December 2007 Archives

Presidential Politics? I'll Pass--or Maybe Just Punt.

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It’s always hard for me to accept that the college football season is ending. I’m particularly bummed out to see this one go, not only because it has been the most exciting and unpredictable one I can recall, but because without football to distract me, I’ve been forced to start paying attention to the presidential campaign again. Needless to say, I’ve found very little there to lift my spirits. For all the recent uproar, the BCS system looks like a stroke of pure genius compared to the way we choose presidential candidates. Hillary is still the clear front-runner for the Demos nationally, but the polls indicate she’s being pressed by Obama in the early decision states like Iowa, whose famous caucuses are actually little more than a contest to see which campaign can stuff the most supporters into a third-grade classroom. I’m eager to see what happens with Obama, who after being dogged by questions about his youth and inexperience and doubts about his toughness, has just wrapped up the whirlwind Opra’Bama Extravarama tour in which he allowed the domineering queen of daytime TV to lead him around to various venues packed with her adoring fans and pat him on his head as if he were her precocious little brother.
The guy-gal thing in this race is especially intriguing as the angst-ridden liberal types agonize over whether they should vote for Obama because he’s black or Hillary because she’s a woman while others who won’t vote for either of them for precisely the same reasons scramble to come up with a more socially acceptable explanation for their opposition. If we didn’t already have the polls to tell us, a sure sign that the race is tightening up on the Demo side would be that Hillary, who, short of filming a commercial for Norelco shavers, has done everything she can to showcase her formidable testosterone endowment (down to the point of practically telling “W.” that if he wants to kick Ahmadinejad’s little goofball butt, he’d better hurry up or he’ll have to stand in line), but now has her folks suggesting that her big bad guy-opponents are ganging up on her for a good old fashioned misogynist beat-down. One thing’s for sure: If she or Obama gets the nomination, much less goes on to win the election, we can count on a veritable tsunami of self-congratulatory rhetoric about “how far we’ve come” when the truth is, we should have long since reached the point where a candidate’s race or gender is simply an identifying feature and not a defining one.
As for the Republicans, national polls indicate they may be bent on inverting the traditional wisdom about choosing the lesser of available evils. The current front-runner is the only politician in America who has exploited 9/11 as effectively and shamelessly as George W. Bush. When it comes to polarizing and ruthless, there’s only one figure in American political life who comes to mind as holding a candle to Rudy Giuliani, and she is currently the favorite to be his opponent this fall. With a Rudy-Hillary matchup, all of the cumulative meanness and sleaze that American presidential politics has generated over the course of more than two centuries will likely seem like a breath of fresh air by comparison.
The big question at this point seems to be whether the Republican right, particularly the religious right, can suppress its gag reflex sufficiently to support a lying fornicator like Giuliani. In a sense, this will be a test of how truly politicized—or politically compromised-- American religious conservatives have become. In endorsing Rudy G., Rev. Pat Robertson apparently had little trouble in choosing electability over morals. This is hardly surprising, I suppose, since, if justice prevailed, Robertson’s own shady dealings in amassing a huge personal fortune would probably restrict him to shouting his “Halleluiahs” from the showers on Cell Block Nine.
There are quite a number of fairly pious precincts yet to be heard from, however, and here comes former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who, as religious zealots go these days, actually seems fairly likable. The current Huckabee boomlet may reflect the desire for a candidate whose spiritual pronouncements ring a little truer. However, the greater scrutiny that comes with growing support appears to show that, as governor, Rev. Huckabee may have been a tad too soft on the children of illegal immigrants and too generous with his pardons and commutations to suit the GOP hardliners, for whom “compassionate conservatism” is a doctrine that may be preached as necessary to get elected but constitutes pure heresy thereafter. Huckabee has more or less made it clear that he considers himself the only real choice for true Christians. Meanwhile, poor Mitt Romney, who has been spending serious bucks wooing religious conservatives, has been reduced first to trying to convince dubious voters, especially those of the Southern Baptist Convention variety, that Mormons are actually Christians. If he gets that far, then he has to sell them on the idea that his Christian beliefs should matter to them, but his Mormon beliefs shouldn’t. Lots of luck, Mitt. In my opinion, your presidential goose was deep-fried as soon as the series “Big Love,” which features a Mormon polygamist with three wives, became a big hit on HBO….Just a thought, actually.
Apart from the frontrunners, there is a truly bewildering array of no-way-in-hell candidates on both sides of the fence. There’s Republican Ron Paul, who would like to see the federal government’s importance rendered comparable to that of the Mayberry City Council. Then there’s Democrat Dennis Kucinich, whose self-described contact with aliens probably convinced them that the earth was already overrun with a lot of little dudes far stranger than they are. We should probably be grateful that the exceedingly compressed nomination process may be effectively wrapped up in just a couple more months. The downside, of course, is that, from then on, we’ll have only two candidates to learn more about than we ever wanted to know, and, quite likely, given what we’ve seen so far, a lot more of what we find out will be bad than good.
Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a long haul until Labor Day kicks off another football season. One thing’s for sure, if we have just spent the preceding six months watching Hillary and Rudy go at it, we’ll surely know unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct when we see it.

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