Thursday, September 04, 2008

Election Malaise

I've been asked many times this past week what I think of Republican VP pick Sarah Palin. Before I address this, let me back up.

I find myself making many snap judgments on these candidates based on the broad strokes and bells and whistles the media -- mostly online, but some MSNBC and Comedy Central -- feed me. I am supposedly a smart cookie; that's what it says on my college diploma. "Smart Cookie." Yet I buy what the media tells me, especially if they are of (allegedly) the same ideological stripe as myself.

I like Barack Obama and I want him to win the election. The biggest reason I want him to win, quite frankly, is because I feel this nation has been beaten down over these eight years and that psychologically him becoming president will be a boost in morale. It's the Kennedy thing all over again -- young charismatic man, A New Hope, Luke Skywalker, the whole nine. It is, to my mind, a positive forward step for our country.

But, in my vigor for him to win, I block out anything that might contradict that. I do that. I consciously do that. Now, I'm not referring to the paranoid racist bullshit that's been spewed about him. To me, that's rather obviously wrong and undeserving of discussion.

But take something like his level of experience. It's an issue. But it's an issue I consciously chose to ignore. Part of the reason I chose to ignore it is because I feel the last eight years under Bush rule have been so outrageously bad -- and McCain giving me no assurance that he is so very different -- that we must do everything possible to prevent a sequel.

Is the messiah/celebrity/icon thing that has been referred to regarding Obama accurate? Of course it is. He is extremely charismatic. He's the only politician I've ever felt compelled to hang a portrait of in my house.

Sarah Palin is also charismatic. I partially agree with the point-of-view that McCain picked her as a gimmick to attract frustrated female Clintonites. But also, it seems to me, she was picked by him as a knowing "fuck you" to Obama -- choosing someone with a similar level of inexperience (and easy on the eyes) who can rally a lot of people and be media candy.

And Palin and Obama are media candy. So was Clinton, so was Reagan. GWB was as well, but in a negative sense, as someone you love to hate -- the National Buffoon.

Through all the media candy, I try to look for something fucking real.

But -- real doesn't sell.

Middle-of-the-road doesn't sell either. Neither does critical thinking. We need a *cause* -- someone to hate, someone to worship.

Sarah Palin? I'm not happy with her. That's a gut feeling. The fact that she shares with McCain the belief that we must stay in Iraq "until we win it" tells me a lot, that I absolutely don't want her to be my Vice-President. But I could step in the murky water of actually looking at her good qualities. I could do that, but strategically I can't. Strategically -- we have to destroy her. Just like we did Hillary.

And did you hear -- she's banning books! She wants to ban Harry Potter! It's true -- I read it on BoingBoing! Only...the oft-cited list of books she wants to ban -- or is that burn -- is not true. It's actually taken from here. But that hasn't stopped people from blogging about it everywhere.

But it doesn't matter what is right -- or left. We need fuel for our sides, both sides, to keep the extremism going.

This two-party system doesn't work for me. The danger with only having two major political parties is that everything gets extreme, becomes "Us" vs. "Them." And yet -- how very different are they? I have yet to see any real, fundamental change. Yeah, GWB had a lot of fuckups and skeletons -- but so did Bill Clinton. There's still tons of poor people, we still go into countries and bomb the shit out of them, and women are still exploited whether by written policy or on their knees in the Oval Office.

I'm tired of it. I will definitely vote for Obama. But after that, I'm going to seek a candidate out of this loop.


  1. Take a look at Bob Barr. The Libertarian candidate. If Americans are really going for a "mandated change", this is the closest thing you are going to get.

  2. If only Jed Bartlett was real...

  3. Palin is the worst of everything: evangelical social "morals", economic policies, environmental destruction, topped off banning? The hell.

    Anyhow, I've been a third-party guy since I hit 18; Obama is tempting, for the hype (aka the reasons you list-- the psychology of it) but I'll probably end up green?

  4. I think the worst hit against Palin are the rather feeble ways her own party has tried to support her. For example: she has foreign policy experience because Russia is next door. Mind you , they don't mention what trade treaties or fishing disputes or anything of that nature that she negotiated, just that it's next door to Russia. From what I gather(could be wrong) her time as mayor left something like 19mil in debt for her hometown.

    My dislike isn't because she's from a small town, or doesn't have an elite background( a lot of talented people don't) no, I dislike her because of her policy views, and the record of her experience doesn't look that good.

    on the other hand, the fact that she hunts moose and can whip a stew or burger. that is oddly alluring.

  5. It truly amazes me how the dog and pony show of the two-party American election still garners so much publicity and attention when something more important like Miley Cyrus having a new single out is happening.

    The election is as good as a fix - it's not unlike professional wrestling for old rich people.

