THE PURSUIT OF WORLDLINESS
A blog by Barry Edelson
Can We Vote Now PLEASE?
To paraphrase the poet, something there is that doesn't love a convention.
The self-congratulatory air that permeates large gatherings of like-minded people invariably leads to one of the most egregious forms of human corruption: tribalism. Anyone who has ever attended a convention of any kind, and didn't have a wonderful time, has no doubt observed with disgust the adolescent descent into boastfulness and scape-goating. It is one of the salient traits of our young species that it is never sufficient to think well of ourselves; we have always to find rivals and enemies with which to compare ourselves and our chosen group favorably.
Political conventions are merely among the most excessive examples of offensive group behavior. As Barney Frank once said, politicians cause a lot of problems, but the voters are no bargain, either. However, the Republican and Democratic parties run virtually every elected government body in the nation, which makes their failure not merely to rise above the common rabble, but to imitate it with a fine degree of precision, far more consequential and depressing than run-of-the-mill assemblies of financial speculators and goat-herders. Worse, the degree to which either party passionately defends a position merely because it is the opposite of the position passionately defended by the other party is reason enough to despair of the entire democratic enterprise.
There is nothing new in any of these observations, of course, which is why it is so difficult to write about it. People behave badly; politicians are people. What more is there to say?
So, now that the nominating conventions of our two largest (I hesitate to call them "major") political parties are over, bringing to a close yet another presidential primary campaign that broke new records for wasteful expenditure and longevity (Barack Obama has been running for president longer than Sarah Palin has been governor of Alaska), can we vote now? Anyone who professes to be "undecided" at this point is either toying with the pollsters, too indifferent to vote anyway, or too ignorant to be allowed entry into a polling station. What's the point of dragging this out and spending another half a billion dollars to further insult our intelligence and bewilder the stupid and/or deluded among us?
It is safe to say that there is so little additional information likely to be squeezed out of the candidates between now and Election Day that there is no point in waiting two more months to settle the matter. As a public service, mainly for the benefit of those voters who have just awakened from a two-year coma, it will be my pleasure to highlight some of the important facts before we close out this interminable root canal that we call an election cycle.
In American politics, facts affront the consciousness of the voter in four forms: things we know, things we think we know, things we ought to know, and things we will never know. First, some things we know because only a deranged person would dispute them:
• Joe Biden has been a senator longer than John McCain has been a senator, who has been a senator longer than Barack Obama has been a senator, who has been a senator longer than Sarah Palin has been a governor.
Second, some thing things we think we know because we've been told:
• John McCain is a maverick.
Third, things we ought to know because we are supposed to be rational adults:
• Barack Obama can either be a Muslim, or a member of a Christian church headed by a berserk minister, but not both.
Finally, some things we will never know and which are not worth considering:
• How much either of the presidential candidates loves his country.
Anything else you need to know? I know who I'm voting for. Let's get this agony over with already.
September 6, 2008
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