Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Miss A Week, Meh

When our internet ended as we awaited the installation of AT&T U-verse, we watched in embarrassed awe as Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign eviscerated itself in a moment of honesty.  As reader Alan says elsewhere, "I mean, does it actually surprise anyone that Marie Antoinette Mongomery Burns Thurston Howell Romney III is contemptuous of the working poor? How could anyone alive be surprised by that? Didn't everyone already know that?"  Now, it's windows on airplanes.  More fluff for the late-night TV hosts.

Even before Romney's feckless disregard for political sensitivity, his campaign had, for all intents and purposes, pulled out of Pennsylvania and Michigan, both of which were, until the Democratic National Convention, "in play".  Recognizing that pouring money down particular rat-holes was not a good idea, his campaign had decided that two states will decide this election - Ohio and Florida.  That is where the action is.  That's where the candidates will concentrate their money, time, TV ad buying, and personal appearances.  History is invoked - "No Republican has won without Ohio!" - without a thought that this is a meaningless statistical artifact rather than careful political calculation.

And the real things - war and rage in the Middle East; a stagnant economy and tone-deaf monetary managers; the self-immolation of many on the right as the day they feared most, Barack Obama's re-election as President, draws closer and closer - get lost in the shuffle.  Our military faces the prospect of sequestration, putting at risk everything from service contracts to the prospect of how many planes we buy.  Congress refuses to do anything, as has been their want, taking a two month vacation, putting off required votes on how we the people are to allocate our resources to operate.

These latter aren't small things.  They aren't irrelevant.  All the same, in many ways this election reminds me very much of the election of 1988, when Michael Dukakis lost the Presidency because he rode around in a tank, told Bernie Shaw he wouldn't want to kill the person who raped and murdered his wife, and was a card-carrying member of the ACLU.  In the light of the events of the ensuing four years, it might have been nice to talk about more than burning the American flag and who was and was not Jack Kennedy.  Yet these latter are what we remember from that election, rather than the fact that the person who won that autumn faced the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the coup attempt and demise of the Soviet Union, and, yes, a recession.  Rather than history teaching us about the importance of Ohio in electoral calculus, it might be nice to remember that elections have consequences.  Real things that impact millions of lives are at stake.  Things far more important than whether or not windows on airplanes roll down.

While I do think the 47% comment was both unimportant and an enormous blunder, the pattern of election coverage has been atrocious.  We focus on minutiae, all the while American service personnel are dying in Afghanistan.  We laugh at Romney's gaffes, yet neither candidate - not really - is making clear what, precisely, each will do to bring down the unemployment rate (unless you count, "More of the same!" from the President and "What W did only bigger!" from Romney as "precise").

Finally, it is Congress more than the Presidency that will determine what happens for the next couple years.  Our divided government, by and large, works well during flush times.  When we don't need a whole lot of action, people smacking one another around verbally while moving behind the scenes to ensure stasis are good things.  When things need to get done, however - real things for real people, real laws with real consequences for jobs and housing and national defense - we need people who can say, "OK, we disagree about a whole lot of stuff, but we also need to do what we were elected to do.  Pass laws."

Elections matter.  We have to do with real, serious matters that impact the lives of millions of people.  It would be nice if we had an actual discussion about these things rather than the political equivalent of LOLCat pictures.

Virtual Tin Cup

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