20121022

Something something election blog something


The last Presidential debate just finished, and it turns out that I haven’t written anything about the election all year. It’s been hard to find enough substance to meet my standards. I loved the three ring circus that was the GOP primary (Herman Cain, any questions?), but we all knew Romney was the inevitable nominee despite himself. The state of the race to 270 Electoral College votes, and the hard work of turning out the vanishingly small number of undecided voters in the handful of swing states is beyond my expertise; I’ll leave that to Nate Silver.  I just don’t have the time to evaluate in detail the candidates’ platforms and policies; not that much detail is being released. And besides, not that it’s any surprise to any of my readers, but I’m a staunch cultural Democrat, in that I’m pro-women, pro-equality, anti-war, living proof that America is not a Christian nation.

This isn’t likely to change: My earliest political memories were 1) the Clinton-Lewinsky impeachment hearings 2) the 2000 election and the Florida Supreme Court debacle, and 3) the entire motherfucking Bush administration, who’s epochal combination of incompetence, arrogance, and short-sightedness left me unable to find a single decent thing that was accomplished by the American government from 2000-2008. As far as I’m concerned, anybody who campaigns with an “R” after his or her name without renouncing George W. Bush and all his works is entirely unworthy of respect.

Of course, just because I'm decided means that I can't have an opinion. And ((spoilers ahead)), that opinion is one of cynicism and disengagement. 

I won’t be voting for Mitt Romney, as the Obama endorsement from The Salt Lake Tribune explains why in more or less the same language I’d use. The constantly shifting positions, the refusal to share policy specifics, and the very real probability that he holds a Randian ‘takers-vs-makers’ view of society, as exhibited in his infamous 47% comments, all serve to disqualify him from higher office.

On the other hand, I’m not really inclined towards Obama, even after a strong showing in this last debate. What I wrote this January is still true.

I supported Obama [in 2008] because I believed that he could articulate a vision for American democracy in the 21st century. I thought that the author of Dreams from my Father, the 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote, and the speech on Reverend Wright, would be somebody who could inspire America in the same way that Kennedy and Reagan did. We needed, and still need, inspiration more than any specific policy solution. I believed that roused to action, the American people would find their own solutions to major problems, like healthcare, energy, education, and the war.
 Instead, Barack Obama has presided over an ugly and secretive government. It is a government that uses drones to kill terrorists on the other side of the world, while making the absurd claim that “There hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop,” (according to senior counter-terrorism official John O. Brennandespite ample evidence to the contrary. It is a government that has failed to address basic concerns about hidden risks and ‘shadow banks’ in the financial system. And while the rancor and insanity of the 112th Congress is not Obama’s fault, the White House is little better. On the Keystone XL pipeline, and Plan B birth control pill, the Obama administration has given the impression that it does not make decisions based on evidence, or what he believes would be right for the country, but what is most politically expedient. 
I’d like a frank debate about jobs and the nature of work in the 21st century, because humans are losing to machines. We need to talk about communities and belonging, because our society is more fluid, more free, and more alienating than ever before.  We need to talk about war and peace, because we have an absurdly expensive white elephant of a military with no clear mission. And we need to seriously talk about energy and sustainability, because we get precisely one shot at technological civilization and the infrastructure that sustains us is far from secure.

But none of this happened, because the conventional wisdom is that voters care about pocketbook issues and the old staples of the culture wars. The big issues and questions don’t fit neatly into the ideological frameworks of either party. If campaigning is mostly about repeating the right set of meaningless shibboleths until 51%  of the voters decide to check the mark next to your name, then bringing up non-standard narratives is always a mistake. Who am I to criticize the electoral performance of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, James Carville, David Axelrod and all the other operatives who have honed the tools of campaigning into a lethal arsenal.  But if we can’t talk about these political problems during a presidential campaign, then when?

Go ahead and vote if you want to. I don’t really care (unless you live in Ohio). Obama has been an adequate caretaker president at a time when this nation needed so much more. Romney has failed to demonstrate why he should have the job, and personally, I just don't like him. He fails the "who-would-I-like-to-have-a-beer-with" test. Hell, he even fails the coffee test. But the 2012 election isn't about politics or likability, at best, it's about administration. Sometimes, it seems like the most powerful man in the free world has all the independence of thought and action of a middle-school student treasurer.

Maybe this time I'll write in Cthulhu.


2 comments: