Politics

Holy hell, this is a mess…

Friends, I stand before you as one of about 27 people in the entire city of Minneapolis not running for Mayor, city council the park board or the school board. This position has come to be revered and celebrated, earning accolades and all kinds of mail asking for my support as any of the thousands of candidates seeks the office to which they have been called…This year.

Ah, but don’t forget that our city fathers have saddled we lucky few voters with the imperative to choicely rank our votes, in essence, picking the trifecta of candidates as if they were greyhounds in the 3rd race at the dog track. Yet, oddly, the payoff may not be as great. Go figure.

So today I was preparing myself–electorally girding my loins, if you will–and doing some final research to make sure the ranked choices I had previously…um…ranked, were indeed the ranks that I wished to choose. And I discovered that I took more exception to the issues of my previous second choice than I thought I had. So I’ve un-ranked or un-chosen Cam Winton in favor of Betsy Hodges for the second spot, even though I think she has great ideas but no idea how to actually achieve them and I think he’s actually thought this thing through but is flying a little too centrist to achieve anything in this town.

Well, let’s be fair. I think that none of the 35 people running for mayor seem to actually understand just how difficult running this city can be. It isn’t a simple matter of stopping one thing to fund something else. Or promising to do something better or influence the school board by using the power of the office to force some change. It won’t work that way. And this BS about growing the city to 500K by 2025 is possible, but probably not feasible if for no other reason than I don’t think the infrastructure can handle it without dumping some serious money into it. And we don’t have that yet.

So okay. I’ve got the first two choices chosen. But I’ve got the third spot empty. You see, this, I think, is the great failing of this whole idea: requiring too many choices, especially from a pool this huge. I’m actually worried that a goofy candidate like “Captain Jack Sparrow” (yes, he’s really running) could pull out some sort of showing simply because people will throw him into the third spot because they don’t know who else to put there.

But you need to understand the process to see how this is going to work: They will tally up the first choice votes and see if anyone gets a majority of the vote. If not, the lowest vote recipient is dropped from the list, and the second choices are added to the pool. This continues until either unicorns and naked dwarves begin running the streets in search of a veggie pizza or some singular candidate receives over 50% of the vote.

Which means that by the end of the counting, the winner will have had a majority of the voting public vote for them. The only problem being that they weren’t necessarily the popular first choice. But what could happen is that half of the voters tomorrow could be in the same predicament I’m in, not finding any of the candidates to be a palatable third choice, so we’ll fill in the circle for “Captain Jack Sparrow.” And when they get to the round where the third choice votes are factored in, we’ve suddenly got some wahoo in office who probably just threw his hat in the ring on a dare from an old frat buddy. But enough about Mark Andrew! (bada-bing!)

It’s the one thing I see that’s wrong with this idea: the assumption is that everyone will go in with three good choices. And as much as I like to think that people will take elections seriously, I know that people don’t think and research and really come up with well-reasoned decisions by the time they head to the polls. And that’s why, when it’s all said and done tomorrow, we’ll have elected a llama.

On the upside, though, there’s supposed to be anywhere between 2 and 28 inches of snow here, so that will probably keep the turnout low…For those of us not running for office, good luck tomorrow!

See you tomorrow.

I recall feeling this same way about leadership I’d supported all the way back in 1979 and 1980. Jimmy Carter’s presidency, so hopeful at the outset because we were communally digging out from the morass that was Nixon/Ford, had become a mess. Unable to move forward in any substantial fashion in key areas of the economy, the energy crisis, and the hostage crisis in Iran, things just felt sad.

These days, Obama’s presidency is marked with similar problems that feel insurmountable: the economy, spying scandals, the rollout of the affordable Care Act, and as a supporter listening to the news, hopeful that something will suddenly change the sad undercurrent of the whole dynamic, you just start to feel like things can’t end soon enough.

The only difference these days is that Obama is a lame duck, or technically, is about to become one next year. These are the days that a president is supposed to just cruise, put in place programs and international accords that mark the presidency as a success.

But that won’t happen.

