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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ELECTION FATIGUE

With only (or still) two weeks to go before the mid-term congressional elections the process is beginning to feel like a forced march with a bad hangover. The public policy part of the debate, which never had much depth, seems to have faded into background noise as the candidates at all levels are engaged in desperate acts of profound stupidity and vicious personal attacks. In terms of “policy” it’s pretty simple: Republicans want to cut taxes, cut government spending, and reduce government’s size and intrusiveness. Democrats want to tax the “rich”. Both sides want to “create jobs”. Except for taxing the rich, few details have been provided for the rest of the promises. No where is there a serious discussion of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, although they continue to consume billions of dollars and create thousands of casualties. In fact, the wider scope of U.S. international security issues, especially Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, has received little to no attention in televised debates, a distinct failure on the part of media hosts. Enormous trade deficits and environmental issues are peripheral at best. Candidates are more busy trying to demonize their opponents with largely exaggerated and mostly irrelevant character assassination euphemistically known as “negative ads”.

We have the following spectacles. In California, an economic basket case, the issue “de jure” has been the use of the word “whore” in a private phone conversation by a staff member of gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown. Also, in California, Democrat Barbara Boxer’s campaign has charged Republican senate candidate and former CEO of international electronics giant HP (Hewlett Packard) with “creating jobs over seas”, a truly shocking procedure for an international company.

In the senate campaign in Kentucky, Democrat candidate Jack Conway, who is behind, thinks he will catch up by charging his opponent Rand Paul, with being anti-Christian and sexist because of some college pranks Paul participated in about twenty-six years ago. Paul was so offended that he refused to shake hands with Conway after the debate, and of course voters have to view the “analysis” of this shocking and important event by the talking heads of cable news.

Activists and candidates would have us believe that all Democrat candidates for any office are closet “socialists” and all Republican candidates are “right-wing extremists” beholden to the purveyors of “corporate greed”. Many Republicans seem to be running against Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama and in true time warp tactics, many Democrats are still running against George Bush.

In many cases, the candidates themselves are providing the grist for the political mill of absurdity. In the hotly contested Nevada senate race, Republican candidate Sharon Angle told a group of Hispanic students that some of them looked “like Asians”. Why she would say something as dumb as this, politically and otherwise, in a state like Nevada, which has a large Hispanic population will probably never be explained. On the other side, Democrat Harry Reid’s campaign thinks they have discovered Angle’s political “Achilles Heel”. In a recent ad they accuse her of “living off her husband’s government pension” and being “covered by Medicare”. That’s it; strange but true.

The infliction of chronic, perplexed head shaking on the voting public continues in Delaware where Republican and Tea Party anointed candidate Christine O’Donnell, after having earlier cleared up voters fears that she was a witch, and calling evolution a “myth”, expressed surprise in a debate that the First Amendment to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights required separation of church and state. O’Donnell perhaps is to be forgiven for missing too many eighth grade civics classes but while on the job training is a wonderful thing, this particular gaffe occurred in front of a group of law students and professors who were understandably dismayed. O’Donnell continues to make the news for her entertainment value but is suffering from a double digit deficit in the polls.

But the governor’s race in New York takes the prize for the Mardi Gras in November award. The Republican candidate, Carl Paladino who has been providing the entertainment so far by threatening to use a baseball bat on the state legislature and angering the large homosexual population of the state with irrelevant anti-gay remarks, actually looked pretty normal compared to the colorful fringe candidates that were inexplicably invited to participate in a recent televised debate. Particularly amusing, sort of, was the fast talking Jimmy McMillan a.k.a. “Papa Smurf”, representing The Rent is 2 Damn High Party. Yes, that’s the real name of the party, although Papa Smurf may well be its only member. McMillan, with his strangely exaggerated sideburns and beard resembles Billy Goat Gruff wearing black gloves, had only one theme, of course; “The rent is too damn high”, but no solutions. Then there was Kristin Davis, the former “madam” of a “ house of ill repute“, not the House of Representatives, another one, with perhaps less ill repute and more to offer. She is running as the Anti-Prohibition Party (legalized prostitution) candidate and says she has experience in delivering the goods. All in all there were seven candidates at the debate which was laughable unless you remembered that it was the only debate for the New York’s governor’s race and New York runs a close second to California in terms of dysfunctional government.

The Tea Party Movement was supposed to bring voters an alternative to “politics as usual” and it seems to have lived up to its billing, but desperate Democrat candidates have joined the side show and November 2nd will come none too soon.

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