Saturday, January 26, 2008

Wising Up

I got my latest issue of the New Yorker (Jan 28) in the mail yesterday and turned immediately to the elections article. The author, George Packer, seems to assume that, as with some NFL playoff seasons, the winner in the "Democrat Division" will be the Superbowl winner, and that we've already reached the division finals. Or in other words, the race for the White House is now between Clinton and Obama.

I soon found myself reading a personality piece, which turned out mostly to be about Clinton. Packer says that the "most important" difference between Hillary and Obama, "whose policy views...are almost indistinguishable," is their "rival conceptions of the Presidency."

You know, their policy views may be "almost undistinguishable," but I don't really have any reliable idea what they are. To find out specifically what either of them plans to do about the war in Iraq or the foreclosure landslide or anything else you have to go to obscure places on their websites. What little both candidates have said about these issues, especially Iraq and the Middle East, is often vague, sketchy, and contradictory.

Maybe personality really IS important and I'm missing something. Maybe considering the facts that Obama sees himself as a "catalyst" while Hillary sees politics as "the art of the possible" is critical to deciding which one will make a better president. Who am I to say that such nebulous distinctions are somewhere between unimportant and meaningless, and insult both the intelligence and the distress of voters?

Why is this election about personalities and insults and vague philosophical outlooks? Why can't these people get down to brass tacks? Is it because they're all show and no substance?

The country is in a very sour mood right now, and we don't need to be patronized by a bunch of phonies. An article in the politics section of the New York Times yesterday laid it out deadpan, and catalogued the reasons for the "darkening of the country's mood," and a "fraying of America's very sense of itself." This article identifies Americans' "powerlessness" over any of the crises afflicting this country -- the war, the economy and our ability to determine our own financial futures, our safety and, especially, our health, the environment, or immigration -- as the root of the malaise.

My question is, how will a personality and beauty contest instead of a serious presidential race help to address this feeling that we're powerlessness? And are we?

Do you seriously feel like you're living in a democracy?

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