Friday, September 5, 2008

And Now the Red Team's Turn...

After watching Senator McCain's speech last night, I can understand why he went with Sarah Palin as his running mate. He needed someone with a personality to breathe excitement into his campaign. While Governor Palin bowled the Convention, and much of the viewing audience, over with her dynamic, well-crafted attack on the Democrats, McCain stumbled awkwardly along, barely reaching a decibel level higher than normal conversation, and rattling off the same ol' anti-Democrat catch phrases that we've heard a million times. As McCain was shouted down by protestors, the whole event reminded me of Hubert Humphrey's acceptance speech in 1968. A simple, decent politician trying mightily to set himself apart from the current president, but constantly counterpunched by those who won't let the public forget why we want the current administration out in the first place. Given the over-the-top security measures taken at such events, I was amazed that protesters got anywhere near the hall, but I'm happy they did. Free speech is not dead yet.

I've had mixed emotions all along about John McCain. I believe he is more of a true public servant than Obama, can connect with a broader cross section of American than Obama can, and has greater life experience as preparation for the job. I was fully ready to break with my Democratic brethren and vote for him until he named Sarah Palin his running mate. I suddenly had Bush-Quayle flashbacks. For all her personality, I just can't see her running the country. Of course, after George W., I think our republic can withstand a trained monkey in the White House, but I would still worry about having the Governor of a sparsely populated state running the entire country -- not such a small consideration given McCain's age.

Another issue in the negative column for me is McCain's lack of ideas and inability to convey a clear vision for America's future. I'm so tired of hearing things like, "I will cut taxes; Senator Obama will eliminate jobs." This Republican concept that raising taxes automatically destroys job creation has never been proven. Bill Clinton raised taxes in the 90s and we saw one of the biggest economic growth spurts in our history. In fact, historically, the stock market has done better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones. It's just like that old 80s rant about how Democrats were "tax-and-spenders." Reagan proved that the Republicans were "don't-tax-but-keep-spending-anyway-and-run-up-a-ridiculous-deficiters." Finally, Clinton took the bull by the horns, raised taxes enough to pay off our debts, and then made difficult budget cuts to balance the budget. All the while, 22 million jobs were created during the Clinton Era. George W. Bush cut taxes, but how many jobs have been created during Mr. Bush's watch?

Ultimately, the Republican rhetoric is tired and doesn't hold up to scrutiny. They keep saying McCain is a maverick, and I would love to see him prove it by attacking the President and the Republican status quo outright. What the hell? You already have the nomination. But, alas, he will continue to bend himself to the will of the current policies and sound like George W. Part Two. I don't know if that's going to fly with the bulk of Americans.

The one new wrinkle which I found intriguing this week was how the Republicans out-Democrated the Democrats by embracing the working class. From the way McCain and Palin rattled on about helping ordinary folks, you'd think they had morphed into Mondale and Ferarro. Again, I think it's all smoke and mirrors. Just as President Bush has pandered to the Bible Belt Christians by wearing his born-again status on his sleeve, all the while helping big business and squeezing the very people who faithfully voted for him, McCain and Palin are trying to play against Obama's elitist persona to snatch up working class voters who are afraid Obama doesn't quite understand them. I too believe that Obama is more comfortable with the Starbuck's crowd than those at Joe's Diner, but I can't for a minute believe that a McCain/Palin administration is going to do anything substantive to help working families get decent health care or relief from high prices.

So there we are. If a Biden/McCain ticket was available, I'd have no problem voting this year. John Adams feared for our republic if we developed strong parties, but it was inevitable, and this is what we've wrought. Instead of electing the best possible candidates from both parties, we get these oddball combos that don't add up to very much. Regardless of which side wins, I'm not looking forward to the next four years.

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