I was afraid that the overreaching that the administration kicked off right after being elected might have a backlash, and it has. The ACA, regardless of whether or not it’s a good piece of legislation, is a lightning rod, attracting the ire of anyone who hates government spending and oversized government programs. And rightly so, because in a democracy, these things should be discussed and adjusted to make them better serve the people of this nation. But instead, through hard lines adopted by both sides, no one budged. The law was passed and defended in court. It’s been implemented, and like most things this big and sweeping, killing it once it’s been started will be extraordinarily difficult.

The bigger problem, though, is that for such a tech-savvy bunch, they really don’t have a clue about how to really use their resources once in office. I mean, they had a killer database of voters and supporters that really did the work in helping win both elections. And their polls were demonstrably more accurate than anything the media or the GOP managed to come up with. Plus, there were and are people within the administration who are great planners, organizers, and motivators. And somehow, all of that evaporated when they were elected.

They’ve ham-handed the whole healthcare.gov rollout, which should have been a slam-dunk for a crew that practically invented the effective modern campaign website. They’ve botched communications at every turn, which seems odd for a group that proved over and over again that they could masterfully manipulate social media. And to top it off, they’ve taken forever to own up to problems and then work quickly to fix them.

It’s disappointing because I think everyone who supported them during the campaigns knows what the whole team is capable of, and they’ve fallen so far short of that. I mean, the money was there from the start to build a tremendously effective and efficient website for healthcare.gov, but they didn’t. They left it to the usual government contractors who don’t care about anything, except to make sure the check clears.

With the NSA scandals, Benghazi, budget issues, and the like, this administration has, unfortunately, been unresponsive. Given every opportunity to take the offensive and effectively put their message out to the world, they’ve been late, clumsy, unclear, and occasionally evasive, forcing them to clarify things, explain themselves, and seem like no one knows what’s going on. Which is exactly the opposite of the image the group ran on.

Think back to 2008. Obama was a political rising star, but still wasn’t in the minds of many outside of the beltway. Within months, he was building momentum at an amazing rate because his team knew what to say, how to say it, who to say it to, and when to say it. Scandals and questions were quickly dealt with and attention shifted. Problems were fixed promptly and with the proper humility.

When’s the last time that happened in the Obama administration?

Don’t get me wrong: I still support them and their ideals. I just believe that they’ve fallen down during a difficult period in this country’s history and haven’t been as effective as they could have been. And that’s disappointing because they’re capable of so much more.

See you later.

 

Welcome to 2013, kids. The bold future, the “brave new world” promised by the 21st Century. A time of amazing technology, great human achievement, and complete political gridlock.

 

Our nation is in a “sequester,” having passed a budget plan nearly two years ago that forced upon the entire country budget cuts–which may or may not really be cuts, depending on your point of view. These cuts are not miniscule, nor are they substantial. They won’t go terribly far in reducing our national debt, nor do they adequately address the fundamental problems we all are facing.

 

But they were designed to be painful and unworkable for both sides of the political spectrum, so much so, supposedly, that everyone would happily return to the negotiating table to help ensure their causes would not suffer this horrible fate.

 

But neither side blinked. So the equivalent of a budget axe came down and lopped off a whole 2 percent of the federal budget, or some $85 billion.

 

It’s gotten me thinking: just what do both sides really stand for when it comes to governing?

 

Conservatives claim to be the party of individual liberties, wanting smaller government and less intrusion in people’s lives, yet they want to dictate who can marry, and how, when and why women can control their reproductive cycle.

 

Liberals are the party of social justice and peace, and yet we still haven’t left Afghanistan, almost 10 years after invading.

 

Religious fundamentalists claim that liberal thought and teachings are going on every day in public schools, thus “indoctrinating” kids in that line of thinking. Which oddly enough is exactly what they’re doing in their private schools.

 

No one seems to want government or even to pay for it, yet we expect our roads to be cleared and in good condition. And somehow, in government agencies that have been created by politicians that may or may not have been needed, people just like you and I are trying to work and earn a living. And they’re vilified by anti-union, anti-big government conservatives…These same people who created a whole new, huge agency known as Homeland Security.

