Posts Tagged ‘2008 presidential race

07
Oct
08

American Democracy or Bust

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not sure I can vote for either presidential candidate, and I’m afraid tonight’s debate drove that home. For what seems like years and multiple elections, I’ve heard the same talking points and “personal” attacks, regardless of the actual candidates themselves. Frankly, a two-party election bores the hell out of me. We all know what the Democrats are about. We all know what the Republicans are about. Isn’t it time we tried something new?

What about a Green or a Libertarian? Well, Ralph Nadar put a nail in the Green coffin, and even though ex-Congressman Bob Barr is somewhat known (Monicagate, anyone?), he still isn’t enough to power the Libertarian party into serious competition. Let’s think about these two parties. In some ways, they represent extremes of both major parties, appealing to niches versus vast majorities, a hindrance for winning a national election. I write this even with my personal leanings being Libertarian flavored on many issues.

Candidates that have challenged and beat the establishment have done so because they represented a majority of the public’s view on a topic of interest. The Republican Party first rose to prominence in the 1800s over the issue of abolishing slavery. However, it seems like we’ve come to a bit of a stalemate. The differences between the two parties are predictable and not necessarily in a good way.

Democrats and Republicans

For all that Obama positions himself as the candidate of change, does he really represent a different version of the Democratic party or simply a more attractive, charismatic package than Al Gore or John Kerry? While I disagree with many of the Democratic positions, I’ve never believed Democrats as a party to be stupid, just somewhat disorganized with multiple voices clamoring for equal billing. Now they have a presidential candidate who’s perhaps the best orator in a generation and a fundraising machine courtesy of the Internet and millions of contributors. He’s spending some of that money this month on a personal Obama satellite channel. Maybe he is a man of the people, a candidate of change.

For the Republicans, well, if they win this election it will be due to a Hail Mary. Nothing is in their favor. The economy has tanked. We’re still stuck in a country five years later where we were told we’d be greeted as liberators. And for a party that claims to favor a small government, one is left wondering if this is small, what big government would look like. Add in a candidate who claims to be a maverick and picks a maverick as a running mate and citizens can only wonder how many other Middle East countries might be ready to “welcome” us. One also can’t ignore that the sitting Republican president has some some seriously low approval ratings. I don’t think the White House welcome mat is laid out for McCain.

As Good As It Gets

Is this election really as good as it gets? I don’t care if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Socialist, or even a misanthrope. If these candidates are representative of the best this country has to offer, we’re in trouble. I write this knowing that many people believe Obama to be this country’s only hope for future success. I respect that belief. He may very well prove me wrong and be the best president we’ve every had. But what happens if he’s not? Who’s left in the Democratic party, Hillary aside, to take up the party leadership in a way that bucks the past? The same applies to the Republicans. I didn’t like anyone in that primary anymore than I liked any of the Democrats.

We’ve proven so innovative in so many areas. Why does America’s democracy continue down the same path it’s followed for years? Can’t we make it better? H.L. Mencken captures it perfectly with the thought that, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” But, one can counter with the wisdom of Winston Churchill: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

American history has shown that political parties can rise and fall. If you truly believe that either of the major parties is a perfect fit for you, more power to you. However, if you look at that status quo and potentially have to hold your nose to vote for the least bad candidate, isn’t it time we thought seriously about a new party or at least a new type of political candidate? Do you believe you deserve better?

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24
Feb
08

Broken Politics

I’m been quiet the last few weeks on the presidential election. Recent events in both parties, however, have made it worth revisiting the campaigns and the language associated with them. To clarify my position before diving in, I support none of the candidates (even the ones no longer in the race), and I believe both the Republican and Democratic parties are broken. With that out of the way…

The New York Times Contradiction

Less than a month ago, The New York Times (NYT) endorsed John McCain. Here’s bit of what it had to say:

…there is a choice to be made, and it is an easy one. Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe. With a record of working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation, he would offer a choice to a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field.

We have shuddered at Mr. McCain’s occasional, tactical pander to the right because he has demonstrated that he has the character to stand on principle. He was an early advocate for battling global warming and risked his presidential bid to uphold fundamental American values in the immigration debate. A genuine war hero among Republicans who proclaim their zeal to be commander in chief, Mr. McCain argues passionately that a country’s treatment of prisoners in the worst of times says a great deal about its character. (link)

Clearly, the NYT expressed some reservations. After all, there’s no love lost between it and the Republican party. A close reading of the endorsement shows no sign that the NYT had any concerns about the moral fiber of McCain, which makes this week’s NYT story, less than a month after the endorsement, so interesting:

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Obvious contradiction, anyone? In this instance the issue isn’t about the candidate, but about the media. I’d love to have witnessed the discussions on the second story, mainly to see if anyone pointed out that less than a month ago, no mention was made of any character issues in the NYT’s endorsement.

I’m personally no fan of McCain. I admire his service, both in combat and as a senator, to this country, but I do not believe it qualifies as an automatic pass to the White House. However, the NYT’s ought to be ashamed of itself. If the lobbyist story is true, it needs to revoke its endorsement. And if the story is mostly innuendo, they owe McCain an apology. At minimum, I could have done without the sexual overtones. I’m more concerned about what politicians do out of bed for lobbyists versus in bed.

