Thursday, September 6, 2012

Purple House

Ah, another political season is upon us. Once more, a slate of hopeful candidates leave their corners and engage in one verbal donnybrook after another, hoping to send the other guy to the mat. Or at least the ropes.

We are now in the throes of convention season. Followed by debate season. And then survey season. Which will be followed up by attack-ad season. And then counter-attack-ad season. October surprise. November comeback. Cue the marching bands.


Forgive me for being rather blase about the whole thing.

I think after a certain number of elections, it becomes easier and easier to yawn through all of it. From the primaries to the exit polls, the rhetoric from all sides just piles up on itself in a growing heap of promises, half-truths, fuzzy explanations, sketchy details, spin, finger-pointing, baby-kissing, flag-waving, and thumpy-happy theme music.

Wake me when they've swept Pennsylvania Avenue clean of the confetti and let me know how it all played out, willya?

It wasn't always this way for me. My roots were planted in fertile soil for healthy, meaningful political debate.

Mom was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. She was a depression kid who lived with a steady fear and distrust of financial institutions and believed that the best form of government is one that supports the everyday social needs of its citizenry. She saw the manner in which FDR saved the nation from financial ruin through his alphabet soup of recovery plans, and she continued to believe that it was the government's responsibility to ensure that the poor would never suffer in that manner again. As a nurse, she wanted a President who felt people's pain and did his level best to ease it.

She loved the Kennedys, hated the Nixons, and pulled a straight-ticket D-lever her entire life.

Dad operated from the right, having been attracted to the Republican way of thinking, especially in its support of the military. He was a Navy man, serving during the Korean War, and made his career as a Naval Engineer, drafting aircraft carriers. Budget cuts from the peacenik Ds in Washington took bread and butter off his table, so he voted consistently with the GOP. He felt the role of government was as protectorate on a global scale. As a civil servant, he wanted a President who was strong against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

He disliked the Kennedys, but he grew to dislike the Nixons as well; in fact, his vote for Nixon was the last he ever cast in a presidential race, declaring them "...all crooks." His views drifted more moderate after his retirement, but none of the subsequent candidates ever caught his attention enough for him to pull the curtain on a voting booth for the rest of his life.

Mom and Dad talked politics a lot. And when they would argue -- sometimes heatedly -- they would retreat to our basement laundry room. There, they would square off, putting a pair of sneakers into the drier so that the metallic clumping noise of the Keds careening off  the inside drum would cover their shouting.

I think that was for our benefit -- the boys -- so that we wouldn't hear them at odds with each other. What they didn't know is that we would huddle above the heat register in the dining room and eavesdrop.

And when it was over, it was over. They would calmly re-climb the stairs and go about their business.

So our house growing up was neither red nor blue. It was red and blue. Purple.

Dad used to say that neither one of them should bother to vote at all, as all they were doing is cancelling each other out. He'd tease Mom: "I'll stay home if you stay home."

And she'd eye him suspiciously...

"No," she'd say. "I'm going."

"Okay," he'd counter. "So am I."

There is no such political divide in my own household. Eileen and I both lean right, mostly from a pro-life point of view, given our Roman Catholic faith. But I am altogether aware of the hypocracy that stance can sometimes represent: Pro-life, sure, but I was thrilled to see Al Qaeda blasted to smithereens and cheered with the rest of the country when Osama Bin Laden ended up with a bullet in his temple.

If a baby's life is sacred, isn't al-Zwahiri's as well? I struggle with these questions.

I do get a kick out of hearing/reading other people's reactions to the stumping and the speechifying. As an undergrad, I took a class in the U.S. Presidency, and the professor -- a former pol himself -- noted again and again the purposeful limits on what the C-in-C could actually do. Or not do.

For instance, I'm fairly sure the President of the U.S. cannot set or re-set the price of gasoline on a nationwide basis. Or the price of raspberries. Or loose leaf paper. Or weight loss pills. Or anything else, for that matter.

Not sure he can create jobs, either. Unless he hires a Georgetown teen to cut the White House lawn.

But I think that job is taken.

Facebook has been an interesting canvas on which to watch all this play out.

I am a recent participant in the Facebook phenom, and this is my first presidential election cycle there. The notion that someone's viewpoints will be changed merely by the post of an article -- amid a steady stream of chatter, baseball score updates, high school reunion news, and other digital blather -- is amazing to me.

"Thank you, friend, for posting a link to this <article/video/blog entry/podcast> on <insert Candidate A/B name here>. I had no idea before <reading/viewing/listening> to this information that he was such a <philanderer/fatcat/greedy SOB/scum bucket/schnook> and that his opponent is exactly the kind of <political genius/visionary leader/caring individual/devoted American> that we need to lead us through our most challenging challenges. I am totally convinced now to vote for <Candidate B/A>.

"And with that decided, let me give your post a big, thumbs-up LIKE

"And go vote for my America's Got Talent faves!"

I just don't see it.

I'm not a Tea Bagger, although I'd like to see government on a federal level become less invasive. And yes, that's another point that can be at odds with a pro-life outlook. Hands off guns; hands on uteri. I get it. I get it.

I also know that nobody is going to balance the budget. It is probably to the point that no politician could balance it even if he/she wanted to. But none of them will dare say that.

Nor the words term limits.

Nor the words flat tax.

But I'm getting into my own biases for things I'd like to see from Washington.

I'm also not so into the GOP that I can't see its faults.

For one, the GOP seems to have ceded to the Ds the rights to all the cool and hip candidates. Barack Obama is cool and hip. In fact, he may be all cool and hip and without substance at all.

I did not vote his way, as I found him inexperienced -- a charge I still lobby at him -- but there's no denying that he's glib, friendly, funny, confident, charming, and an excellent speaker.

All the GOP seems to put up cycle after cycle is a slate of BWGs. Boring White Guys. C'mon, Right. Bob Dole? Really? John McCain? Meh! Even Mitt is on the bland side. 

I liked Reagan (he was the first presidential candidate I ever voted for) but do not worship the ground he walked on. I did hate Bill Clinton and could never quite forgive him for being a liar and a cheat. And for what it's worth, I consistently found many of George W. Bush's mutterings to be absolutely cringe-worthy. "Mission Accomplished." Insert foot in mouth.

It's a Washington tradition, seemingly. Exhibit B: our thick-tongued, loose-lipped, rattle-brained VPOTUS Joe Biden.

As for the rest of it and where we go from here, I'm sorry to say that it really won't matter to my day-to-day existence. Wednesday, November 06, 2012, I'll still rise, dress, take the dog out for a walk, put on the coffee pot, and sludge off to my day's work, such that it is. And the day after that. And the day after that. I'll pay taxes. I'll go to church. I'll buy groceries. I'll get my hair cut.

President Obama. President Romney.

Excuse me for this, but does it really matter?


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