 

Somehow, a lot of politicians have a problem with cutting just over $42 billion dollars from this year’s defense budget. And yet conservative sites claim that we’re overpaying for public education, a point refuted by the fact that the equivalent cost of the total estimated cuts to Head Start and Special Education total up to just 8 F-22 Raptor aircraft, or 1/3rd of our annual aid to Isreal. (Source: Washington Post)

 

The political extremes argue that manned space travel is a waste of money. But so is funding for the use of unmanned aircraft domestically. Ronald Reagan proved that Trickle-down economics worked to jump-start a slow economy, just as Bill Clinton proved that increased government spending and limited tax increases can help maintain a robust economy and turn a balanced budget. And yet both men may or may not have controlled the economy because they both at some point had to deal with not having a majority in congress.

 

Furthermore, gun control is bad, but so is ensuring everyone has access to affordable health care. Religion in school is bad, unless we’re talking about non-Christian religions. Government helping people in any way should be limited, because we’ll make them reliant on government. Just like they’re reliant on walking on sidewalks and driving on streets and freeways. We shouldn’t regulate banks and businesses because that stifles productivity and growth, even when they’re laying off thousands of people just to make shareholders happy. Illegal immigrants are bad they sneak into the country seeking what all of our ancestors came looking for: opportunity, and yet they’re come in illegally and something should be done to solve the problem while still recognizing people want to come here. Muslims are bad because they want to kill us all, yet since it’s the largest religion on Earth, wouldn’t they have wiped us out by now if they’d wanted to, unless it’s just a very small number of extremists who want to do that? And somehow it’s okay to push for a constitutional amendment preventing gay marriage, but not okay for the Equal Rights Amendment to be adopted to actually constitutionally assert that women should be treated as equals in this society.

 

And both sides talk about respecting each other and having frank, open discussions. And both sides merely turn all discussions into rude shouting matches that achieve absolutely nothing.

 

Oh, I know none of it is really that simple, but all of this breaks things down to basics and asks really simple questions. The point is that neither side is “right.” Neither side is “wrong.” And neither side is as evil as someone might have you believe. The sooner we can get 539 people in Washington D.C. to understand that, the better for all of us.

 

See you tomorrow.

The State of the Union address was last night–the one chance each year for the President to directly address the Congress and tell them just what he thinks.

 

Or not.

 

But I didn’t watch. I’d actually decided not to watch the speech because the messages and the images and the response were going to be the same tired rhetoric voiced over and over by both sides for the last four-plus years.

 

So I’ve been reading some of the follow-up, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything Earth-shattering. But when I found this article, I realized I would have watched the speech if only CNN would have had instant analysis by a body-language analyst.

 

Why? Because then we could have instantly known if Obama was telling the truth or lying. Or if Boehner is just upset at that moment, or if he’s always that grumpy looking. Or, even better, that Nixon blinked like a madman during his resignation speech:

Typical human blinks per minute: 20. GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential debates: 147. Former president Richard M. Nixon giving his resignation speech: “an eye blink storm” on a par with schizophrenics, according to Boston College psychology professor Joe Tecce.

Yep. That’s REAL useful information. Where the hell are these people when you really need them? Of course, in the case of Nixon, that’s probably not telling us anything we already didn’t know.

 

But I think that could be a real public service by the news organizations. Couldn’t you just picture this exchange:

 

Wolf Blitzer: Dr. Smith, what did you make of that gesticulating by the president in the third paragraph of the speech?

“Well, Wolf, I think the president really indicated there that he’s sincere about gay marriage. Or that he forgot to go to the bathroom after the pre-speech enchilada.”

 

Wait. Maybe that’s better left to the PBS NewsHour. Or maybe these people just have too much time on their hands.

 

See you tomorrow.

So after the election and the resulting apparent near collapse and all of the soul-searching that has gone on within the Republican party, one can find it easy to have forgotten about Karl Rove, the wunderkind who engineered the Bush(2) victories. After all, he was among those identified with the future of the party, and certainly, during those eight years, the future for the party looked quite good.

 

But then the Republicans ran John McCain–a likable enough guy on the surface, but with absolutely no passion or energy–against the highly dynamic and young Barack Obama. The only move that kind of makes sense on the surface is that the GOP match McCain with the lightning rod of Sarah Palin. The end result, though, was that the Democrats found their stride, at least as far as presidential races was concerned: they motivated the undecideds, the young voters, and the supposedly disenfranchised minorities of the nation.

