Thursday, September 04, 2008

Politics Suck -- Special RNC Issue

Introducing Politic Suck: an engaging new microbrew with a surprisingly bitter aftertaste.[1]

I tune in expecting to hear substantive content on the party plank and policy issues. I watch instead what appears to be a combination pep rally/character assassination that has all the grace and nuance of kids sticking their tongues out at each other on the playground. The precipitous descent in the level of political discourse in this country is astonishing. Why should we elect people to some of the highest offices in the land when their approach is vindictive, snide, and smug, and their primary means of communication is insult? I wouldn't hire people like that in my office, let alone to run a country.

I truly despise what politics in America has become. Can we just start again? Maybe with the Constitution this time?

If you feel like you need a scorecard
You really don't have to fuss
You know the winner is always somebody else
And the loser is always us
It's shake it to the east, shake it to the west
Hand me down my bullet-proof vest
It's nobody choice and it's anybody's guess
Do that election,
There ain't no selection,
Do that Election Year Rag
-- Steve Goodman, "Election Year Rag"

[1] h/t Joshua Neds-Fox

18 comments:

Brother-in-law Bill said...

I've watched a lot of conventions in my lifetime, and I don't recall any where there weren't sharp digs at the other party and its candidates. So I don't think the conventions are any worse that way than ever. Face it, these things are not academic debates; they're all about whipping up enthusiasm among the true believers and persuading the viewers that the party on the screen has all the good ideas and the other guys are a bunch of losers.

What has changed is the extent to which what George Washington labeled "party spirit" continues during the rest of the year. Maybe its all the information bombarding us 24/7, much of which is opinion rather than information. Maybe its the drive for ratings that determines that meanness sells on news broadcasts. Whatever it is, the important thing is that it's paralyzing Washington. I happen to believe that the more evenly power is split between the 2 parties in Washington, the more likely it is that corruption will be minimized and solutions representing the best ideas from both sides will prevail. Instead, we now have 2 sides that talk past each other. The worst example at the moment is probably the debate on energy. Any citizen can tell you that all of the ideas should be considered, regardless of party label. Let's conserve, let's find more oil, and let's develop alternatives, including nuclear and natural gas. Instead, conserve and alternatives are owned by the Democrats, and drilling, nuclear, and natural gas are owned by the Republicans. And while we may feel better if the big oil companies are taxed more, they're just going to pass the additional pain on to us. Absolutely ridiculous! All of them should be embarrassed. And yes, it's legitimate to debate whether we should have gone into Iraq, but the real issue on the table is how do we bring it to a conclusion without leaving a situation that will further deteriorate. And, I admit to being a registered Republican, but why can't Democrats admit that the surge worked, and that that is part of the decision making process for getting out?

For thoughtful news that is as objective as I've ever found, I recommend the magazine The Economist. Maybe it's because it's published in the U.K., but they seem to come up with suggestions that make good sense, even when they seem to contradict whatever ideological position I've adopted on the subject. I wish I could suggest some other objective news sources, but none come to mind.

Thus endeth the rant.

Klinger said...

Andy,

I didn't watch - I'm pissed off often enough as it is. These conventions are little more than pep rallies. It's best not to even bother.

I did watch a lot of the Dem convention, though (I can handle a pep rally for my team, of course), and I have a question. Nearly every speaker I saw praised McCain as an honorable person whose service to this country has been unassailable. They pointed out that they disagreed with his policies and the way he's run his campaign so far. Did the Republicans at any point extend the same courtesy to Obama?

The clips I've heard suggest that they didn't do much more than insult Obama. I'd love to hear of any instance where they stated that Obama is a good person with ideas they disagree with. I think talk like that would do a world of good.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Both parties criticize the other. Both sides fold, spindle and sometimes mutilate the facts. But Sarah Palin takes the cake.

Columnist John Ridley points out the amaaaazing levels of hypocrisy displayed by the Rovian spin doctors:

---

If you're a minority and you're selected for a job over more qualified candidates you're a "token hire." If you're a conservative and you're selected for a job over more qualified candidates you're a "game changer."

If you live in an Urban area and you get a girl pregnant you're a "baby daddy." If you're the same in Alaska you're a "teen father." (Actually, according to your own MySpace page you're an F'n redneck that don't want any kids, but that's too long a phrase for the evil liberal media to take out of context and flog morning noon and night).

Black teen pregnancies? A "crisis" in black America. White teen pregnancies? A "blessed event."