  6. As a conservative, you have my respect and admiration for your analysis and self-analysis.

    I try to do the same thing.

    Critical thinking is tough in an election year.

  7. Re: Otis -- As a Canadian it's been bugging me that folks have been saying Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is close to Russia. Not only does that argument make no sense to me, it overlooks the fact that Alaska is surrounded by a foreign nation. Not that there are many differences between Canada and the US on first glance, but I assure you, we are a pretty unique country.

    Have a good day.
    G Morrow

  8. Anonymous2:40 PM

    His youth and inexperience don't bother me that much because he can always hire experienced people to help him. One thing that does worry me though is how other countries will percieve him. To us he's a wonderful breath of fresh air. But to world leaders like Putin he may be seen as a weak boy-king. One thing's for sure, Putin will test him big time. But I'm hoping that if a dope like me can figure that out, so can Obama, and he'll be ready.

  9. The reason we don't talk about policy in elections is because the press doesn't cover policy discussions. As a consequence vague notions like "charisma" and "character" are what's rewarded. Multiple parties would have very little effect on this problem.

  10. Well then I guess it IS true than one woman/man/people's trash is another's treasure.

    I would LOVE for my country to have a two-partty system, because here we have a boatload of polytical parties and EVERY electicon become a big JOKE! Really... it's like the AMERICN IDOL prelims.

    SO I don't know, Val... Two parties might be to little, but more than four... Well it tends to become a HUGE clusterf*ck.

    Buh-lieve me!

  11. Anonymous5:27 PM

    I know everyone was waiting for my opinion, right? No?

    Well, here it is anyway.

    I see the way the RNC is positioning Palin and it doesn't make sense to me. McCain, who has 10 or 11 houses that he owns and rents a few more, is running with Palin. And because of that, he's a down-home guy. You notice all of the hand-made signs being held up during the RNC. Good ol' folks just doing their thing. Palin plays into this by talking about her "Hockey Mom" status and discussing her family in her address as much if not more than her platform.

    Obama, meanwhile, who is a black man raised by a single mother...who owns ONE home in an upper middle class area of Chicago... He's an elitist. You hear those big words? He's trying to put one over on the American people.

    Meanwhile, the DNC's positioning is actually sort of...unified...for once. They've rallied around central messaging and actually make sense. Obama was rightly criticized in the beginning about offering tons of pretty words without much substance, but he's actually been giving some of that substance lately.

    'Course, Joe Biden's a turd and a half.

    To what Otis said, I thought Campbell Brown did a pretty good job of hacking down the messaging they'd tried to gather around Palin's supposed foreign policy experience.

    It was actually kind of funny to say that, because she was the "commander in chief" of the Alaska National Guard, she could command the US military.

  12. That's a great read-between-the-lines commentary on the republican political campaign situation. It's more or less what I thought about too.
    And I trust my news from Comedy Central.

  13. Is Palin ready to be President? The answer is no.

    Is John McCain taking his eternal war with terrorists seriously if he picked her? No, he is out for Hilary Girls.

    If anything, this has shown how far McCain has fallen and his "appreciation" for Hilary supporters' intelligence.

    and there's the whole abstinence thing,


  14. Kudos for knowing your own biases and admitting them; that makes you more honest than 90% of the populace. I can respect Obama for running a clean campaign so far, but the smear on Palin has been ridiculous; I rarely agree with Michelle Malkin but the Liberals attack any woman that "goes off the reservation".

    I'm at a local bar and all the talk is about Palin's speech so she must have made a good impression.

  15. Sarah Palin's anti-abortion stance, opposition to same-sex marriage and support of the teaching of "creationism" in schools disqualifies her and the McCain-Palin ticket from getting my vote. Her support of increased oil and natural gas exploitation of her home state isn't exactly winning me over, either.

    McCain himself I don't have much objection to. If we have to have a conservative for a president, I'd rather have an old school Goldwater conservative versus the newer Reagan/evangelical Christian model. Ol' Barry told the party theocrats to keep his name out of their arguments. Mike Huckabee had me scared for the U.S. But McCain's choosing a running mate of that stripe, albeit a weaker one, doesn't bode well. The Republican party is going to fringe itself out of existence if it keeps playing to the ultra-far-right and anti-evolution/abortion Bible crowd.

    Remember a few months ago when people like Rush Limbaugh were saying they were going to support Hilary Clinton for president if McCain got the nomination? McCain's conservative credentials weren't strong enough for them and that briefly made me happy.

    I think the inexperience label tossed at Barack Obama is unfair. I'm not sure what George W. Bush's qualifications were for president, either. Failed businessman? Texas Rangers owner? Texas governor? Obviously whatever life experience he had didn't teach him much and didn't help him succeed as president.