 

But because Obama and the Democrats pushed too hard, the far right conservatives revolted–this probably had been brewing for years under the very moderate Bush–and a large number of the so-called Tea Party candidates won election to congress, intent on changing how things were done. Republicans thought they were strengthened and given the political upper hand.

 

I’d written about it before, but there was an inherent problem in the Tea Party movement: none of them understood that at the national level, you need the party’s backing, you need the political skills and relationships, and you need to work and cooperate with the other 500+ people you find yourself locked in the building with in order to achieve your political vision.

 

In short, it’s easy to be a populist. But it isn’t easy to be a popular or successful politician. You can attract votes by the boatload by playing up to the deep, unsettled anger among your constituents–the Tea Party candidates did it, just as Obama himself did it. And moderates, by the very nature of their need to appeal to a broad base, will never do that. They count on their 30-40% base, and then fight for the remaining percentage to be put over the top.

 

So once it became obvious to conservatives that the Tea Party cost them more than it helped, it’s time to throw them under the bus. Now, months after the election that left Republicans asking “what happened here,” Karl Rove has woken up from his self-induced slumber and has decided that what the party needs is more electable people, not far-right wingnuts who only want to serve one particular cause.

 

Wait, what?

 

Yep. In our representative democracy, Rove has decided that the path to success for conservative ideals rests not in including more viewpoints in the party, but restricting them for the sake of filling the seats in congress with the butts of “the most electable” candidates. Rove wants to basically cut the Tea Party out of the Republican party purely for the sake of winning elections.

 

Now let’s backtrack a bit here to see how the Democrats brought themselves back from the horrors of their own “card-carrying liberal” dark days of the mid ’80s. They learned that the far left-wingers were not attractive to the national electorate, so instead of ostracizing people like Michael Dukakis or Paul Simon or Walter Mondale, they embraced them but asked them to support and follow the party platform, which they happily did because they weren’t necessarily marginalized. They were allowed to speak their beliefs, run for office, and contribute to the party, but they needed to understand that if the liberal agenda was to advance, they needed to cooperate and help the cause.

 

The Tea Party candidates refused to support its own party’s platform, insisting that it didn’t go far enough in many areas, and believing they had the groundswell on their side, while actually they simply had the conservative equivalent of the ’60s hippie protesters on their side–it was a vocal group, but not nearly as large as they thought. So many didn’t get elected in 2012 because they said or did really stupid things that demonstrated just how radical they were, and, this is the cardinal sin, they bucked the party.

 

Not to say I’m really sad about that, but…

 

The Republican ramrod approach should first look to the Democrats in Obama’s first term who blew all of their political capital on jamming through a flawed healthcare bill. So before the conservatives take this opportunity to look at political success merely as being able to overcome the votes of your opponents, you need to consider what happened: the governed of this country don’t like heavy-handed, radical leadership, even if they’re working on a potentially popular issue.

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably have to say it again: the path to political success in this country is understanding that the people are not as stupid as they appear to be and not underestimating their ability to make changes at a whim. Which is why, when a politician says something truly stupid, they will usually find themselves out of office after the next election.

 

See November 2012.

 

See you tomorrow.

One fascinating part of watching the election this past year was the absolute bewilderment shown by the Republicans in failing to win as much as they expected…Or failing to win at all. They were clearly flabbergasted by the results and didn’t know what went wrong.

 

The confusion began with the confidence of Romney’s pollsters and internal people who were sure they had margins to win in the key states, then rippled outward as some of the big races in other states fell the wrong way: Elizabeth Warren, Claire McCaskill, and the like. So it’s not surprising that these days, some two-plus months after an amazing collapse, that the Republicans are asking themselves some tough questions.

 

And that’s why this article grabbed my attention. The short version, for those who don’t want to read it, is this: the right-wing Independent Women’s Forum held a panel discussion to help figure out what would attract more women to the Republican base, and, more importantly, to vote for their candidates. On the panel were four conservative women who made some interesting points, especially when considering where they’re coming from.