If you grow up in Hawaii you're "exotic." Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, you're the quintessential "American story."

Similarly, if you name you kid Barack you're "unpatriotic." Name your kid Track, you're "colorful."

If you're a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fully vetting the individual you're "reckless." A Republican who doesn't fully vet is a "maverick."

If you say that for the "first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country" it makes you "unfit" to be First Lady. If you are a registered member of a fringe political group that advocates secession that makes you "First Dude."

A DUI from twenty years ago is "old news." A speech given without proper citation from twenty years ago is "relevant information."

And, finally, if you're a man and you decide to run for office despite your wife's recurrence of cancer you're a "questionable spouse." If you're a woman and you decide to run for office despite having five kids including a newborn... Well, we don't know what that is 'cause THAT'S NOT A FAIR QUESTION TO ASK.

--

I feel like the RNC exited the spin cycle, and have entered into some alternate, Escherian, reality-rending twilight zone where the most basic principles of logic doesn't apply.

The Republican platform is built on two planks: national security and fiscal responsibility. That the Rs accuse the Ds of irresponsible, big-government spending while supporting a trillion dollar taxpayer-financed Al Qaeda recruitment video is beyond mystifying to me -- it's infuriating.

Andy Whitman said...

Klinger, yes, you're pointing out the differences I've seen between the DNC and RNC.

It's not that I expect much more than a pep rally in both cases. But I did find the DNC's comments about McCain to be respectful. The disagreemens, where they occurred (and they certainly occurred), were limited to differences in policy.

In constrast, I found Rudy Giuliani to be the worst kind of attack dog. He was, quite simply, insulting, and little more than insulting. His combination of smug arrogance, mean-spiritedness and gloating was repugnant. I literally couldn't take it. I watched for five minutes, and decided that a root canal would have been preferable to more of the smug, condescending Rudy.

There is a difference in tone between the two conventions. Both are pep rallies. Both are carefully staged presentations of why the party in the spotlight has all the answers and why the members of the other party are losers. But only the political equivalent of Don Rickles has appeared at the RNC. It's just more of the old, tired culture wars. Let's polarize America. Let's not work together. Let's not only disagree with our opponents, but let's paint them with a sinister, hateful brush. And this is the presumptive party of the Christian Church, according to Rudy. What a sad and pathetic commentary.

Guess who I'm voting for?

John McCollum said...

"Guess who I'm voting for."

Green Party -- McKinney and Clemente 08?

Andy Whitman said...

Nope, Purple Party -- Professor Plum (in the convention hall, with the hatchet) and Barney. Actually, the Barney theme song ought to be piped in to the RNC. It might help people to pull in their fangs.

cnb said...

I'm an outsider in all this (Canadian), but I did tune in for a few minutes last night. I saw a few minutes of Mike Huckabee's speech, and most of Sarah Palin's speech. (Like you, I tuned out Giuliani. Is he a mad man?)

For what it's worth, I think I did hear Huckabee praise Obama for his success thus far.

As for Palin's speech, I can understand your exasperation at her sarcastic oblique references to Obama. There was too much of it. At the same time, have you looked at the NY Times in the past week? I can forgive the woman if she defends herself, and there are worse weapons than wit.

I don't know much about conventions, but I think they actually are pep rallies. What I saw on the DNC was mostly pep and platitudes. Presumably policy, if it comes at all, comes in another forum.

David Kern said...

Say what you will about Rudy's speech, or even about Governor Palin's speech (both of which were, in their own ways, rhetorically genius) but Senator McCain's speech was not smug, nor was it rude.

McCain was honest and humble (i.e., his story about his time in the prison camp) and his patriotism came across as truly authentic. This is a man of school patriotism, the kind of patriotism our nation no longer sees. A patriotism borne from the embers of a fire kindled by Jefferson and Madison and Henry and Lincoln, the kind of patriotism that led to the end of slavery, and the many freedoms we know.

Where Obama stands on abstractions like "change," McCain stands on concrete, knowable, and known, ideas like his love for his country and his whole-hearted, entire, dedication to the place we live and the many ideals it was built on.

And this from someone who before this week was leaning toward Obama.

Also, We CANNOT underestimate the importance of the divide between these candidates when it comes to education: If parents are no longer the primary educators - the primary decision makers regarding their children's schooling - then next comes the church, and that separation we so love.

Education must NOT begin in the courtrooms, but rather must be begun in the home.

Andy Whitman said...

David, it sounds like your mind is made up, and that's fine. I suppose mine is, too. We all see these things through our own interpretive grids, and I really have no desire to get into a debate about the two candidates.

