out presidential for 6 months; I note that he’s still cashing our checks, though, as Obama is from the state of Illinois).
Where I once thought he was a man of integrity, he lost my good opinion forever when he voted against a bill that would curtail the CIA’s ability to use torture as an “interrogation technique.” How could a man who has made his career on his status as a former POW, who claims that he is against torture, not see the import of his particular “no” vote in this case? Either all the anti-torture talk is lip service and he doesn’t believe that at all, or he lacks the perspective and understanding he needs to lead effectively, especially in these times.
It is common practice for politicians to bend and massage the truth, but what McCain and Palin have been engaging in hovers somewhere between extreme yoga and the torture he can’t quite decide if he’s against. In a nod to old Chicago-style tactics (or are those strategies?), he and Palin sling mud early and often, counting on the short attention span of the average TV-watching American who will only remember that they said that the guy with the funny, foreign-sounding name, hangs around with terrorists. They will not remember, if they ever knew, that they merely shared a board membership, and that the Weather Underground has not been a going concern for 30 years.
In McCain we have a man whom everyone generally agrees has his strength in foreign policy. However, he wants to carry a big stick and mocks Obama for being willing to sit down, through normal diplomatic procedures, “WITHOUT PRECONDITION OMG!” with the despots that trouble us most, such as the President of Spain.
By any measure, the esteem in which the United States is held in the international community is currently at an all-time low. We need to start mending fences with folks before we end up being the lonesome cowboy we’ve been behaving as. This will be one of the greatest tasks, and challenges, the next president will have to face. Yet McCain cannot even manage to be civil and cordial to a fellow American citizen and Senate colleague when he shares a stage with him for a lousy hour and a half. He comes off as crotchety, quick to anger, and prone to saying whatever fool thing crosses his mind at the moment, right or wrong, all the while denigrating Obama’s consensus-building skills, writing him off as “merely” a community organizer. While I can understand why “community” would seem a foreign concept to a party for whom “divide and conquer” is its chief tenet of faith, it is precisely what we need right now.
McCain is a man who is so tone-deaf, so unschooled in both rhetoric and human psychology, that he sarcastically refers to both his opponent and the people in his audience whose side he wants to pretend to be on as “my friend(s).” Take heed—it does not stretch credibility to think that this man has no real sense of the difference between his friends and his enemies.
We have seen what 8 years of an administration where the President is fine with being unpopular in his own country and outside of it as long as he gets his way, heedless of caution, consideration, and genuine care for the citizenry he purports to protect and serve. ‘Tain’t pretty. McCain would be more of the same. And in some ways, I wonder if he might not be worse, which I find hard to imagine, but yet that’s what my gut says. And the U.S. cannot afford more of the same, on many levels.
McCain and Palin are trying hard to talk about how they will bring change to Washington, though I don’t know how a long-standing senior Senator thinks he can manage that. So desperate are they to distance themselves from the current regime that they are dragging poor St. Ronnie from his grave every chance they get, skipping over the last 2 Republican presidents as if they didn’t exist. That pesky Bush dynasty! It’s a transparent gambit, and for that, thin and pathetic.
I don’t know what to think of a man who wants to rail against the establishment, announce his plans to fight against cronyism in Washington, and refer to himself as a “maverick” (though I think we can happily thank and bless Sarah Palin for killing that one in the VP debate through astonishing overuse) when he’s enjoyed a 30-year Senate career. If that doesn’t make you an insider, I can’t imagine what does. At the same time, he’s constantly saying, “look at my record,” so on some level, he knows what he’s been up to for the last three decades. Which leads me to believe one or more of several possibilities: 1) he’s comfortable with the cognitive dissonance; 2) he will say anything that is politically expedient, so expansive is his ambition; 3) he is senile and does not actually see or remember the conflict inherent in what he says; or 4) he’s actually insane. None of these things mean anything good for America.
In terms of his good judgment, I think his VP pick is Exhibit A that he has none. Palin makes Dan Quayle seem sharp and well-spoken, and that should scare all of us. The criticism of Palin as a potential VP is not sexist; it’s valid, and indeed, for anyone who’s been paying attention, that has been the goal of both those against affirmative action and those against gender discrimination. All sides would agree that women should be evaluated on their merits like any other human being. Palin is uninformed, poorly spoken, and careless (or dangerous) with the words she does manage to spit out. Her ego has gotten in the way of her judgment; she never should’ve accepted the nomination. Folksy charm doesn’t feed the bulldog, and while Dubya got two terms because people thought he was the kind of guy they could drink a beer with, and Palin is popular because she is “just like me,” I have to ask folks to look around and see what that’s gotten us in 8 years. I don’t want someone “just like me” in the White House; I want someone smarter, savvier, and more compassionate, thank you.
As for my support of Obama, it seems I have little choice. He certainly was a better choice than Clinton, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m pleased that he ended up being the nominee. Unlike some, I do not think Obama is the second coming of Kennedy. I don’t see him lighting the world on fire. He doesn’t inspire me to rapturous levels that I’ve heard he does for others. But we’ve already got a guy who has been LITERALLY setting the world on fire (and under fire) for 8 years. We’ve lost all our friends internationally except for those who cannot afford to distance themselves from us. We’re embroiled in a war without seeming end; no, wait–two wars. The economy’s in tatters. And to be “American” has never been less esteemed in the eyes of the world, which is a damn shame. To continue to forge ahead with the same kind of egotism about America being the greatest and the oft-mentioned “force for good” is blind stupidity. We CAN be a force for good; we have not been lately. We don’t need any more “mavericks.” What I like about Obama is that he is calm, level-headed, and thinks before he acts or speaks. We could use some of that—a lot of that—now, in my opinion.