 

In reading the article, you realize quickly that women in the GOP are a strange breed: they exist, there aren’t many, aren’t in high positions, and apparently are not encouraged to make much noise.

 

In short, it becomes very obvious that the party is very much stuck in the old boys’ network, and doesn’t show many signs of wanting to come out of that mold, until they realize that they lost a major election because of it.

 

So there are a couple of good pull quotes that the article used, including this one:

“I’m not sure what’s worse: conservatives ignoring women’s issues, or conservatives addressing them,” Christina Hoff Summers said as the audience laughed.

Which inherently says that conservatives don’t fundamentally understand women’s issues. And that’s really big. And obvious. It seemed that every time Romney tried to appeal to women, he ultimately put his foot in it. And the rest of the party certainly isn’t much better than that. They talk about wanting to appeal to women, but refuse to vote for the equal pay act, and want to limit food stamp spending, most of which now goes to women anyway.

 

But the better quote was this:

Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of IWF and a panelist, complained that Republican indifference to women’s issues was a problem she runs into. “I know sometimes when I go into a donor meeting and I see someone’s eyes just glazing over, like, ‘why would I care about women?’”

There we go. Regardless of your political stand, there is no question that no group is more clearly beholden to their donors than the Republicans, many of whom have actually been forced to sign promises not to raise taxes and the like. So a statement like this illustrates the beliefs of the core of the conservative movement, that those who contribute to the party and play a key role in forming the party platform don’t care about women’s issues and see them as unimportant.

 

The problem really seems to be that the conservatives don’t really understand the majority of the electorate. And this has been a repeated theme thrown at both President Bush when he was running and at Romney when he was running: that they’re disconnected from the majority of people in the country. In this forum, the panel pointed out that polling routinely shows that women’s views more frequently align with conservative values, but Republican candidates have historically not reached out to female voters.

 

But toward the end of the article is something I’ve said repeatedly over the last several years about the Republican efforts: they believe that they can run on one or two issues to capture moderates and women, and the fact of the matter is that voters are more complex than that. Women don’t vote entirely based on birth control issues, or just on economic issues. My belief is that they vote on a broader range of issues and more often with more thoughtfulness than I think most men vote on candidates. And in trying to over simplify for women, they’re in fact belittling them and making them feel unimportant and talked down to.

 

Maybe they’ll get it in the next couple of years. I really doubt it, because I don’t see a lot of conservative women, and even fewer who are even remotely electable. And really, the Democrats, thanks to Obama’s machine, have figured out how to attract and appeal to a very wide range of people.

 

See you tomorrow.

On the morning after, people wake up feeling either elated or depressed, or for some, even sick. It’s not a new phenomena after elections, especially big ones, to have some sort of visceral reaction to the results, but what’s surprising to me is that people don’t see the long-term big picture: there have been those who have had the same reactions to elections for years, and the country continues to function and continues to move forward without dissolving into chaos.

 

Every presidential election I can remember has been “the most important of our lives,” and I’m reasonably certain that most before that also had someone attach that weighty tag to it.

 

Carter/Ford in ’76 was important because the country needed to get out from under the cloud of Watergate and the looming energy crisis and economic downturn. Carter/Reagan in ’80 was important because the country needed to choose its path out of recession. Reagan/Mondale in ’84 was important because trickle-down economics and high military spending and the ballooning debt were going to crush future generations. It goes on, and after every one, there’s some group of people, represented by some tearful or angry interviewed supporter who’s sure the country can’t survive four years of whoever had just won.

 

So today, with Facebook filled with either gleeful or morose posts, and interviews on the radio and TV with people, I just want to remind everyone that part of the power of elections is people moving on and accepting what was just voted in by the majority.

 

But it’s too soon for that. The conservative right–which seems today to be very far right and very conservative–is in mourning for the country, which they’re certain has been lost to the immoral left and the gay agenda…Whatever that means. But they won’t listen to reason. Meanwhile, the left is thrilled, relieved and too anxious to try to push an agenda that they need to, at least for a while, back off on.

 

Because there’s that nasty “fiscal cliff” thing coming up fast. Neither side can afford to alienate the other right now.

