Lately, I’ve been feeling somewhat in a daze: the way Cotton Mather might have felt had he been suddenly teleported from a 17th century witch burning in Salem to modern day Las Vegas.
Things wouldn’t have made much sense. They don’t for me either.
I dutifully watched the Republican convention: not all of it, I’ll confess, but enough to entitle me, I should think, to at least a minor medal for gallantry in the face of inane banter. There I sat under withering fire from the likes of Rudi Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Joe Lieberman and, of course, John McCain himself, with a beer in my right hand and the remote in my left: yet bravely I stayed at my post.
My God, what a brain dead bunch the Republicans have become. If anyone in the Republican Party (or for that matter the Connecticut for Lieberman Party) has had an original thought in the last 30 years, that person wasn’t invited to this convention.
Here we are, in a time of extraordinary national crisis, with our troops overextended, our nation widely hated abroad and our economy in frightening decline: and what has the GOP to offer? 1980s style liberal bashing. An energy policy, if you want to dignify it with the term “policy,” based upon nothing more than a wish, a prayer and an oil rig. More wars for more profit. More tax cuts for the already overly-pampered.
And snideness, of course — oodles and gobs of snideness. I mean, how better to defeat the challenges of the 21st century than to snide them to death.
Which brings us to the new queen of snide herself, Sarah Palin: utterly unqualified for the office she now seeks and a right wing nut to boot. But, hey, she’s sort of cute and shoots moose! She has all of the womanhood of Hillary Clinton, with none of the annoying policy knowledge! Now, that’s my kind of vice president!
And the really depressing thing is that much of the public seems to have loved it, giving McCain a solid bounce in the polls.
I can’t help but think that somewhere out there Thomas Jefferson is shaking his head sadly: apparently founding the University of Virginia wasn’t good enough to give us the informed and wise electorate he craved.
Yes, there are wise and thoughtful voters in America — tens of millions of them, in fact. They just don’t happen to be the folks who will get to decide the election. Instead, presidential elections in today’s United States — divided, as we are, almost in half politically — are effectively decided by a handful of so-called undecided voters.
And as much as the David Broders of the world love this flip-flopping center of our electoral universe, their reality is less appealing.
Sure, there was a time, decades ago, when the parties weren’t all that far apart in terms of either ideology or competence. But to believe that’s the case today is nothing short of idiotic.
One party wants to continue Bush’s failed policy of endless war and international bullying, while the other wants to return to thoughtful diplomacy; one will further enrich the superrich, while the other will fight for greater economic equality; one wants fill an already radically conservative Supreme Court with even more right wing hacks, while the other will work to return some balance to the Court; one wants to fight global warming, perhaps the greatest threat ever to face humankind, while the other wants to pretend it doesn’t exist.
And on and on and on and on.
The truth is that there is no political middle today — just a choice between two radically divergent and irreconcilable views of what America should be.
Trying to be politically “independent” today is like trying to find the middle ground between a football and a bowl of potato salad. It just doesn’t compute.
What that means, of course, is that this election (in addition to the battle to get out the vote) will ultimately be decided by a war for the souls of the most disinterested and uninformed of American voters. A battle to excite those who really couldn’t care less.
We don’t have to like it. But we better fight like hell to get them on our side: because, at the end of the day, our children will have to live in the future they choose.