    What qualifies someone to be president beyond meeting the Constitutional requirements? What job experience constitutes true preparation for what must be the hardest job in the world?

    Contrary to some people's belief, you can't run government strictly like a business. Traditional corporate leadership is out, then. It's not like the armed forces. While we've had a few successful and semi-successful former military leaders as president, being a general in itself isn't a guarantee the person can work as president. Ulysses S. Grant, case in point. One of the most corrupt administrations ever. Governor of a state... maybe. Senator... perhaps. But we've had failures from those positions as well.

    A good president chooses good advisors to help him (and eventually, her) make the best decisions. A failed president tends to pick lousy ones on top of personal hubris and wrong-headedness. A person either grows into the position or doesn't, no matter what job preceded it.

    I'm not exactly convinced Barack is going to succeed as president, but even if he fails I can't see it becoming the ugliness we've had for the past 8 years. I mean even a Carter or Ford administration would be a welcome, wonderful change at this point. And I truly can't see Barack making things any worse. I don't think they could get much worse!

    Mainly, I just want to see my country sane and stable again, and I want the evangelicals out. My mom tells me how scared she is all the time. I'm glad I'm out of it, over here in Japan. But at some point I might want to set foot in the States again. Might.

  16. Valerie, with all due respect, your stated reason for voting for Obama are lacking your usual insightfulness. I think you should take a closer look at the people who he has referred to as his friends such as The Rev Wright, Bill Ayers(I may be mispelling his name) to name but two. The biggest knock against Obama isn't his inexperience but his leftist agenda. Sarah Palin's speech energized the Conservative base precisely because it pointed out the stark differences between Conservatism and Liberalism.

    Sarah and Obama are not equally inexperienced. Sarah Palin has much more experience in governing than Obama does. Valerie, I think that if Sarah Palin were a Democrat you wouldn't dismiss her as "media candy". This election isn't about Mr. Bush. It's about deciding which philosophy is better for America.

  17. Here in Australia we HAVE to vote. If you don't vote you can go to gaol.

    Imagine what the political landscape would be like if that was true over there.

    Yes thats right the gaols would be so full you'd be conscripting from them.

    Oh and a two party system isn't so bad. Have a look at Italy's political system.

  18. Admitting your bias makes you more honest than 90% of the pundits on TV.

    I have issues with both sides of the aisle, so I'll be voting for Donald Duck this year.

  19. from the links i've followed, palin actually did try to fire the librarian for not banning books.
    the list of books she felt needed banning however haven't been released.

    but yes, i have hope that obama will be a start for the changes this country needs.

  20. Ding, ding, ding, Mr. West. Give this man a prize, as pro wrestling is just like politics.

  21. I sometimes wonder if there isn't an "undiscovered band" attraction for third parties.

    We sometimes hear that someone isn't going to vote for Candidate X because she's "overhyped", implying not that there's anything wrong but just that she's too popular. (And thus must have sold out, be lying, etc.) And thus people are drawn to a third party candidate because they aren't thoroughly vetted and pounded to pieces by the media machine, because we can pretend that there's some "real" "core" there that is absent in the more broadly known candidates.

    And thus by extension, once other people have heard of your favorite band/candidate ("bandidate"?), the shine starts to wear off. And if they somehow end up on top after being a dark horse, then those people don't like them anymore because, by dint of succeeding, they must have sold out and thus no longer be worth following.

    Which nets down to there may be people who want to back a losing candidate (but not a "loser"), just so they can. I don't know... complain?

  22. Bristol Palin's nickname is now "Juneau". (Sorry, had to get that out of my system.)

    The Cardinal Rule of Politics is that you do not alienate your political base. After the criticism of Limbaugh and Coulter, McCain had to solidify the support of the ultraconservative wing of the Republican Party. His choice of Palin does this.

    The basic rule of selecting a vice presidential candidate is to find someone who balances the ticket and helps get you elected. She is young, he is old. He is inside the Beltway, she is almost on the other side of the International dateline.

    As for demographics, she is a wise choice. There are two issues which are very important to Middle America: (I grew up in Nebraska, a state so red it's burgundy.) Abortion and gun control. She is Pro-Life (almost the spokesperson, due to her last pregnancy) and a member of the NRA.

    For the Blue Collar/Working Class vote, her husband owns a small business and is a member of the steelworkers union, and you can't get more hardcore than that. That vote is important in purple states like Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania.

    The soccer mom's will consider her, not because she's female, but because she is much like them, raising a family while pursuing a professional career.

    This is not a national election. Strategy will be centered in a handful of states. It's gonna be close, and exciting, and even if my guy doesn't win, I think the other guy will do a decent job.

    I've been voting since 1988, and I have never seen an election this interesting! It is a pop culture election. I hope participation hits 70%. I hope people get out the message that EVERYONE needs to make sure they are registered to vote, that they go to the right poling place, that mistakes are kept to a minimum.

