I was sitting at my favorite discount pharmacy waiting for the folks behind the glass to dispense my prescription. A couple of young guys were ahead of me. The TV in the waiting area was tuned to a news channel, and Republican presidential candidate John McCain was on the screen talking about something or other.
Young Guy #1: Is that one of the president guys?
Young Guy #2: Yeah.
YG1: What’s his name?
YG2: That’s McCain.
YG1: How many are left?
YG2: Just two: Obama and McCain.
YG1: [sly grin] Wasn’t there a girl? Which one is the girl?
YG2: That was Hillary. She’s out of it now.
YG1: Yeah, I thought so, ’cause nobody would vote for a girl. That was pretty funny. So, who’s left?
YG2: Obama and McCain.
YG1: Yeah, ’cause who’d vote for a girl!
Well, feminists, have at it! I think we can safely conclude that Young Guy #1 is clearly a moron; however, he did have a point that I believe is valid. Back before it was all decided, I was cheering for Hillary to win the nomination because I doubted that she was electable for the very reason that our presumptively public school educated moron proposed.
Some of you will say that I’m being unfairly harsh toward Young Guy #1. After all, knowledge about and involvement in politics is optional and not for everybody. Thinking that makes you a moron, too! These abstract figures you can take or leave pretty much decide our individual and national destiny. So, yeah, just view elections as vanity contests at best or too much trouble to bother with at worst and see where that leads us.
* * * * *
Anyhow, back to the point. Is voting for a promise of “change” for change’s sake any less moronic than saying “nobody would vote for a girl?” Perhaps the young moron even had more brain cells working than those purportedly well educated voters who are now being led down a primrose path strewn with petals of perfidiously proffered passage. Some of them didn’t even need to hear the “change” mantra, for they were already hard-wired by fellow Kool Aid drinking, tinfoil hat wearing drones into an unthinking position of voting only for Democrats without even weighing the merits of the available candidates. The same is true for hard-core Republicans who only know how to pull the big lever that says “Republican” and for whom campaign events are opportunities to spend time reinforcing their prejudices with other, like minded monomaniacs. This polarization has to end. We really look stupid.
OK, so the country is going through a period of malaise. The economy is suffering a cyclic downturn; oil prices are high due to Chinese consumption and other factors; we have yet another unpopular war; and, with a less than charismatic leader in George W. Bush, it is easy to blame everything on him and his party, just as we did with Gerry Ford in the aftermath of Watergate, Vietnam, and a severe recession in the 1970s.
Jimmy Carter was the bright, shining, youthful figure who vowed that if he were elected it wouldn’t be business as usual in Washington. He was right. It was worse. Our short-term, feel-good mentality and his naivete cost us a fortune. If he wasn’t the worst president of the 20th Century, he was second only to Warren G. Harding. He gave away one of the most important strategic assets of the western hemisphere, the Panama Canal. He insisted that Soviet contractors build the new embassy in Moscow, because it would save money. That embassy was never used for its intended purpose, because during its construction the KGB planted more bugs than you’d find in the entire Okefenokee Swamp in Jimmy’s home state. Jimmy trusted Communists and felt little need for spies. Accordingly, he dismantled the CIA, cutting loose a large number of career covert agents. He allowed the embassy to be placed under siege in Tehran. During his administration, we verged on runaway inflation, with the prime interest rate topping 21% while the economy stagnated. The Dow-Jones average, which had managed to climb to 1000 in January 1977 from its 1973 depths, started sinking once again. Many proclaimed the stock market dead. But Jimmy sure looked more glamorous and promising than Gerry Ford to those who voted for him—and that included some very intelligent people. Hell, Gerry pardoned Richard Nixon, which was unforgivable. So voting for Gerry must have been like voting for Nixon all over again. They were wrong. They were bamboozled by a promise of a new order in Washington, something that they had to know in their hearts was impossible.
Germany turned to Adolf Hitler in 1933 for similar, albeit more dire reasons. The national malaise resulting from the excesses of the Weimar republic, the apportioning of the fatherland by the Treaties of Versailles, and the extreme currency deflation laid the groundwork for the Beer Hall Putsch and Hitler’s mercurial rise to power.
