Debatable

>> Thursday, October 04, 2012

I listened.  We don't have a television--well, we don't have a television set up to receive live television signals, we have a television connected to a DVD player.  I set the living room computer up to play the NPR stream of the debate last night, and we listened to it.  My sister told me Hulu was streaming video, but that seemed like too much trouble.

The thing about this was that I'd realized yesterday morning how little the debate mattered at all.  I could have told you who I was voting for this November way back in 2003, is the thing, which probably makes me sound closed-minded (and maybe I am, I dunno), but it's realistic.  You know, what happened quite a number of years ago, now, is that in 2000 I bought into the whole "There's no fundamental difference between the two major political parties meme," hook, line, sinker, fisherman, part of the wharf; so I voted for Ralph Nader and I don't have any real regrets over that; it felt good to vote my conscience and anyway my vote made no difference in North Carolina, which went overwhelmingly for George Bush.

But then something happened: less than a year into George Bush's first term, criminal assholes crashed some planes, knocked down a couple of buildings and killed three thousand people.  And it was all about the solidarity and we're all Americans and we need to do something about Afghanistan harboring these thugs and gangsters up until something else happened, which was that in 2003, we invaded Iraq.  And so it turned out I was completely wrong about the "no difference" meme (and so was everybody else who subscribed): it turned out that, in point of fact, the 2000 election had been presenting the American electorate with a choice between "Guy Who Sucks The Cocks Of His Corporate Masters" and "Guy Who Sucks The Cocks Of His Corporate Masters And Invades Iraq For No Discernible Good Reason".  I don't think anyone knew that at the time, but in retrospect it was clearer than an X-Ray.  So I was wrong.  Mea culpa.

So I could have told you at that point who I was going to vote for this year.  Not specifically, obviously.  But in general terms: "In 2012, will you vote for a Democrat or a Republ--"; "Democrat."  "Don't you want to know who the Democrat will be?"  "Enh."  "It'll be a guy named Barack Obama."  "Whatever."  I could qualify by applying ad hoc probabilities: "Well, y'know, it's not inconceivable I'd vote for a third party again, but, y'know, that kinda didn't work out for me so much last time; I mean, no regrets, and, seriously, it made no difference, but, yeah."  (I have to admit I did feel a little bit foolish about my 2000 vote when Nader started being a huge dick during the 2004 election; that sort of soured me on the whole thing, at least a little.)

This is where I go on a tangent and mention something that's been a minor irritation lately.  Have I read Conor Friedersdorf's piece on why he won't vote for Obama this year?  Sure, yeah, just like everybody else with an Internet connection.  (And now I've linked to it, just like everybody else with an Internet connection.  Dammit.)  And all I can say about it is, "meh".  I know people who I respect who find it persuasive, and I'm not going to tell anybody how to vote.  I'm just going to say that I've tried the whole "Opt-out of the whole demoralizing business and vote for somebody who can't possibly win" thing and, y'know, like I said, it felt good but it was useless at the very best.  And that I don't think this is the right race for doing it.  And that if you really are a single-issue voter and your single issue is the drone war (or you're a two-issue voter and your other issue is protecting whistleblowers), well, y'know, split the vote or whatever, just admit that's what you're doing and if it turns out to be a boneheaded move, you don't have to regret it but at least acknowledge responsibility and that maybe you were wrong.

Oh, and I guess I also have to say that Fridersdorf's conclusion that he'll support Gary Johnson because "he won't win... [but] he ought to" is, well, I apologize to whomever this might offend, but it's kinda retarded.  Unless you really are a libertarian, and, well... yeah, like I was saying.  No, I'm sorry, that's not entirely fair.  I do know some smart libertarians, though I don't know if I know any wise libertarians, and I have some very good and dear friends who are very intelligent and educated people who I'm afraid might be voting for Johnson this year.  But no, Gary Johnson shouldn't win.  Like Ron Paul, there are certainly a couple of issues any civil libertarian might agree with, and a couple of issues any pacifist or antiwar pragmatist might agree with.  There are certainly things Johnson says that I think are sensible.  And then there's things like repealing the Affordable Care Act and reverting to an unworkable free market system that will effectively deny care to the poor; an abrogation of governmental responsibility in energy development that blithely ignores not only the practical economic realities of the moment but the historical fact that government has always played some role in energy development, whether in research, construction, or the earliest role of allocating Federal lands to private developers; an approach to aviation safety that sounds suspiciously like an anti-libertarian invitation to discriminatory profiling; typical libertarian paranoia about the Federal Reserve that ignores the historical fact that, for better-or-worse, the Federal Reserve was created out of historical necessity because the fiscal regime Johnson would revert to simply didn't work; a call to effectively privatize and voucherize education that is unlikely to serve poor and middle class children; and an abrogation of governmental responsibility and participation in biotechnology research and development that abdicates government's centuries-long role in public and public-private partnership science.

