June 19, 2008

You Probably Deserved It, Hillbilly

Just a quick couple of thoughts as we round into the 2008 Presidential Campaign...

Now that we've settled the epic sparring match that was Hillary vs. Obama, and have emerged (thankfully) with Barack as our nominee for the big race to come, the talk of political coverage has finally shifted to the details of each candidate's policies, matters of substance. One of the major points addressed right out of the gate -- in light of our current, depressing economy -- has been each candidate's economic policy. Fitting.

For the most part, I'm glad that this has happened. What I'd love to see in this campaign, almost more than anything, is an actual debate on policy, rather than bitter spats about pointless, niche-specific ideas that have nothing to do with the welfare of America, like the 2004 campaign devolved into.

Because, more than anything else, what secured the victory for Bush back in '04 was his campaign's ability to make stupid American voters base their vote on things that had nothing to do with the health and prosperity of their own sad little lives. I'm sure we all still remember those vastly important debates about gay marriage, stem cell research, the use of the word "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and on and on. Remember all the screaming talking heads on the news shows, the picket lines and protests, and the incoherent, fumbling one-liners of everyday Americans embroiled in bitter arguments over what they thought was truly important in the race?

See, what was brilliant about that strategy (Karl Rove may indeed have no soul, I can't be sure, but he's a genius nonetheless) was it's magician-like use of misdirection. Rather than using a lovely assistant to distract the audience from the fact that he wasn't really sawing a woman in half, though, he used Americans' faith, embedded values and what they assumed were issues that actually affected them to distract from issues that had national importance. People put the economy, the welfare of our troops and four years of decline below the idea of gays getting married, or whether or not their gun collection would have to be scaled down from a modest 25 to a Commie-like 10.

That's when we ended up seeing things like this:

That's why I laugh, a little, when people act outraged and incredulous at the fact that our economy has sunk so over the last few years. The dollar is an embarrassment, businesses around the country are slashing jobs left and right, recent college grads are having all kinds of trouble finding jobs (ahem, Ohio), and the cost of fueling a car has turned into a major monthly bill. Did you all really expect anything less? The vast, vast majority of America that was fooled into thinking that they were voting their conscience is now feeling the squeeze, while multi-millionaires are enjoying tax credits. Bet you're still glad you slapped that Bush/Cheney sign on your trailer now, genius.

The worst part of the trickery, though, is the fact that of all of those "hot-button" campaign issues from '04, NONE of them are even remotely on anyone's radar in 2008. When's the last time you switched on CSPAN and caught a raging debate about the merits/evils of gay marriage? How many scathing editorials against the immorality of stem cell research have you read in your local paper? When's the last time you were (expensively) driving around and passed a group of people protesting the inclusion of Creationism in public school education?

Probably haven't encountered much of it as of late. Those issues, from a large, pop-culture standpoint (because let's face it, that's what drives the national collective of thought), have gone the way of any other neo-nostalgic bit of trivia from the first few years of the 21st century. No one cares anymore, not in the larger sense. Poor people who were tricked into voting for someone working against their economic welfare are still poor, and probably on actual welfare. Christian conservatives used for their vote aren't seeing any of their major, faith-related issues be addressed, and have even threatened to boycott the GOP this go-around. It's like a bad hangover for these people. Those hard-to-peel-away stickers only serve as glaring, mocking reminders of one very stupid decision.

So, this time around, maybe people will take a second and consider their state in life, and what their vote will contribute to the next four years of it. Even when it's sooo tempting to get riled up by campaign ads pulling at your sense of decency and your personal taste, you might want to consider the bigger picture.

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