I don't know what's different this time around. We have many of the same players and attitudes as we did in 2008, but for some reason back then it didn't seem to bother me as much. Maybe it's that, as I observed to someone the other day, at least McCain was consistent. But this time around there doesn't seem to be a coherent, let alone consistent position on the right.
But I don't think that really explains my weariness with the election this time around. It's more than that the position is so incoherent. It's that so many people have bought into it and don't seem to have the foggiest idea that everything about it is so wrong, and so dangerous.
Most of you know that I'm fairly upfront with my political leanings and my beliefs. If I feel that the person I'm talking to can handle an intense debate without it damaging our relationship, I'm even more than happy to really engage, to really push and argue and tear apart ideas and examine assumptions. But the fact is that I'm always holding back. I doubt that anyone has seen me really go after a debate for years. And recent changes in my career have made me even more reluctant to let loose.
But now I'm so tired of it. I'm so tired of smiling and nodding as people who I love and respect make excuses for the conservative side in this election. I'm so tired of people ignoring obvious gaps in the arguments, or passing over borderline racist and misogynist comments from actual candidates for political office, and doing so because "things haven't gotten better fast enough" or because "he's arrogant" or because "it will cost me money."
There is no argument on the Republican side this time around. None. As near as I can tell their platform is:
- Cut taxes. Doesn't matter that it will cost well over a trillion dollars over the next ten years. Do it anyway.
- Increase military spending. Doesn't matter that we already spend more on the military than most of the rest of the world combined, or that the military doesn't want or need it. Do it anyway.
- Let insurance companies continue to inefficiently make life or death decisions about people's lives while bankrupting them. That's better than costing everyone a little more money in taxes.
- Remove any regulations on industry, especially the fossil fuel industry. Because that costs jobs, renewable energy is nothing but a scam, and record drought and several 100-year storms in a row isn't a sign that anything's wrong.
- Get government out of people's lives, unless it involves a very narrow reading of certain Bible passages, in which case legislate the hell out of it.
- Oh, and we're going to do all that while cutting the debt. Because once we do all of that everyone will be so happy that we'll have enough money to do it.
I'm happy to discuss the relative merits of free market economies, or libertarian principles of government, or the role of taxes in a modern democracy. But that isn't happening here. There is no positive argument for true conservatism being made, because the positive argument might alienate some centrist voters. So instead, let's either scare everyone into voting for the Republican candidate, or convince them that we have some magic bullet that's going to make all their problems go away.
I'm not the biggest fan of the president. I think that he hasn't been anywhere near as forceful as he needed to be in making his case. I think that he placed too much faith in rational decision making and lost a lot of political capital in the process. And I think that he's abandoned a lot moral issues that really need to be addressed, like the use of drones in combat, or the ongoing detention of accused terrorists at Guantanamo without trial or counsel, or the growing power of the Executive branch. But at least he has a coherent plan to continue to ameliorate the country's economic problems, which has been working for some time now. If anything he hasn't gone far enough in demanding sacrifice from the wealthiest Americans or supporting infrastructure and alternative energy development. At least he's not making stuff up.
But even beyond the platforms, you also have to consider who you're actually supporting if you vote with the Republicans in this election. You're supporting people who think it's necessary to qualify rape as "forcible" or "legitimate." You're supporting people who think that certain people in our society shouldn't have the same rights as others because of who they love. You're supporting people who believe that our current president is a secret Muslim communist who was born in Kenya, but probably actually just don't trust him because his pigmentation is a little on the dark side.
After all of this, I'm sorry. There is no argument to be made to vote Republican in this election. And I am befuddled and distressed that it is as close as it is. Are my fellow Americans so small-minded, so easily swayed by pretty words, that they could be won over by arguments as flimsy as this? Or is it just that they are so afraid of people who are different from them, or so afraid of perceived threats, or so afraid that true recovery is HARD dammit, that they cling to the one person who sounds like he's going to make it all better? Is almost fifty percent of the country nothing more than scared children in the dark, crying for daddy?
I'm so tired of this.