Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

I saw a lot of the Democratic convention, and some of the Republican convention so far, during my down time at work. The difference so far is pretty striking. The Democrats have finally, finally, got their act together and moved beyond the ineffective pushovers who so utterly failed during both the 2004 campaign and the last eight years of governing. In terms of policy, I don’t think Obama is particularly revolutionary, but what he’s able to do better than any politician in my lifetime is to speak in a way that makes you feel like he can make the world a different, better place. The right may try to take him down, but he’s got a bright power that will hopefully not be dimmed.

Obama’s speech was pretty riveting, a great critique of John McCain, and a positive vision of our country’s future. The essence of what he’s saying is we can be better than this. That’s a message that’s going to trouble people who are insecure, who don’t want to deal with the fact that they’re in a changing world, they won’t live the way their parents did. I see that as a good thing, not everyone does. What excites me about Obama’s leadership is not so much his specific policy, which was some room for improvement, it’s the way he can change the game, and redefine what the status quo is in politics.

Ironically, the Republicans are also ranting about the ‘establishment,’ ‘Washington’ and ‘politics as usual.’ Watching the convention is what it must be like watching This is Spinal Tap and not knowing if it’s for real or not. What they’re saying is so ridiculous, so patently false and ironic that it would be very easy to read the entire thing as an elaborate, oh so subtle gag. It starts with the party that has had total control over Washington for the past eight years saying that they’re going to go in and clean things up, not that Washington insider who’s beloved by the ‘liberal media,’ Barack Obama. I think the buildup to the Iraq War ended the myth of the liberal media, but apparently it lives on.

Fred Thompson also said “She is from a small town, with small town values, but that's not good enough for those folks who are attacking her and her family.” That they’re still going for the values thing after the pregnancy business is pretty bold, and totally disconnected from reality. But, the whole pregnancy thing is a sideshow, small town values might be fine for people in a small town, they’re not so good when it comes to running the entire world. I could care less if Sarah Palin’s daughter is pregnant, what I care about is that she thinks it’s acceptable to have guns in peoples’ homes, and that she actually goes hunting herself. If shooting things is a small town value, perhaps it’s best to stay with the ‘beltway elite.’

An even better comedic performance was Joe Lieberman’s speech, though he perhaps pushed things a bit too far with his repeated references to Democrats’ inability to “reach across the aisle.” It absolutely baffles me that nobody is out right shooting down the Republican discussion of Democrats not being able to work with Republicans, and thinking more about party than country. Republicans have been able to do whatever they wanted with essentially no opposition for much of the past eight years. They gave away vast sums of money to the very few elite richest Americans through a restructuring of the tax code and an illegal invasion of Iraq. The Democrats just sat there and took it while Republicans tortured people in secret government sanctioned prisons. It’s horrifically ironic to watch Republicans cite John McCain’s five years in a Vietnamese prison as a qualification to be president, if so, we should look forward to a generation of Arab Americans running for the Republican party nomination in a few years. They all have the requisite ‘experience’ that McCain is so proud of.

Anyway, Republicans criticizing Democrats for not working with them is like the schoolyard bully complaining that the kid he’s beating up isn’t working an extra job to give him more lunch money. The Republican party right now is at the absolute extreme right wing, Democrats are roughly in the center, they are inherently compromising on virtually everything they are doing. Barack Obama’s voting record is one of the more liberal in the Senate, but looked at objectively, it’s far less partisan than the totally united block of Republican senators who will shoot down any Democratic initiative. Honestly, can’t somebody besides John Stewart and Bill Maher call these people out on the ridiculous things they’re saying?

The Joe Lieberman speech was a travesty. The John McCain Republicans speak of is not the man who’s there today, the man who said himself that he voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. People talk about experience being an issue. This is my final statement on that. George Bush presented a case for war in Iraq that may or may not have been a deliberate lie. Either way, it turned out to be false. One candidate in the race saw that the case was not justified and voted against the war. One was swayed by false evidence and sent us to the one trillion dollar sinkhole we’re stuck in now. If that same evidence comes along again, I want the man who had the experience to make the right choice the first time. That one trillion dollars could have remade the entire world, and that’s nothing to mention the myriad lives extinguished by Bush’s illegal invasion. Obama may not be a perfect candidate, but he will at least try to lead us to a better world, and he’s the first politician in a while who has a legitimate chance of making it there.

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