Of course, all this is moot.  I needn't have bothered, since any possible initiative a President Johnson would make on any of these topics would be instantly blocked by one or both parties in the House or Senate even if by some magical chance Messrs. Romney and Obama had to drop out of the race because of bad pie or something.  Johnson could just as credibly pledge to give everybody a week off work and round-trip plane tickets to Bermuda.  But it's worth going through the list just because Fridersdorf makes a cogent case about the awfulness and immorality of the drone war--and I certainly can't take issue with that--and then he says something like (paraphrasing, not a direct quote here), "Gary Johnson ought to be elected", and then read what Gary Johnson actually stands for and you have to wonder if Fridersdorf is actually very, very stupid; or at least some kind of idiot savant who managed to be right about drone strikes but ought to be ignored, otherwise.

I also--sorry for the further tangent, but I need to add--confess the drone war is something I have to admit I'm ambivalent about.  I agree it's awful.  I agree it kills innocents.  I agree it creates terrorists.  I agree it's imprudent and short-sighted.  And that would be more than enough to be against it and I'm certainly not for it, exactly.  But the fair question is whether it's really optional.  If you say, for the sake of an argument, that we ought to be doing something in the Middle East about terrorist cells other than just keeping an eye on them, drones seem preferable to me than sending in soldiers.  Maybe that's just begging the question of whether we ought to be "doing" anything at all, and that's fair enough, too.  But then you have to point out that wars--covert or overt--aren't just matters of foreign or military policy; sometimes they aren't even primarily matters of foreign or military policy.  E.g. we shouldn't have gotten into Vietnam, but when we did, we didn't really get in because we were afraid of Vietnam falling to the communists, or at least not only or maybe even mainly: we got in, really, because John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were afraid of Republicans blaming them for Vietnam falling to the communists, which is more or less what happened to the Democrats when mainland China inevitably fell to Maoist forces.  What I'm getting at here is that I don't know that there's any President--not even Gary Johnson--who's going to look at the al Qaeda harbors situation and decide that authorizing a few really squicky assassinations and incidental mass murders abroad is worse that attending Congressional hearings to explain some unforeseen domestic tragedy; and I agree this completely and totally sucks so far as rationalizing horrors goes and I'm not even trying to justify what we're doing, I'm just saying this is how things work in America and always have.

And this was going to be a post about the debate.

But, you know, there was more to say about all that (and probably still is) than there was to say about the debate.  I think I started by saying I knew it wouldn't make a difference in my vote, and it didn't, though I have to admit the pundits who said my guy lost the match are probably right.  Romney didn't screw anything up--didn't offer anyone ten thousand bucks or admit he didn't give a rat's ass about half the electorate or anything funny like that--and Obama sounded tired and said "uhm" a lot (which I probably do, too, when I'm speaking in public, so I don't hold that against him; it was merely noticeable and annoying).

I wonder how much the debate was a Rorschach test of sorts.  Lots of people--the kinds who like policy arguments--have been saying the debate was really "wonky"; I thought I knew what that word meant, but apparently I don't.  I thought it meant dealing with nuts-and-bolts policy issues, but apparently it means a couple of guys trying to remain as vague as possible about their own economic plans while saying the other guy's going to raise my taxes.  (Something else: I really think both candidates will end up having to raise my taxes; the real difference is that I at least have the sense Obama's going to do something I'd approve of with them, whereas I really don't understand what Romney would spend the dough on.)  Some liberal friends seem to think Obama did much better than I sense that he actually did.  For my own part, I went in expecting to hear bullshit from both sides, and I pretty much heard bullshit from both sides; but maybe that was just a self-reinforcing prejudice.

Anyway, the debate.  Yeah.  It was a thing.  That happened.

Of note is that NPR did the typical thing of talking to undecided voters before the debate, and that really seemed to reinforce the notion that if you didn't already have enough information to decide your vote on already, you probably don't deserve the franchise.  I mean, seriously: they kept asking people what they wanted or needed to hear from the candidates to put them in one camp or another, and either they didn't know or they were waiting for somebody to say something he already said, like, months and months ago.  And it seems to be a kind of self-reinforced ignorance, i.e. denial: they know who they ought to vote for, deep down, but they don't like the choice for whatever stupid reason, so they act like neither candidate has said what they've said or done what they've done.  Well, I'm sorry.  Just suck it up like the rest of us, and choose sides.  Or go vote for Gary Johnson and take your lumps if that goes about as well as my vote for Ralph Nader did in 2000.  Whatever, just try not to sound so stupid, already.