Now, don’t get all up in arms here. I’m not comparing Obama to Hitler, or even to Jimmy Carter, for that matter. I’m merely saying that the conditions are ripe for voters to grasp at straws in the hope that the rhetoric actually will represent reality, and that reality will be a panacea for all our ills. When the pain grows, people tend to think irrationally. Think again. Has this sort of thing ever worked in the past? Has anyone ever been able to change how things work in Washington? What will the long-term consequences be this time if you vote straight out of your ass?
For those of you who say that McCain is just an extension of George W. Bush, you’re swallowing a line, too. Before you blow wind in my direction that I’m just a filthy, dirty, neocon, creationist, homophobic, Bush-loving, blindly GOP-voting pig, let me say that I am not happy with either candidate. I firmly believe that senators for the most part make lousy presidents. With few exceptions, they are career politicians who have little, if any, executive experience. We’re not electing a king or an emperor; we’re electing a chief executive. He runs the executive branch of the government. Give me someone who has successfully run something—preferably a large corporation or a state. But I digress. McCain is McCain. Bush is Bush. McCain, if elected, will inherit two houses of congress with Democrat majorities. That and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are Bush’s legacies to his successor. The economy is cyclical, perturbed by fiscal policy and monetary policy as well as international trade. The direct influence of the president on the economy is debatable, but it is certainly much less than what campaign speeches would have you believe. Oil prices—neither presidential candidate will be able to do much to change.Â So, why do we listen to the same empty promises—from both parties’ candidates—every four years and believe this mendacious rhetoric? I sure as hell cannot base my vote on who makes the best empty promises. Can you?
What I want from a president is a strong national defense and a successful foreign policy. What I want from congress is to keep government the hell out of my life and my pockets. I am sad to say that neither presidential candidate offers the complete package to me, and congress is out of control. Thus, I cannot throw my hands up in the air and just vote for change for change’s sake.
On the contrary, I feel that gridlock is essential to keep this congress from going hog wild spending my money. That’s sad, too, but that’s what checks and balances are all about. It will please you to know that I felt the same way when there was a Republican majority in congress. George W. Bush rubber stamped every damn spending bill, not wielding the veto pen for six damn years. His ramrodded Medicare Part D legislation was a ridiculously extravagant expansion of the welfare state. This, from a Republican? With a Republican congress, no less? Is this the LBJ Administration Redux?
Hell, both major parties are in the business of buying votes with redistributed wealth. I object. That’s my money they’re using to buy votes, and your vote for “change” is a vote to open the spending floodgates for congress. I won’t stand for that.
Furthermore, I am not convinced that Mr. Obama would not weaken this country’s defenses, but that’s another post for another time. On the other side of the coin, I do not believe that Mr. McCain has a firm grasp on the economy, but what can a president really do about the business cycle? Not much.
Hey, do you notice how inconsequential former hot-button issues like abortion become when people are feeling the tightening in their purse strings? Goes to show you where the national mindset is. Yep, that’s right. Firmly lodged in the personal wallet. When times are good, we can get all bent out of shape about stuff like abortion, but when we’re feeling the pain, it’s me first! Nobody seems to care which candidate goes which way on abortion this time around, just as long as they’re promising a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. The almighty issue of abortion is finally relegated to the back seat it deserves. Hallelujah!
Shifting gears, I’ll move to another thing that is getting on my nerves. Let’s just bail out all the mindless idiots who leveraged their credit cards to the hilt and then thought they could do the same with houses, shall we? Those poor, poor people. Duped by the greedy bankers. They didn’t know any better. Yeah, so that’s why they make good voters. Whoever can make them feel better, placate them—with MY money—will get their votes. You can bet that both sides of the aisle will be feeling very generous with MY money. What a convenient issue to pop up just prior to a national election! Bastards!