The Democratic Dilemma

The majority of my friends are Democratic, or at least lean that way. I’m more of a small ‘l’ libertarian. However, I’ve watched with some compassion as the Democrats ask themselves who is best suited to head their party. Whichever individual they choose, makes history, but whichever individual they choose has potential issues with a national electorate.

With Hillary, everyone knows the mud will fly, but she’s capable of managing it…I think. She also faces a divided nation. I can’t imagine how it feels to know that people, individuals you’ve never met, hate you. Even voters who might support her are convinced she’s too polarizing. Erin Kotecki Vest actually published a letter at Huffington Post asking Clinton to step aside. (link)

For Obama fans, I feel the most sympathy for you, because in spite of the excitement he generates, he hasn’t been truly tested. Yes, he’s a powerful speaker. Yes, he’s probably capable of great things. However, I believe the media isn’t doing him any favors by not asking the hard questions or closely examining his voting record. Such things will come up in a national campaign. I’m not convinced that he won’t do what every other candidate has done at some point: make a mistake. He’s human, and with his lack of experience and depending on the size of the mistake, it could seal his fate.

If he should win, I’m worried you’re in for serious disappointment based on what I’ve seen out the Democratic Congress for almost two years. I’ve been thinking about something Dave Winer posted last week:

The Dems should be aiming at running the table, taking solid majorities in both houses and a mandate-level plurality for President Obama, an LBJ-level landslide. We need a government, not more bullshit. The Republics need to move over for four to eight years so we can resume our position of leadership in the world, the new world, not the old one. The one where our workers have to compete for the business. We used to get all the business by default. That’s not the world we live in anymore folks. The Republics don’t get that. (link)

As I noted before, I think both major parties are broken. I don’t think the question is whether the Democrats want to effect change, but whether they can. Amongst my Democratic friends, there’s often the lament that the party as a group has a hard time getting it together. Individual Democrats may step out from the party and shine (Obama at the ’04 convention comes to mind), but as a group, they have trouble working with themselves.

I’ll grant you that the majorities in both houses of Congress are incredibly slim, but in theory, why aren’t the Democrats voting “no” to everything that comes from the Bush White House? Does having a greater majority actually fix the underlying problem highlighted by slimmer margins? The same problems exist in the Republican party, but they do a better job of sugarcoating it. I think Warren Beatty had the right of it: “We don’t need a third party. We need a second party.” (link)

Change Bigger than a Candidate

This year’s race has fascinated me. So many people, voices, words, etc. The one thing lacking, in spite of all the rhetoric, was change that’s bigger than a candidate. No matter who you’re rooting for, these individuals are ultimately the leaders for two parties not committed to change unless it’s to their benefit.

I know good men and women are serving in Congress, trying to be real representatives for their constituents. I also know that not so good men and women are serving in Congress, doing their best to profit from their positions of power. How do you put your faith in one person to swing the balance in favor of the good? Doesn’t long-term change demand something more, something that starts at the foundation and works its way to the top?

I don’t know the answers. And perhaps I’m not helping by posing the questions. I simply think we shouldn’t kid ourselves when we step into the voting booth that candidate selection alone is enough to effect the change we so desperately seek.

Comments?

01
Feb
08

The Sexiest Story in Politics

I’ve been watching with interest the different themes that are coming out in the presidential campaign reports. For example, does it feel sometimes like the media still considers the Democratic nomination up for grabs, but considers the Republican nomination all but won by John McCain?

  • The Arizona senator has pulled ahead of his main Republican rival Mitt Romney, as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama battled in a tight race for the Democratic nomination. Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat John Edwards dropped out of the race on Wednesday. (link)
  • The record sum is a powerful demonstration of Mr Obama’s ability to stay in the race against his rival Hillary Clinton all the way to the nominating convention in August if necessary. Such a long and expensive race is becoming an ever likelier scenario in the Democratic race. In contrast, the contest for the Republican nomination, led by Arizona senator John McCain, looks more likely to be decided next week on Super Tuesday, when 22 states hold primaries. (link)

Consider the following numbers:

  • Clinton currently has 256 Democratic delegates or 51% of the available delegates
  • Obama currently has 181 Democratic delegates or 36% of the available delegates
  • McCain currently has 93 Republican delegates or 47% of the available delegates
  • Romney currently has 59 Republican delegates or 30% of the available delegates

That’s a difference of 15% between Clinton and Obama and 17% between McCain and Romney, a small margin of difference in both races, so how do we account for the different tone? Frankly, the Democratic race is more exciting and historical. Regardless of the candidate chosen, the Democratic party will be responsible for nominating the first woman or first African American for president. What’s the Republican party offering in return? Two wealthy white guys. Hmm, where have we seen that before?

Whether McCain or Romney is the better presidential candidate isn’t the point. Rather, the point is that they are representatives of a status quo. Say what you like about Hillary Clinton (I’m not a fan), but she has accomplished something that no other woman has to date: she is a viable national candidate for this country’s highest office. I appreciate that McCain suffered terribly as a prisoner of war, but he isn’t the first candidate for office who honorably served his country. Similar comparisons can be made between Obama and Romney.

The Democratic candidates are just different. At the moment, they are the party of firsts. I believe that’s why we hear the different tone in reports and even in the enthusiasm levels of candidate supporters. Regardless of the arguments about whether the media is liberal, just think about the stories being told. Honestly, which one is more interesting, more sexy?

The Republican party missed an opportunity to tell its own amazing story this election. Imagine if the Republicans had their own viable minority or female candidate. What would the race look like then?

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