6 comments:

Anne C. Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 1:40:00 PM EDT  

I did almost exactly the same thing in 2000, with essentially the same feeling afterwards. My vote wasn't really in favor of Nader (who would probably be an enormous douche) but more in favor of a friggen third party. The good news is that we kind of have that now with all the "Independents" and "Unaffilliated" which forces the Rs and Ds to work a little harder when they want our vote, but doesn't help at all in Congress because partisanship locks it up tighter than the traffic on the DC beltway at 7:30 am.

Anywho, here's someone else who's walked that path and come up in the same vicinity. If Jon Huntsman had miraculously become the Republican candidate, I would have seriously considered voting that way, but that would have meant the Republican party wouldn't be the party that feels Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, Paul, et al represent them. (Few really believe Romney represents them, he's just the one they thought had the better chance to win.)

I am going to be so glad to get this election behind us so I can stop thinking about that old joke about how you know when a politician is lying.

beachdog67 Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 2:10:00 PM EDT  

Well, Eric. I'm enough older than you that I got all that "casting a principled vote" stuff out of my system back in the '70s (there was a time when I could proudly proclaim I had voted in every election for which I was eligible and hadn't yet picked a winner).
So, by the time Ralph rolled around in 2000 it was easy, from my seat, to see him for the self-serving shit disturber he was. [Useful guiding principle: Never trust anybody with no sense of humor.]
But that's as may be. One of the odd artifacts of our calcified "two party system" is that, apparently, it will always provide fertile compost for the old anarchist argument that "if voting really made a difference they wouldn't let you do it". It's seductive, but ultimately too simplistic.
You make the case well. Here's hoping you win a few swing state hearts and minds.

Nathan Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 4:05:00 PM EDT  

I had the debate on, but I didn't pay that much attention through most of it. The one moment that stuck with me was when Romney talked about passing healthcare in Mass. as a bipartisan effort and taking Obama to task for having the Dems ram it down the GOP's throat.

I know it wouldn't have been presidential to do so, but I wish Obama could have responded that the Democrats in Mass. didn't announce the day after Romney's election there that their only goal was to make Romney a one-term Governor.

It's really hard to spearhead any bipartisan efforts when the opposition is against anything you suggest solely because you're the one who suggested it.

Seth Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 4:08:00 PM EDT  

"[T]he 2000 election had been presenting the American electorate with a choice between "'Guy Who Sucks The Cocks Of His Corporate Masters' and 'Guy Who Sucks The Cocks Of His Corporate Masters And Invades Iraq For No Discernible Good Reason'."

Wahahahaha! This has to be the most succinct description of what happened, ever.

Steve Buchheit Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 4:16:00 PM EDT  

Actually, Nathan, what I was waiting for was Obama to counter, "You say you worked in a bipartisan manner, so why did the MA legislature over-ride your veto more than 700 times with only four years in the office?"

But, yeah, with their performance last night I fall into the "plague on both their houses." Although I too know whom I'm voting for. I won't exactly hold my nose, but it won't be the "Hell yeah!" vote I made in 2008. It's more of a "OMG, we can't replay the 2000's again. I'm too old for that shit."

Tom Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:22:00 PM EDT  

I watched the debate, and I wish President Obama hadn't used "annnd" so much. It seemed like he was trying to forestall the moderator from cutting him off.

And then there was Romney's magic tax plan. "I'm going to reduce the rate, because that grows jobs. Then I'll fix the deductions so we get the same revenue. And I won't do a tax cut that hurts the deficit." That was said several times. "Read my lips, I won't, I'm telling you, I won't!" Well, we all know how the lip reading trick worked out.

But reducing the rate, so I get a $100 cut, and the top 5% get $100 million cuts, then trying to recoup all that from deductions? Like the mortgage interest deduction I get? That now I won't get? That saved me a grand or so? Gee, thanks, Mr. Big Bucks.

I do wish the President had called Romney more on his bullshit. That would be my dream, I guess.

Do Republicans who aren't in the top percent realize they're going to get screwed over, too? Just like I'm going to be? Or is it, "Let's help out the rich, cause, you know, I might be rich, too, someday!"

But as unhappy as I am with what transpired, I didn't see anything much that would make me think Romney is going to be able to overcome the negative sentiment he's built up against himself.

So there's that.

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