It’s bad enough now in politics (and for all I know, it has been ever thus) that one winds up so often voting for the least worst candidate. This year many of us are faced with having to vote against a candidate we feel would be real disaster for the country.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Republican contender for the Presidency, Mitt Romney. It’s hard for me to understand how someone like him got as far as he did, but the Republicans are the ones who thought Sarah Palin was a good idea.
I never imagined I would write about politics here, but the current situation seems to demand all able bodies speaking up and making their voices heard. I doubt anything I write will change anyone’s mind, and so this may be nothing more than a rant.
But apparently this is my week to rant about stuff that’s going on. I started the week ranting about NCIS, now I rant about politics.
Let me start with the first debate. If you watched, you know Romney came on strong. And President Obama… didn’t. Ever since, commentators on both sides have been going ape shit. Al Gore even blamed it (facetiously, I hope) on the “mile-high” altitude. Even Jon Stewart joined in voicing his strong disappointment.
And I agree. I totally agree. It was a major disappointment.
Jon Stewart played a very telling clip of Obama’s stellar performance (in Denver, the mile high city) at the close of the DNC in 2008.
What happened to that man?
Say what you will about content and facts, the truth is that these debates are about Presidential presence, about taking control in a challenging situation and making us want to vote you into the highest office in the land.
As much as I hate Mitt Romney, Obama’s performance was so bad that it (almost) made me question my vote. Judging by the reactions of just about everyone, I was not alone in that assessment.
Wednesday night my buddy and I got to talking politics, and he made two interesting observations that I’ll share with you below. He made them in response to my rant about why I’m so disappointed in the Obama Presidency and, especially, in the Democrats.
[I renounced my membership in the party about two years ago. I intended to vote Libertarian—or possibly Independent—just to send a message, but with Romney in opposition, I feel I must now cast an anti-vote.]
I have three major issues that are the source of my disappointment.
Firstly, Obama and his people ran this amazing campaign in 2008. It was smart and it promised so much. That was one year I was able to vote for a candidate I wanted to see in office.
And he got in office. And then it seemed like everyone turned stupid. I fully appreciate the opposition and the Republican’s childish “Just Say NO!” bullshit, but time and time again I saw missed opportunities and no control of message.
For one, Obama kept trying bipartisanship long after any sane person should have recognized that it wasn’t going to happen. At first I thought it was a clever ploy to give them rope so he could then point them out as the obstructionist, ignorant assholes they are, but that never happened.
The Republicans are so incredibly wrong on so many issues these days, how can the Democratic party have failed to press their advantage? But the Obama Presidency just shouldered on with increasing weariness and ineffectiveness.
The debate this week showed the same flaws: no capitalizing on the clear, factual wrongness of the other side; and not being smart and prepared at all. WTF!
Secondly, Obama has shown over and over that he’s just not a leader. He’s an amazing man: intelligent, perceptive, capable and caring. But he’s just not a leader. He reminds me of Jimmy Carter, who was also a wonderful, intelligent man, but a poor leader.
This was apparent in the debate. How does the man who blew us away in 2008, who starred in his own Denver Superbowl, who knocked’m dead in Europe, who has led the free world for four years, who took out bin Laden, give us such a lame performance in such a crucial moment?
I can’t imagine that everyone on his staff isn’t fully aware of how important this was. I can’t imagine he didn’t have access to the best debate prep in the world. I can’t imagine they don’t understand that this is show. WTF!
Thirdly, I’m really angry with the Democrats (hence my renouncing my membership). They say that getting the Democrats to operate in synch is like “herding cats.” (And yet, I imagine cat experts do that with ease.)
My buddy’s response was mainly directed at why the Democrats act like this, and he makes two very good points, but they are not sufficient in my mind to excuse blowing a critical political opportunity as they did in the first two years of the Obama Presidency.
There was damn near a mandate to get stuff done. Stuff this country needs so badly. Wall Street and the banking systems needs to be fixed, health care needs to be fixed, science and education needs to be fixed, roads and bridges need to be fixed, and so much else.
What did we get? An anemic healthcare bill and a pathetic attempt to fix the banking system and that’s about it.
This is where the Democrats and the President’s people got very, very stupid. It starts with messaging. Spread the word everywhere about the realities, about the facts, the needs, the important stuff. They should have taken out billboards and commercials and flooded all corners of the internet. Get the public educated and angry and involved.
It’s exactly how they got a black man elected President for the first time in our history. (And the runner-up was a woman! Huge step for us either way.) We needed the power and the smarts of the campaign in the Presidency and in Congress. It would have been risky (which, I’m sure, is why they chickened out), but I believe it would have been successful.
Now my buddy’s first point goes like this:
If you imagine the spectrum of left and right, there is a big fuzzy area on the left and a big fuzzy area on the right. These are the zones inhabited by Democrats and Republicans, respectively. There has always been room for variation in the fuzzy area. There are extremists and moderates on both sides.
But this country has been shifting right for a while now, and effectively this has compressed the right against the “do not pass” wall (because beyond that wall we’re talking swastikas; communism lies beyond the wall to the left).
Since the right has gotten compressed, there isn’t much variation, so they find it easier to march in lockstep. And the groupthink effect is probably stronger on the right as well (for a reason I’ll cover next).
Meanwhile, the left has shifted right, but isn’t scrunched up against a wall, so the fuzzy area is still pretty big. There is still considerable variation on the left, and the groupthink isn’t as strong. (Left, after all, is liberal, which usually means progressive and tolerant.)
My buddy’s second reason came from a quote we both believe and love. The quote goes, “Evil doesn’t question itself.”
The quote comes from—of all places—Craig Ferguson’s novel, Between the Bridge and the River.
Yes, Craig Ferguson the comedian and late, late show host. He’s actually an incredibly smart, deep human being. His autobiography is a wonderful read, but his novel is amazing. It’s a tale of good and evil and charts two people. One starts off good and becomes evil; the other has a reverse path.
Here’s one of the best first lines of a novel, ever: “Cloven-hoofed creatures passed this way.”
And that, my friends, explains a great deal. Evil doesn’t question itself. Only good wonders if it’s doing the right thing. Only good wonders what the right thing is. Only good (not unlike science) constantly self-checks. It’s a concept that’s well worth remembering.
Evil doesn’t question itself.