Monday, September 15, 2008

I Need to Extract Myself from Official Election Coverage Before My Head Explodes

When you're waking up in a cold sweat with such thoughts as "Oh my god! The polls are showing a fundamental change in the race!" it is time to vacation in the land of reality TV shows or Law and Order reruns. I haven't felt this stressed about our political climate since the run up to the Iraq war.

I've come to the conclusion that the majority of Americans no longer even know how to evaluate candidates for office in any sort of systematic, substantive way. We're conditioned to follow the prescribed (by Republicans!) short cuts of how said candidate make us feel (that McCain's just so old, he must know what he's doing), what the "brand" stands for (good for the troops!), what the media sound bytes say (flip flopper!), and that's the beginning and end of the thought process for most people.

This morning, for example, I heard a random sampling of New Hampshire voters interviewed on NPR. The Obama supporter cited "change" as his reason. I'll bet if you asked him what, in particular, he found compelling about Obama's policy proposals, he would not have been able to say. And when they interviewed the obligatory "undecided" voter, she declared herself to be without health insurance and most concerned about the economy and health care. I wanted to smack my head against the wall (or her head against a wall). Obviously she'd sought out no information about what these two candidates were offering on her stated preferred issues, because, to put it mildly, the options are pretty stark. You either feel strongly that laissez faire and everyone on their own is the way to go, or you feel a bit of a safety net is in order. Option A or option B.

Similarly, when people declare that they just "don't know" what Obama stands for, it's not as though there's no answer to this question, found at myriad sources. It seems to come down to a short-cut answer that sounds like you're cogitating about it, but you're just repeating something that other people have said.

I don't wonder if this is all tied to the general disdain that Republicans have for logic, reason, empirical knowledge, and general "intellectualness." We're not really encouraged to think for ourselves, so why should we know how? It's all a matter of opinion, anyway. It's how consumers choose inexpensive disposable products (because most of us do a wee bit of research for big-ticket items like cars and at least suss out the features). We're nothing if not a consumer nation.

In other, more local, news, the editorial power struggle continues. I am weary of power vacuums and, as my career coach termed it, "avoidance of hard decisions." Amen, sister. You said it.

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