 

There’s four more years of the status quo coming in the White House. We’ll see how the Congress shakes out in two years, but I’d expect it to continue to move toward the middle again. I think the electorate is tired of the yelling from both sides and wants to get back to the moderate position.

 

Personally, I’m pleased. Minnesotans rejected the extremes in almost all forms, with the only exception being the squeaker of a race between Michelle Bachmann and Jim Graves. On the national level, Republicans were revealed to be what they’ve been for a while–focused on a core group that is no longer representative of America (this is witnessed by the fact that 93% of black voters, and 70-some percent of hispanics, and huge numbers of women backed Democrats). You wonder how they’ll address this while still trying to cling to key parts of their platform.

 

Plenty to do going forward. Now’s the time for a Humphrey-type to emerge and really build a coalition.

 

See you tomorrow.

Ah, election night. It’s always been a big deal, but back in my youth, it was a lot of fun and quite an experience.

 

You see, ages ago, in 1976, actually, my mom, in her deep wisdom, signed me up to help her work at the election headquarters for Minneapolis.

 

Back then, voters used the old style booths to vote in. They had the flip switches next to a printed name card of the candidates. You’d flip the switch for your choice, and the vote would be recorded when you pulled the lever back to open the curtain. Everything would be tabulated on counters on the back of the machines.

 

Then the judges at each precinct would read the counters and put the numbers on a large sheet and add up the numbers for each candidate from all of the precinct’s machines. My dad did this up at Waite Park –Ward 1, Precinct 2. Then those judges would call in the totals to the election headquarters phone room. My mom usually worked the phone room, taking those calls.

 

Those folks would write down the totals on sheets of paper and then would wave them for the runners to take to the tabulation room. They would add up the results as they came in, and at regular intervals, would issue total reports that would then be taken by a runner to the media room where the totals would be put up on the overhead projector.

 

Remember, it was 1976…

 

I took my job as a runner very seriously. It was important. It was vital. For several years, I ran paper from the phone room to the tabulators. But finally in 1980, I got a bigger job: I was a runner for the media room.

 

Those years working as a runner taught me some important things: The process of counting the votes in an election is complicated, even now; that every vote is indeed counted somewhere by someone, and that it takes a lot of people to run an election, so it’s hard to malign the process unless it’s been completely botched.

 

I’d always look over the sheets that I ran from one group to another, quickly trying to memorize who has the lead in what part of the city. And that gave me a valuable insight: there were different places in the political world, and those different places have different political views.

 

Tonight, I’m watching another election. I’m certain there’s no runners involved, but there is a lot going on and it’s still as interesting as ever to see how different places have differing views. It’s still an amazing process. Regardless of whether your people won or lost, you still need to be in awe of the whole procedure.

 

See you tomorrow.

We all got an hour of sleep this weekend, or at least theoretically. It was offered up, at least. I did sleep for that extra hour, so I took advantage.

 

The obligatory cat update offers up this gem: they found their way on top of the drop ceiling in the basement. Not once, but twice before I finally managed to get things situated so they couldn’t do that again. It was weird, though. I was downstairs, heard footsteps on what sounded like the drop ceiling, but thought the cats were just playing in the living room. Loudly.

 

They weren’t. Then I had to discover their point of entry. It was right over my desk. They haven’t been up since Saturday, so hopefully that will have the problem solved.

 

Jenni’s getting ready for a trip back to San Francisco this coming Thursday and Friday. Evernote is flying her back to the mothership so she can learn about the company and get a training they’ve put together for she and the other ambassadors. This time, however, the rest of us are not going along.

 

But immediately on the horizon is the election Tuesday. And depending on which side you listen to, it’s either the beginning of a new era in American progress, or the worst thing to happen to the country since…well…the last election.

 

I’m just happy to have it nearly done. Perhaps because I’ve had my mind made up since the mid-term elections. But mostly because I’m tired of the yelling going on from both sides. If they could channel half of that energy into actually being leaders, we might wind up in much better shape in four years. But that ain’t likely.

