Margin of error

I can’t wait for this damned election to be over so I can move on to other things. I’ve been following events on the web with relentless obsession, to the detriment of other things, both enjoyable and necessary, that I should be doing.

There is the election itself, but what has me staring at hypertext and video progress bars like a deer in the headlights is the coverage of the election. It proves to be endlessly fascinating. Even with all the spitefulness and name-calling on both sides, there’s an admirable aspect to this angry narrative as told through the internet. We’re seeing some real citizen action at work.

Congressional Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s freaky witch-hunt comments on MSNBC gained significance largely through Digg hits and blogs. It resulted in a huge outpouring of donations to her democratic opponent. Others are making actual content. There’s the raw video footage of voters heckled in North Carolina that felt like a scene from 1957 rather than 2008. And then there’s Robert Greenwald’s now-famous news footage compilation — McCain’s YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare — that has received 7.5 million hits. These are just a few examples of the many, many news and video events captured and distributed through average joes that are actually having an effect on this election.

I agree with the idea that this is a critical election at a critical time. But this isn’t why I’m riveted by the coverage. What I find fascinating is that McCain is even in this thing. I watch the polls just about every day. They’re as erratic as the value of the Korean won. Some say Obama’s ahead 10 to 14 points, others say the race is dead even. Even if you average things out, I can’t understand is why this race is as close as it is. Clearly I’m partisan toward Obama, but I do like to keep an open mind. When I really give it thought, I can’t find a single aspect where I feel McCain is better suited. These are his apparent strengths:

  • Experience. McCain has been in politics longer than Obama. But I don’t know how that is a plus. If you consider running a nation like running a business, and the business is failing, who would you hire as your new CEO? Do want someone who brings in essentially the same policies as the guy you just fired? I’d rather have someone with new ideas and new energy, someone who can come in and move things forward.
  • Military Service. I’m 100 percent with Wesley Clark on this point. Just because McCain served in the military and survived torture and captivity, it doesn’t make him qualified to lead a nation. It simply doesn’t. We can appreciate and admire McCain’s service and sacrifice, but to think it makes him a good decision maker is not only wistfully romantic, it’s ludicrous.
  • McCain is a maverick. This argument is laughable for one simple reason: The guy we have as president now is a maverick. Disagreeing with conventional wisdom does not make someone a good leader. Bush went against the judgment of world community and attacked Iraq on a whim and look where that got us. “Maverick” means stubborn, unwilling to conform, go-it-alone. We want more of that? We’ve already seen in this campaign how McCain’s whimsical decision-making is at times stupid and at other times dangerous.

So I’m confused as to his appeal. I understand we live in a divided nation ideologically. I disagree with a healthy majority of the new conservatism — specifically “cultural conservatism” — but I can grasp the classic conservative philosophy. I can even appreciate some of the core tenets of 20th century republicanism — economic frugality and individual accountability among them. But I don’t find any of that in McCain. What I find instead is someone bitter, angry, stubborn, dishonest, insincere, hypocritical, disrespectful, and rash. I find a person who displays a colossal lack of judgment. I find an opportunistic cynic who is the very antithesis of his campaign slogan “Country First.” Here is a man who is the essence of “politician,” someone who wants power more than anything else.

Maybe I’ve been reading too much “liberal mainstream media,” but I also see the comments from conservatives, and I read dissenting points of view. The arguments for McCain, like those I mentioned above, don’t hold water. I have a hard time finding substance in any newspaper endorsement for McCain and more often find vague romantic notions of heroism or patriotism, or worse, a heck of a lot of fear.

So I don’t get it. Why is this race even close?

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5 Responses to “Margin of error”

  1. My question is why and when did we stop wanting our leaders to be extraordinarily intelligent and successful people of a different breed than most of us? Why do we want “joe sixpack” and “a regular joe”? I sure don’t. If education, wealth, and ambition are “elitist” then I want an elitist leader. Not some drunk plumber.

  2. Yeah, I don’t understand how “elitist” is a bad word. If I were to guess: I think in part it makes a better narrative. A nobody becomes somebody and therefore represents all of the other forgotten nobodys of the world.

    I think there are a lot of under-educated or more traditional (i.e. ‘conservative’) people out there who are confused and are looking for someone to make things simple for them. Extremely intelligent leaders further remove them from their classic notions of an America that used to make sense. Maybe they figure a regular joe could do that for them.

  3. Hey. I really enjoy the blog. Yours is one of the best written around here. I just wanted to float an answer to your question and that is that America is simply a racist country. I would not have said that prior to this election, but watching the rhetoric of the right and the way they, especially Palin, have appealed to the worst elements it is nauseating. If you have the time and don’t mind being thoroughly disgusted check out some so-called “conservative” chatrooms on Yahoo or Google. It is absolutely appalling. I too am counting the seconds…

  4. Isn’t the last guy the one we all wanted to have a beer with? How did that work out?

  5. Welcome Joe, thanks for the comments.

    Maybe racism in America is like a volcano. It’s always there and people kind of keep it buried. So it’s usually dormant (at least on a large scale). But every once in a while it bubbles to surface, like when people are scared.

    And yeah, some of the comments out there are really hateful.

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