I'll simply note that I think John McCain is a genuine war hero and a thoroughly uninspiring politician. He does absolutely nothing for me. I think he's probably a good and principled man. But I disagree with most of the policies he supports (it's that old "experience" trump card; it doesn't mean much when you have decades of experience supporting policies that I believe are wrong), and I won't be voting for him.

I also couldn't help that notice that Sarah Palin generated considerably more enthusiasm at the RNC than John McCain. That doesn't bode well for the Republicans in November. But we'll see what happens.

jackscrow said...

Reason Magazine has the documentation.

http://www.reason.com/news/show/128472.html

As a real Conservative, the more research I put into John McCain, the LESS I like this.

He has changed his position on so many important issues, and flat-out prevaricated on others, that I won't be surprised if he is chosen to edit the new version of The Karma Sutra.

Hayseed said...

<< I also couldn't help that notice that Sarah Palin generated considerably more enthusiasm at the RNC than John McCain. That doesn't bode well for the Republicans in November. But we'll see what happens. >>

I see it exactly opposite for the same reason! I think the conservatives were VERY disappointed in McCain but now they're enthused by Sarah Palin. Remember, they are the same people responsible for putting GWB in the White House... twice.

Andy Whitman said...

Hayseed, but this is an election for President of the United States. I can't imagine that people will vote for McCain because they like Palin any more than I can imagine that in 2004 people voted for Bush because they liked Cheney, or for Kerry because they liked Edwards.

It's the top dog that wins or loses the election.

Julana said...

There will be people voting for McCain in defense of Palin, if the level of negative media coverage of her keeps up.

Brother-in-law Bill said...

Conservatives who might have stayed home and certainly would not have worked for McCain are now enthused enough about Palin that they will now work and actually vote for the ticket. And the more the media picks on her, the more energized they will become. There was never any thought that conservatives would consider voting for Obama.

So, net, Obama doesn't lose votes, but McCain does gain volunteers and votes. And those worried about Palin's lack of experience and being a heart beat away from the presidency are probably similarly concerned about Obama's lack of experience, so that's a wash.

I initially thought McCain blew it. I now think it was the best move he could have made in order to gain votes through the naming of his running mate. It's a shrewd pick on so many levels.

scott said...

There certainly appears to be a double standard from the judgmental amongst us. What would the reaction have been if Chelsea Clinton got pregnant when she was a teenager?

Hayseed said...

<< I can't imagine that people will vote for McCain because they like Palin any more than I can imagine that in 2004 people voted for Bush because they liked Cheney, or for Kerry because they liked Edwards. >>

That's conventional thinking which I can appreciate. However, do you honestly compare the excitement among the Republican base about Sarah Palin's selection to that of the picks of Cheney or Edwards?

Brother-in-law Bill "gets" it:

<< Conservatives who might have stayed home and certainly would not have worked for McCain are now enthused enough about Palin that they will now work and actually vote for the ticket. >>

... and ...

<< I initially thought McCain blew it. I now think it was the best move he could have made in order to gain votes through the naming of his running mate. It's a shrewd pick on so many levels. >>

My own brother is a Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter follower. He was VERY disappointed with McCain's win and was, much like Hillary's supporters with Obama, having a very tough time coming around to support him even though he felt he had no real alternative.

Now...? He's pumped up and singing Sarah's praises! He's actually excited about the election all of a sudden.

I think the people who put GWB in the White House TWICE were really looking for a justification - a reason, if you will - for supporting their nominee. Now they can vote Republican and consider it the next step in Sarah Palin's ascension. I think that because it's what my brother and his friends are saying.

just.scott76 said...

This two-party duopoly remains disturbing from both sides

David Kern said...

Andy, Actually I wouldn't say my mind is entirely made up. I've been on the fence all along and I still have a great deal to think about.

Ultimately, I agree with both candidates on certain issues, and naturally, disagree with each on others. In a draw, McCain's experience might win. Not sure yet.

That being said - are any of us real conservatives anymore? And are any of us real democrats? These are terms that have become so ambiguous and undefined that they become meaningless in any sort of practical sense for voters and politicians. So to argue about bipartisan government, etc pretty much becomes an exercise in futility.

I suggest we all read a heavy does of Russell Kirk.

I'm perfectly willing to be persuaded that Obama is the better candidate - maybe there just isnt a good candidate. Maybe Wendell Berry should be president. Maybe a song should be president.