10 February 2008

Politics, American-Style

I've been following the American nominating process for the Presidential election as best I can. I feel weirdly detached from the whole thing, but since the President who will be elected while I am gone might be the President for the next eight years (to put that into context, until my son is 13 years old) I am fiercely invested in the outcome.

Unfortunately, I can't figure out who would be the best man or woman to run the country. I think the answer is Barack Obama, but I'm not sure. I really am made a bit uncomfortable by his relative lack of experience, and I worry that he won't have enough of a majority (or a coalition) in the House and Senate to get anything done.

John McCain -- although I will admit to having admired him personally in the past (I liked the idea of the "Straight Talk Express," and I like that he will cross the aisle to enact legislation about which he feels strongly) -- is obviously not an option. If he chooses Mike Huckabee as his running mate, he is not only off my list, he becomes Enemy #1. I am tired (tired, tired, tired) of the meme that the United States is "run by liberals" and "too liberal" and blah blah blah. It's garbage. The only people who really believe this -- who not only believe it but can support it with "evidence" they think is compelling -- are people so right-leaning that they secretly admire the Taliban. Do not mistake this to mean that I think American ultra-conservatives will start stoning adulterers to death if they take over -- of course they won't. But they kind of wish they could.

The rest of us know that our country has been hijacked by conservatives, starting in 1980 with Ronald Reagan, who made us (well, not me personally, but us as a country) "feel good" about it. That is the scary downside of charismastic leadership. Charismatic leaders are capable of not only compelling people to act against their own self-interests, but of making them like it. (Look at Bush and his tax cuts, which hurt middle-class people the most. And who did most middle-class Americans vote for in 2000 and 2004? That's right, George W. Bush.)

And we wish the conservatives would give it back. If they won't, I'm for taking it back by force*. A country in the hands of its religious zealots is unable to act in its own self-interests because it is too busy trying to protect itself from within. Show me a country that was successfully run by religious zealots for more than a few years and I'll show you a bridge in Arizona you might want to buy.

It's been interesting trying to explain America politics to the Europeans (mostly Germans, and a few Swedes) I know. Most of them are completely mystified by it. Many of them go to church, but the idea of fundamentalist Christians who believe that the earth is 2000 years old** and do not believe in evolution is just laughable to them. They literally cannot believe that such people exist, let alone that they are taken seriously and wield power.

The few religious German Christians I know are mostly young and idealistic. They believe that the Christ they worship would protect the least among us, and so they tend to be pro-environment, pro-vegetarian, pro-gay, and otherwise fairly leftist. I do not know where they stand on the abortion issue because frankly it is pretty much a non-issue here from what I can tell. My German instructor is a proud Christian and I believe I can say with some certainty that she would not be accepted as "one of theirs" by most of the middle-class Christians who have been voting for "family values" for the last 24 years. She dresses in a way that can only be described as "funky," has magenta highlights in her dark hair, and is tattooed and pierced in enough places that she makes me feel old. I'm pretty sure she would be an Al Gore supporter if she was an American citizen.

So it's strange that the right-wing conservatives have been able to get such a stranglehold on the American political scene for so long that they have been able to effect a complete transformation of the Supreme Court in my lifetime. I liked the old Supreme Court. I thought it made good decisions. It was hardly monolithic in its thoughts and opinions, but ultimately it seemed to come to the right decision 99 times out of 100, and I want "my" Supreme Court back.

And I'm still pretty peeved at my friends (not to mention the complete strangers) who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 because there was "no difference" between Al Gore and George Bush and they wanted to "make a statement."

Well, let me ask you a question, people who thought there was no difference between those two men. Do you see a difference now? In the makeup of the Supreme Court? In the way our Constitution has been subverted, and the "Unitary Executive" strengthened? In the way this Administration has waged war? In the decisions they've made which affect the environment for years to come? Would a Gore government have condoned water-boarding, my friends? Would we be in Iraq? Would we have let Osama bin Laden ("Who?" many Americans may wonder at this point, having been distracted from that particular bogeyman by the Iraq War quagmire and the disastrous effect of the bursting housing market bubble on the economy) get away and pulled the majority of our troops out of Afghanistan as quickly?

On the other hand, we might still be talking about how Monica and the blue dress were directly responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center, and for sparing us that, I guess I'm grateful to GW Bush.

*I don't mean with our well-armed militia which is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, although that would be ironic and strangely satisfying. I mean with compelling rhetoric and aggressive politicking. My dearest hope is that Barack Obama might be able to inspire folks (politicians and otherwise) around the country to start speaking up and saying, "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it any more."

**Oops, my mistake. Of course no one believes the earth is only TWO thousand years old. Don't be silly. It's SIX thousand years old.

Check out any one of this idiot's YouTube videos if you think I'm exaggerating about these nutcases:

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