Politcal Snapshot: Fall 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything political on this blog. To tell the truth, I can only express disgust, horror, shame, and anger so many times before I just burn out.

The worst for me was the 2004 election of George W. Bush. I was in a state of shock for nearly a full week. I just could not believe that the American public had actually voted for the Prince of Darkness, the Anti-Christ himself, into a second term. He had lost the first election in 2000, then was appointed to the office by the right-wing activist Supreme Court. But this time… this time, the evil trickster actually won.

It was months before I could bring myself to pay any attention to politics again. I had decided that if my fellow countrymen were that blind, that stupid, or – worst of all, just simply that plain evil – that there was no hope. To this day, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that over half of the voters in this country of mine knowingly elected an admitted criminal – an admitted war criminal, no less – to the highest office in the land for a second time.

The 2006 mid-term election gave me a glimmer of hope. Maybe – just maybe – the blinders were coming off and America was starting to think for itself again. And almost right away, the 2008 presidential campaign began. From the start, Barack Obama was my first choice.

I had read Obama’s first book, Dreams From My Father, a few months after the 2004 election. I found it a stirring and visceral account of growing up during the late 20th century. What impressed me most was how alike he and I are.

Barack Obama and I are nine months apart in age. His parents moved him around the country and around the world – just like mine did with me (albeit for very different reasons). He did well in high school in an out-of-the-way location (Hawaii) just like I did (backwoods Kentucky, where my father was stationed at the time). He vaulted himself up a notch by going to an expensive private University (Harvard) just like I did (Northwestern). His political values – a conservative fiscal policy coupled with a liberal social outlook – match mine almost exactly. The only difference is that he is devoutly Christian while I am expressly Agnostic. And the skin color, of course, but here in America, we’re all mixed breeds anyway.

Obama is a man of my generation. He grew up watching the same TV shows that I watched, reading the same books I did, experiencing the same events that I did. We graduated from high school and college at the same time. Our paths just missed intersecting: my father had an opportunity for an assignment in Hawaii for two years, 1977 through 1979. If he had accepted that assignment, Obama and I might have even attended the same high school.

Originally, I was also pleased with the Republican Party’s choice of John McCain. The two other leading Republican contenders, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, both made my “crazy sensor” light up bright red. I figured either of them would offer more of the same nonsense that George W. Bush has given us. When Romney said that rather than close Guantanamo, he would double the size of it – oh man. And I’ve always liked McCain, since I felt he was a true Conservative in the proper sense of the word. I liked the way he protested the execution of the war in Iraq while still sticking to his guns about the need to do it in the first place. Even though I didn’t agree with his politics, I respected him.

Either Obama or McCain would be an infinite improvement over George W. Bush, so no matter what, the country and the world will be far better off. But since getting the nomination, McCain seems to have transformed into another person. All of the things that I liked about him have vanished, to be replaced by standardized Republican talking points. Now, I’m not sure whether what we see now is the real McCain, or whether the old one was the real one. Either way, I no longer trust him.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, has just gotten better and better. I like his choice of Vice President in Joe Biden. I was quite happy he decided to bypass Hillary Clinton and all the “Bill Clinton Baggage” that would have come with her. I like the way he has given realistic explanations for exactly how he expects to accomplish what he is trying to do. He’s still a little too religious for me – this is a man who attended church every Sunday for the past 20 years – but I understand and accept that I am in a distinct minority in that regard, so I let it go.

I’m baffled by McCain’s choice of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice President. I lived in Anchorage for 2 years, and I’ve visited Alaska several times since, so I feel an affinity for the state. But by selecting her, McCain has to give up his one real criticism of Obama that resonates: lack of experience. And let’s face it: a 72-year-old man who’s gone through six bouts of cancer had better have a V.P. who is ready to step in instantly.

To me, it seems extremely likely we’ll be saying “President Obama” by early next year – but then I remember 2004. And while John McCain would be a tremendous improvement over The Evil One, it will still disappoint me tremendously if he wins. It’s time my generation had its own President – and Barack Obama is that man.

Oh, and Obama’s acceptance speech at the convention this past Thursday? The best speech I’ve ever personally heard in my lifetime. By anyone. About anything. No kidding.

Unless something earth-shattering happens between now and November 4th, that’s the last I’ll write about this until then. Enough political pontificating, and with my next post I’ll be back to the reviews.

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