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.

• This is the first time that there is a Republican or Democratic candidate for president or vice president who grew up in Alaska or Hawaii.

• Someone will be elected president in November and will be inaugurated in January, the United State Supreme Court nothwithstanding.

Second, some thing things we think we know because we've been told:

• John McCain is a maverick.

• Barack Obama is brilliant.

• Joe Biden talks too much.

• Sarah Palin is a hockey mom.

• All four of these candidates are the actual parents of the children who appear with them on television and in photographs.

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.

• John McCain can either be a former prisoner of war who was deeply and permanently affected by the experience, or a former prisoner of war who was miraculously transformed into a great leader by the experience, but not both.

• In the vanishingly small chance that any one of us will ever have a beer with either of the two presidential candidates, we would learn nothing that would help us decide which one of them to vote for.

• If you vote for a candidate because you think you know what kind of person he is or because of how well he performs on camera, rather than what kind of laws and policies he is likely fight for, then you are kidding yourself.

• If Obama wins, black-hooded storm troopers will not invade small towns across America and take away everybody's guns.

• If black-hooded storm troopers invaded small towns and took away everybody's guns, there would still millions of guns in the country.

• If McCain wins, abortions will not be outlawed.

• If abortions were outlawed, there would still be countless abortions performed in the country each year.

Finally, some things we will never know and which are not worth considering:

• How much either of the presidential candidates loves his country.

• How much either of the presidential candidates thinks the members of his own party, who he has just finished embracing, are mostly crooks, idiots and fools.

• How much any of the candidates love their spouses and children.

• To what degree any of the candidates may act in any circumstance for love of country, love of party, love of family, or love of the reflection in the mirror.

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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