I admit it: I’m a partisan.
I’ve been a Democrat since the 1960’s. That’s right — a liberal, a “progressive,” a left-winger. But I think I come to this place honestly. My mother was not political, and my father was a WWII veteran who voted for Eisenhower. I figured out for myself what I needed to know to make my decisions. You can believe me or not. That’s up to you, but I say this just to let you know that I’m not a “knee-jerk liberal,” that I have thought through my positions
Over the decades since my first Presidential election I have remained hopeful, although there have been times when I couldn’t stay optimistic. My basic belief is that we are all we have, and it’s crucial that we take care of each other, and that’s the measure I use when I’m deciding who to support in an election. I’m not pretending to be all that altruistic. It’s just the way I think. I’ve never been able to understand why warmongers get elected, or pompous hypocrites who wear their religion on their sleeve.
But high public office, it turns out, confers great power on it’s holders, and so the competition to gain these offices has grown ever more cutthroat. Men — and now women — are desperate to get this power, and I mean desperate. We won’t go into the reasons why, but they are desperate. And in their desperation they have turned election campaigns into elaborate, amoral displays of deception.
Techniques have evolved that can get anybody elected, no matter their background. Negative advertising, whisper campaigns, sabotage and outright lies about your opponent actually work. I mean, let’s just face it, it’s far easier to cast enough doubt in your mind to stop you from voting for someone than it is to inspire you enough to go out and elect that person.
This is why no one in this campaign is talking seriously about the war, the broken military, the crumbling economy, the failure of the healthcare system, the corrupt Bush Administration or any of the other real issues that face us. This is why we are talking about real or imagined personal slurs or sex ed for five-year-olds. That stuff works, unfortunately, far better than real (and boring) discussions of monetary policy or international diplomacy. Sadly, the introduction of a smear campaign instantly brings both sides into the muck. There is no way to defend against it. You fight dirty or you lose. (This is a corollary to Jones’ First Law of Social Interaction: Bullies always win.)
So every four years I think maybe we’ve seen the worst of the negative campaigning, and every time it gets worse. Fine. I can stipulate that this is how all elections will be run, now and forever. It won’t stop me and you from knowing about the actual issues, and trying to get someone elected who at least seems capable of doing something about them.
I’ve written in this blog that I am a one-issue voter in this election, and that issue is the war in Iraq. I hate it. I hate the fact that it was not necessary, that our president tricked us into supporting it, that it has destroyed my country’s credibility and good will throughout the world, that it is draining the U.S. taxpayer’s pockets to the tune of ten billion dollars a month, and that it has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of victims.
But the war has disappeared from our political radar, except for the candidates bickering over who was right and who was wrong about “the surge.” In the meantime, see the previous paragraph for a short list of all the stuff that is still going wrong with no end in sight. I accept the fact that we have made such a mess of things that whoever is elected will make almost no difference in the outcome. We’re stuck there for the foreseeable future. There is no honorable way out — as if anything we’ve done there has been honorable up to now.
So, while my Big Issue simmers on the back burner, here’s a little negative campaigning of my own: Last Sunday on 60 Minutes they re-ran a segment about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the 76-year-old right-wing “originalist.” Among his many smug responses, he was arrogantly impatient with interviewer Leslie Stahl when she asked him if he had any regrets about his part in selecting George W. Bush over Al Gore for President in 2000. Despite Bush’s disastrous presidency — the incompetence, the corruption, the stupidity — he said (paraphrasing) “That was so long ago — get over it!”
Get over it? I can hit my finger with a hammer and get over it. I have apparently missed my chance to get into Gwyneth Paltrow’s pants, and I’m over that. But I’m having a little trouble getting over the ongoing catastrophe that is the Bush Administration. And now it occurs to me that if John McCain wins this election, he’ll get to appoint a couple of Supreme Court justices himself, and what with his voting so often in agreement with Bush, and since he has actually said that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, I’m not feeling real good about the kinds of appointments he will make.
The Democrats, much as I love ’em, have a bad habit of approving bad appointments to the Supreme Court, even when they have multiple methods of stopping said appointments, and plenty of good reasons to do so. So even though they will probably have a majority in both house of Congress for the next few years, I don’t trust them to block a possible wild-eyed nutcase from getting onto the Court and screwing up the whole country for 50 years.
These judges are there as long as they want to be. Their terms never expire, and they almost never retire. The impact of a heavily packed right-wing court will be felt for thirty years at least, followed by a couple of generations that will have to live with their decisions until such time as the Court gets around to hearing and correcting old decisions. They are likely to make abortion illegal in this country. They will probably approve laws requiring all of us to carry guns (just kidding). They will continue to make it easy for government to take your property and give it to developers, for, well, development. They will continue to uphold obstacles to equal pay for equal work, as they did just this year. They will be unchecked by any kind of liberal balance. The conservatives will simply be able to steamroll any opposition, because they’ll have an automatic majority in every case.
Let me put this bluntly: They will be very conservative Republicans. Republicans are the party of the rich. They will stand with their party in making sure that rich people remain the ruling class (and get richer), while the rest of us hope for something to trickle down. They will continue down the road of making the U.S. a Christian theocracy, with rulings against abortion and in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments.
If you’re sick of all the slimy campaigning and you just want politics to go away, or if you just can’t decide from among the candidates, think about The Supreme Court. They will have a much greater effect on your life and the lives of your children than the guy who sits in the White House for the next few years. This election is a chance to halt the Court’s slide to the far right and bring some balance back to this crucial branch of government.
It may be your last chance for a long, long time.