Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Politics of Cynicism

Yet another in my occasional political commentaries. If you'd rather not know what I really think, or if the fact that we don't agree means you'll stop being a friend, please click here and look at the sculptures instead.

I'm a cynic. I admit it up front, and it has certain implications for what I believe about politics.

Obama, for example, may be newish on the national stage, but he's been around long enough to have been bought several times over. I just don't think it is possible for anyone to get as far as he has without that being the case. I wish it were otherwise, but my experience with those in power shows otherwise. By the time someone is nationally known, he or she is in the pockets of any number of people and organizations.

The same is true of McCain, of course, only worse. He's been around high level politics much, much longer, and as a result has been tainted that much more. I know he was a "maverick" and authored campaign finance reform legislation, but it simply isn't possible to be that powerful and be clean. Sorry.

One more thing about Obama: I'm going to vote for him. McCain won't get my vote for several reasons, most of which don't matter to this post as my topic is cynicism. I just don't want anyone thinking I'm so cynical I don't vote. I'm not sure how much my vote matters, but I vote.

Back to McCain. There are several things about him that inflame my cynicism particularly seriously. For starters, he's radically changed a several of his positions since he started running for the presidency. (Immigration reform anyone?) And there's his obvious pandering to the Republican base, as with his life begins "at the moment of conception" comment at the Saddleback forum. As if he'd know anything about that.

And now we have his choice of running mate. When it was first announced I was mystified. Who is Sarah Palin and what does she have to do with national politics? But the more I learn, the more I realize just how crafty McCain was in chosing her, at least from the perspective of trying to win the election. Let's examine a few points:
  • She's young. McCain himself is positively ancient and has a tough time appealing to younger voters. Plus, Obama is young, and that had to be countered. Palin won't pull hard core Democrats away from Obama, but younger undecided voters now have to think about it a bit more.

  • She's female. When the Democrats went for Obama instead of Clinton, McCain must have immediately limited his choices to women. How else might he attract those disaffected Hillary voters to his side, even if they agree with him on nothing else?

  • She's a radical republican. McCain wasn't previously such a hard core right winger, but his positions have moved as the campaign progresses. Despite those changes, many in his party don't trust him because he's been wishy-washy in some of his positions in the past, positions that matter to the conservatives. (Abortion, immigration, etc.) Well, Palin has no such issues on her record. (In truth, she's so new to politics she barely has a record, but forget about that.) What we know of her is that she's a lifetime NRA member and staunchly anti-abortion. That's a major bone to throw to the right wing of the Republican party, and they love it, or so it appears based on campaign contributions since the announcement.
Can you sense a pattern here? Palin was chosen specifically to address areas where McCain is weakest, but without thinking about the broader implications of her choice. If I was a conservative republican I'd be offended, not elated. He's hand picked someone who will (hopefully) never be in power just to make far right Republicans feel good. The pandering there is simply vast.

And exactly what happens if McCain gets elected and has a health problem while in office? Palin takes over and... what? It's not her age I quibble with. As it happens, Palin and I are the same age, and I doubt it matters all that much. And it isn't even her total lack of experience. I don't actually think anyone is qualified to be president. It's a silly to think someone could be prepared for that office in a specific way.

No, what I worry about is her personality. I've listened to her speak enough to get a sense of her style, and I just don't think she's right for international politics. I recognize the problem because I suffer from the same thing myself. There's no gravitas in Palin, and she will never be taken seriously at a conference table. She's a self described "hockey mom," and she sounds exactly like one should sound. I'm sorry, but there are any number of qualified women I'd much rather have in the office of the vice president.

And again, I stress that this isn't an attack on Palin. I have the same problem. i will never be in a position of power - be it in public or private life - because my personality just doesn't work for it. You wouldn't want me negotiating with Putin either.

But McCain is so dead set on winning - whatever the cost - that he is willing to put exactly the wrong person into a position where her shortcomings could seriously matter. He's manipulating the American public as directly as he can in order to get himself elected. And since his positions have changed so much recently, I have no idea what he will do if he does win the white house.

In the end, I simply can't trust him, and while Palin might be a nice person to meet - though I am certain she and I differ on many, many issues - I simply cannot justify her in the vice president's role, particularly with McCain being 72 years old.

If people really are tired of politics as usual, then they should be very warry of John McCain. What I see there is just more of the same; manipulation and pandering for the express purpose of getting into power. Obama may be doing some of the same things, but if so he's quite a bit more subtle about it.