    Most important of all, I hope the energy and dreams and idealism that has been generated by this election continues. Whether you choose "reform" or "change", I hope you continue.

    Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

  23. Barak Obama actually inspires me and makes me really feel that we can do better as a united country. This is a first for me. The past my votes have usually been for the lesser of two evils (or three with Nader in 2000), but this time is different. I respond to a lot of his policy ideas and the fact that his election will be a sign of social growth in this country. Also, I want my (future) children to see a president that looks like them and let's them know that anything is possible for them.

    As for the Palin/McCain ticket (yeah, I said it), I cannot vote for an anti-choice candidate or someone who thinks you've got to slog through a war and lose more young lives to save face and not lose honor.

  24. Whatever happened to the fundamental Christian left?

  25. "Is John McCain taking his eternal war with terrorists seriously if he picked her? No, he is out for Hilary Girls."

    No, he was out for religious conservatives who didn't trust him. And he got them.

  26. The fundamental Christian left? They tend to believe that Church and State are separate. Their vision of helping the poor, caring for the planet, running missions... that sort of thing doesn't fill pews. It's not sexy.

    Go read "We the Purple: Faith, Politics, and the Independent Voter" by Marcia Ford. It's from Tyndale, she's a religion reporter, so it has a slight religious bent, but it's full of insight. You can read sample pages at

    For fun, try this:

    A Princeton professor colored maps based on percentage votes. It's interesting to view Wallace's effect on the 1968 election, and you see how Perot muddied the 1992 election. (His VP hurt his election.)

    The Iowa Electronic Markets runs an economic model of forecasting elections and other events. An investor buys a $1.00 share which is split betweent both parties. The winning party receives a final dividend of $1 . Thus you divest yourself of the shares you think will be worth zero. Currently, in the Winner Take All market, based on vote totals, Obama is trading at 60 to McCain's 40. Note this does not predict the Electoral College.

    As they say in Chicago, "Vote early and vote often."

  27. Palin did try to ban books and fire the librarian.

    "Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor. "

    Source is here:,8816,1837918,00.html#

    She scares the living crap out of me, personally. Her views on Alaskan secession, Israel, and the war in Iraq just to name a few.

    And if you think she's a reformer, think again. She hired a lobbyist for her small town as mayor (who worked for Jack Abramoff) and tried to get the most money from earmarks in the WHOLE COUNTRY. Plus she supported the "bridge to nowhere" before she was against it.

  28. Rich Johnston said...
    Whatever happened to the fundamental Christian left?

    Hey that's me!

    I've tried to write this like 30 times and it's taken me forever. So I'll just stick with my best point.

    Christians are called to be the visual representation of the body of Christ. This election cycle if I compare the democratic platform and the republican platform the democratic platform by far speaks the the issues that I care about. Poverty, human rights, health care reform, immigration and education. Do I agree 100 percent with Dems on every issue? Not even close, but so far the only thing the Republicans are promising is more money in my pocket and more fighting and killing overseas.

    Oh yeah I think they're still going to keep the gays from ruining the sanctity of my marriage, which is a relief I was totally worried about that.

  29. Considering Palin has more executive expierence than all three others, and Obama worked for less than 4 months and wants the ultimate raise. This is your thought process?
    No wonder you don't get any gigs.
    Did it ever cross your mind that maybe you should not be writing?
    Seems to me all you do is bitch about shit. That and never post comments that disagree with you.

  30. I'm with KarenR. I don't think Sarah Palin is anything like a reformer, and I don't think her years on a city council and as mayor of a small Alaskan town and oil company shill/apologist on the Oil and Gas commission make her more experienced than Barack Obama with his years as a professor teaching Constitutional law, 3 terms in the Illinois state legislature and 3 or so years as a U.S. senator.

    Her actions in those posts sound more like reactionary activism. Book banning is a hot button issue for me.

    I think she's McCain's sop to fringe evangelical elements who were concerned he wasn't ideologically pure enough. She's not quite as scary to me as Mike Huckabee, but she's scary enough.

    But hey, my mom loves her because she brought her children to the convention and they're all cute.

  31. McCain and Palin have nothing to run on. Her only truly positive governing experiences relied on huge oil tax surpluses and massive, massive pork subsidies: is that really McCain's plan for the next 4 years? I mean, she supported pork that he decried, for goodness sakes, and now she's supposed to be Mrs. Anti-Pork?

    It's no wonder that McCain talks almost entirely about himself, rather than what he's going to do. Trying to pretend you are a maverick when you can't think of one thing that you're going to do differently than the current administration isn't going to fly.

  32. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Personally, I love the Daily Show's take on John McCain: Maverick Reformer to Reformed Maverick.