10/4 The Elections

Current political observations?

So, the first debate has come and gone?we are on doorstep of the next one tomorrow night. And for whatever the polls are worth, Kerry is statistically back in contention. This certainly had something to do with the deeper and more factual content of his statements and his straightforward and aggressive replies to Bush. He simply knows and understands far more than Bush is capable of comprehending, let alone expressing intelligently.
But what really did Bush in was not his patent falsity or clear inability to think, it was that he was simply incapable of looking like a grown-up.
He just didn?t look like a man in control of his mind or even his body?and consciously or unconsciously?this affects the way the public (even his nominal partisans) perceives him.
His blinking, shifting, smirking and pouting said more than all his words could ever say?and those words are always scripted and false anyway. Bush is a straw man, like the Straw Man in The Wizard of Oz, except of course, unlike The Straw Man; Bush has never successfully achieved an intellect. This was one night where he just stood there, blinked his eyes and leaked straw.

Of course we live in a time (and place) where style has completely vanquished content. So much so that content itself is suspect. In this case it works for Kerry and against Bush.
I think a lot of the electorate (and the parrot-brained media) criticizes Kerry for being ?nuanced? and ?vacillating? (which he has actually been at times)?and other such descriptions?because they no longer recognize actual thought when they see it (or hear it) at work. The quality of careful consideration, reflection, and complex expression is fatal for an American politician. But to be fair to the good old USA, if you look at all the successful politicians and political leaders in history, they are always simplifying things?dumbing them down?for the masses. One of the most brainy and complex thinkers and speakers who ever ran for President was Adlai Stevenson, and he never had a chance against simple old Grandpa Ike.

One mark of an adult (I?ve been told) is that many of life?s problems (internal and external) are complex and, therefore, require complex examination. Another sign of adulthood; i.e., spiritual and emotional evolution (but, again, certainly fatal for anyone running for office) is the concept?and the reality?of making a mistake, admitting it and then correcting it. This is seen as nothing but weakness.
Bush (and his puppet masters) make a great deal of?in fact they lead with the concept that Bush is ?decisive? and never changes his mind (!) or his course; that he acts quickly and firmly and doesn?t pull back or change direction, etc, etc. Unlike Kerry who, (despite his long-time unpleasant tendency to blow with political winds) often finds himself, like many grown people, stopping to consider a problem; thinking about it?even out loud; even (sin of sins) saying to the great mass of voters: ?This is not a simple or easy thing to figure out?it has layers and angles, and one simple answer will not do.?

In the era of Oprah and Regis and Kelly, of MTV, of bytes and buzz-words and weightless personal growth books that promise victory over every human dilemma in TEN SIMPLE STEPS, it is distressing, even frightening to the great mass of voters when they see a grown man verbalizing the notion that an issue is complex and needs to be examined from all sides.
Similarly, one of worst things a candidate for President can do (and they never do it because they would lose in a minute) is to say that there might be some justification for other people/countries/cultures disagreeing with us; that our country may have behaved in a way that is wrong, or even, God Forbid, shameful or outrageous. To do this, in the time of the Terminator, would be totally unacceptable–mere cowardly behavior. And this is all the more ironic of course, because Bush and part of his base of supporters call themselves Christians. In fact, they behave like anything but Christians. They are vengeful, merciless, murderous and greedy.
I don?t seem to recall the Gospels putting out those values. If Jesus were alive now, the first people to ridicule him, whip him and nail him to the cross would be fundamentalist Christians and the cynical men (Cheney, et. al.) who manipulate them as though they were an army of mindless robots.
Jew though I am, I am completely amazed that anyone calling him or her self a Christian could even think of supporting George Bush and the gang that surrounds him.

Anyway, Cheney and Edwards are up next?
Cheney can be calm, witty, even charming in a dead-pan sort of way, and he has the aura of great experience, working with Presidents for a long long time.
Edwards has to combat the (however unfair) label and perception of himself as a pretty, smiling boy–who will be going up against an experienced, sober older man. All of this, of course, is not about the content or character of the two men (if it was only that, we could just call Edwards Vice President right now) but, once again, about what they will seem like.
If Edwards can just come out even with Cheney and then Kerry can beat Bush decisively in the next two Presidential debates, then we may–unless Bush’s gang and his tame Supreme Court actually decide to dispense with Democracy entirely–have a new President.

I notice that voter registration has reached record levels in the last few weeks and more are registering all the time. Clearly, the country sees this election for what it is: A referendum not just about two men or their political parties but about the very structure and idea of what America is now and what it is to become in the future.
I believe that the results of this election (and how the voting is conducted) will show us what truly remains of the American experiment in democracy.

– Mike Feder (New York City – October 4, 2004)

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