 

What’s interesting to me is something that was on 60 Minutes tonight that perfectly summed up the problem: No one wants to compromise because they don’t want to appear weak heading into the next election. And people are already thinking about that now…


And what is even more intriguing in the interviews in that piece with Reid and McConnell is how much they refer to “the American People” and what we want. Which is totally ironic because we all know they don’t have a clue what we want. They listen to their funders, the party, and everyone except the electorate.

 

And on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, or whenever these things finally get settled, there will be a lot of talk about the mandate given to the newly elected politicians from the people. And they still won’t have any idea what that really is.

 

There was a while that I was surprised that no candidate even brought up the gridlock from all sides of government. But then I figured out why: everyone’s been a participant in the stonewalling and filibustering that’s been going on now for the better part of four years. Obama can’t blame the congress (as he should be doing), and the congress can’t blame Obama because neither side has wanted to negotiate with the other. They’ve all just wanted to kick the can down the road until they get control of both houses of congress and the presidency.

 

And so, on Tuesday night, I’ll be standing in what I’m certain will be a long line at the polling place just over a block from here, and when I’m handed my ballot, I’ll be in and out of there much like I was four years ago–just a couple of minutes, filling out the already determined circles, and then out the door to head home.

 

Then I can sit down in front of the TV and tweet about the returns.

 

See you tomorrow.

I figure you all could probably check out the pictures to the right if you’re looking for your cat fix. In the meantime, I’ll talk about the incredible ability of politicians to improperly speak their mind.

 

The incredible knack that all politicians have these days of saying stupid things got me to wondering: is this a new pandemic, or has it been a problem for a long time?

 

Now, I’ll grant you that the politicians can’t go five minutes these days without having a microphone or camera recording their every move and statement. But at the same time, they’ve had handlers who’ve performed focus group studies and have honed the candidates’ messages to select words and specific talking points. So certainly, you’d think that one balances out the other.

 

Or does it? Is the human capacity to say what they mean lower than the capacity to say what they should be saying? I’d think that politicians, in stump speeches, town hall meetings, and whatever other appearances they’ve made throughout history would have produced a huge number of gaffes through the years. I mean surely, Abe Lincoln at some point said something that was truly stupid, right? After all, all politicians are human, right?

 

While that means that they’re naturally prone to making mistakes, it also means that politicians should be smart enough to not say the stupid things they say off the cuff. And certainly, you’d think that most of them are pretty smart if they’ve made it so far in their careers that they’re at least in the middle of some campaign that has even a sliver of national media coverage.

 

So could it be that maybe there’s an over-saturation of the media airwaves and internet with politicians and what they say about every issue from  abortion to the economy to what color underwear they wear? And by the same token, could it possibly be the case that there are far too many people aggregating the gaffes and analyzing every individual word they’re saying?

 

Absolutely. But that doesn’t hold them harmless, either. Statements like Romney’s at the fundraiser about the 47% are simply stupid, even if you think you’re speaking to an entirely friendly crowd. Because there are cases where regardless of the individual words used , the actual meaning behind the statements is what’s important.

 

So that means that I think it’s absolutely fair to say that Obama does not have any faith in the role of the wealthy in the economy, and that Romney has none in the working classes. I think it’s absolutely fair to say that Republicans don’t embrace equality and fairness, but at the same time Democrats hold to some of their social beliefs even when some of those beliefs aren’t pragmatic. It’s clear that some Republicans are somehow terrified of various forms of sex and some Democrats don’t understand and are intimidated by religious faith and beliefs.

 

What the problem becomes is that elections are more and more a snapshot of voter sentiment at a specific moment in time, instead of being a statement of policy and direction for the nation as a whole. The rhetoric of political statements by candidates has become oversimplified and more and more voters believe things without knowing why they believe them.

 

For example: Romney and the Republicans will hold fast to their devotion to trickle-down economics without actually explaining how they believe it works. I think if it were actually explained, most people wouldn’t get it. But at the same time, Democrats aren’t explaining why there’s a need for some sort of national health care system, and why more taxes and social programs are necessary.

 

So however the election comes out in two weeks, I’m afraid we’ll continue to have government that is increasingly built on fear and misunderstanding instead of actual ideals and rationale.

 

See you tomorrow.

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