The Big Think

October 22, 2008

Jason Makes a Political Post

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:51 pm

With much fear and trepidation, I decided to post these thoughts on the current race. I’ve been having a back-channel conversation with a friend who has lost some good friendships over political differences. I’m in no hurry to follow in his footsteps.

This caught me up short. That a brand new freshman senator actually said that he lacked the experience necessary for the office right before being sucked into the machine was pretty revealing about the state of modern politics. The question and answer were crystal clear and I doubt there’s room for any misunderstanding, so this made me start thinking about the reason for Obama’s nomination in the first place. That made me wonder this:

If you keep the person of Obama exactly as he is- same experience, same connections, same upbringing, same political philosophy and voting record, etc- but instead put him in the body of a young, ugly, white guy from the midwest, would he even have a chance of being elected? I don’t think so. Much of his appeal stems from his appearance (young, black, handsome) and demonstrated speaking ability (reportedly leg-tinglingly good), while his voting record and political philosophy have been actively downplayed by the campaign and the media. I’ve no doubt that he’d be a good conversationalist and an interesting person to have a a dinner party, but focusing on his personal attributes and passively hiding his political philosophy tells me that the voters aren’t getting all the information, or at least, they’re having the information about both candidates cherry-picked to make one look smooth as a Camel cigarette and the other rough as skin cancer. To me, that single point illustrates that this election isn’t about voting record or political philosophy. It’s a throwback to our common high school heritage of the best looking, best talking guy getting to be class president.

I’m not saying that the alternative candidate is all Truth and Light, but don’t forget that McCain was lauded as a maverick and renegade by the press. He was called the only Republican that had a chance to bring some moderation and balance to the political landscape. He was praised and honored by the media as a force for change when he stood up to President Bush. He was called all of these things… until he decided to run for President. McCain hasn’t suddenly become Ronald Regan in his consrvatism (if anything, he’s moved slightly to the left since then with his stance on illegal immigration). So why has the press suddenly decided that he’s the embodiment-of-evil-Bush-the-sequel?

I’ve become seriously concerned at the intense double standard that’s playing out in the media. The Republicans have a vice presidential nominee with experience as a governor and mayor (though limited) and she’s being actively decried and ridiculed for her lack of experience and the fact that she’ll only be a “heartbeat away” from the presidency. She’s also become the latest victim of the overused “stupid Republican” trope that’s been foisted on Reagan, Quayle, Bush I, and Bush II (see a tired trend here?) Meanwhile, the other party has nominated- for the high office itself- a person who himself admits to not having the necessary experience to run for the office. A person who scores closer to the extremes of political philosophy than almost every other member of the Senate- certainly more “extreme” than his opponent. However, he’s being lauded with every approbation imaginable. Ask yourself: if the situation were reversed and McCain said that he wasn’t qualified, wouldn’t this self-damning clip be shown every night on every news station?

If the situation were reversed I’d have a hard time explaining or justifying how the Republican candidate was suddenly qualified for a job for which only a short time ago he admitted not having enough experience.

I’m not trying to tick off or alienate my friends who feel differently about politics. I’m just trying to see if there’s something I’ve missed. It disappoints me that our Presidential race may have devolved to the level of a high school popularity contest.

I’m interested in comments, but looking back at my opening paragraph I’m not sure I want to put match to kindling when the tinder is my friends.

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