I did it right. I have no mortgage. I have no car loans or leases. I have no debts. Yet now I have to pay dearly because some assholes thought they could buy champagne on a beer budget? I have no sympathy for them. No, instead I want someone to save my damn wallet for sure! Instead of trying to shore up this house of cards, we should let it tumble and rebuild our credit system on a firmer foundation. However, congress is not about to take any such painful steps. They’ll just continue to spend my money to the tune of enthusiastic cheerleading by our sitting president and the two wannabes. Crap!
So, I’m still up in the air about just whom I’ll vote for in November. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr is tempting. Alas, our two-party system is too firmly entrenched to expect the Libertarians to make any significant gains. Furthermore, this short-sighted, feel-good, gimme gimme gimme generation of voters has been conditioned to expect that government will take care of them from cradle to grave, which is decidedly antithetical to Libertarian philosophy—and mine. Can somebody help me out of this morass by giving me some reason to vote for McCain, other than that he would provide a strong national defense, or giving me some reason to vote for Obama, other than that he is a change from that which cannot be changed? How about not telling me why I should not vote for somebody, for a change?
Oh, and how about exhibiting a sign of intelligence by injecting a little humor into your political diatribe? I’m growing weary of the darkly impassioned, ornery, humorless bleating of the goats on either side of the fence. It’s not a black and white world (or should I say red and blue), and you people are being downright nasty to each other. How about not taking yourselves so seriously, for a change? We’re all in this together. All the liberals and conservatives I know are nice people, yet many of them put the blinkers on when in the presence of those of the other persuasion. The world is composed of shades of gray, and all this red/blue polarity is really destructive. Let’s get back to give and take. Neither McCain nor Obama is all bad and neither is all good. It’s just easier to look at it that way, so we’re ceding this election to the whims of lazy minds. Let’s not.
This post has been brought to you by the Mouse Who Ate Xanax, who is solely responsible for its content.
excellent, well thought out article. imo, your best non-football post.
unfortunately, the issue of abortion has only been put on the back burner by the media, and NOT many of the voters. Both sides of the issue are still adament in their point of views.
still, i love the metaphor “they could buy champagne on a beer budget”. i am a big fan of personal responsibility, and shudder that so many are getting bailed out for their ruthless incompetance.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks, jd. You are too kind.
I was cranked up last night. What was originally to have been my recounting a humorous conversation turned into a rant that kept me up to 3:30 AM.
The cost of the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout to each citizen is estimated at $1,300. Of course, that simple quotient doesn’t take into account the compounding effect of that large segment of our populace who will essentially put the $1,300 on their credit card, increasing their debt and thus, the peril to our society as a whole. Those of us who take charge of our finances and don’t go out on a limb like those lemmings will wind up paying the bill for them over and over again. Frankly, I don’t feel like paying for someone else’s excesses. I do not feel sorry for those who stuck their necks out. If they had no idea what they were getting into, they lacked the intelligence to sign a contract.
It has been written that a plethora of foreclosures will hurt us all. Have we lost the fortitude to bear some hard times? Sweeping yet another financial boom/bust cycle’s detritus under the rug will only make it worse the next time.
Eventually, if our politicians keep blowing hot air into that balloon, it will burst. Let us rein this thing in while we still can. Do we lack the character to endure some tough times while righting this ship? Do we want to live for today and say to hell with tomorrow?
On the other subject (the A-word), perhaps the issue has been back-burnered because both candidates are sitting on the same side of the fence.
Artificially Sweetened says
Loose lending practices have the effect of boosting the economy, which, in the short term at least, is good for everybody, including government coffers. Then we have to bail out the big lenders, or else! It was a technique used in the 1980’s, during the savings and loan crisis. It’s a new taxation method. And I suspect it will happen again in another 20 years.
The Nittany Turkey says
Very good point, Sweetened. These boom/bust phenomena are indeed cyclical, with minor perturbations relating to fiscal policy, monetary policy, and who’s looking the other way at any given time.
Pete the Streak says
Extremely well stated, Turk. Couldn’t agree more.
Well played, Sir.
The Nittany Turkey says