So, as happens every four years, I’m obsessed with the presidential election — I”m now trolling political blogs regularly to find out whose ahead of whom or who said what stupid, boring thing that Iowa voters are supposed to care about because each and every one of them is was, like me, born without the brains god gave a louse turd. Seriously, is there any more pointless, vile way to spend one’s time than listening to John Edwards explain that his new year’s resolution involves reminding himself that somewhere in America a child is hungry? Or listening to Hillary Clinton say anything? Arggggh.
Anyway, I’m a Barack Obama supporter, pretty much — I even gave his campaign $20, which is probably the kiss of death for him (everyone else I’ve ever contributed to went down in flames.) Obama actually lives less than a block away from me; he was my state senator, and I’ve voted for him in multiple elections, including in his unsuccessful run for the House of Representatives against Bobby Rush a while back. He tends to actually be able to answer a straight question with a straight answer; he’s smart and thoughtful; he was right about Iraq when it counted, he’s fairly liberal, and in general I think it would do this country a lot of good to have a black president.
If you’ll notice, there’s nothing in that endorsement which mentions any sort of policy positions. It’s basically, “I like him”, which, as this article notes, is why people tend to support Obama, or any candidate. Pundits will often whine and groan about this; the whole problem with our system is that people focus on personalities, why won’t anyone pay attention to the issues, etc. etc. I agree that the process is debased, and that part of why it’s debased is that it is about ineffable personalities…but I don’t think that the reason for this has anything to do with the American people’s foolishness. Instead, I blame the Fouding Fathers. In their infinite wisdom, those white guys in wigs designed a system where the President can’t really do anything. Voting on policy is dumb, because once the candidate gets into office, there’s a very limited number of things which he (or she) can actually do. It all has to go through Congress and the courts and so on and so forth. In a parliamentary system, you actually vote for a whole party with a platform, and then when they get in they enact it — or, if they can’t, the government falls, and you try again. But our system is deliberately personality based, so it’s no wonder that people tend to vote on personalities.
Not that the policies of the person in power don’t matter — they do. But you can’t really tell what they are from the campaign. Bush started as a “compassionate conservative,” remember? But unlike in a parliamentary system, there’s no way to actually hold anyone accountable once they get into office. You can just flat out lie about what you’re going to do, and once you get in you can blame your failures on Congress, or on just not getting around to it, or on whatever — what’s to stop you? So the solution is to vote for someone who’s not a liar, which again puts you down to personality. But, of course, the candidate’s all come off as plastic pre-fab overly solemn sentimentalists; the question then is, which of these assholes do you dislike least? For me at the moment that’s Obama, but I’m sure that if I’m exposed to him for four years, I’ll have had my fill of his particular brand of arrogance, condescension, self-regard, and sentimentalism.
I can’t believe I care about this stuff. Even arguing about Art Spiegelman is less despicable. I should go wash my keyboard out with soap now….