October 30, 2008

Notes from an Exhausted Real American

Orlando News Anchor Asks the “Fair and Impartial” Questions.

I’m exhausted. Obsession can do that to you. During the primaries I was disconnected. I didn’t read much about politics or watch the campaigns unfold on TV. But the moment (the moment!) I heard Sarah Palin speak at the Republican National Conversation I was hooked. With little faith in the general electorate’s ability to see “truth” beyond her sharp delivery I was immediately drawn into the fray. My lack of faith has become a quadrennial problem of mine.

From that point I began to listen to every word Obamabiden and McCainpalin uttered. I combed numerous Web sites for analysis. And the moment I got home from work I tuned into both CNN and MSNBC while multitasking with my iPhone. My mood rose and fell with each and every poll.

As the campaign developed I began to prioritize my pundits and spokespeople. Early on, interviews with independent voters provided the most interesting information. Party members and their surrogates provided the least. I categorized reporters left to right and on any particular day, depending on my stamina, I might be able to stomach listening to at least one deeply Red. But I often quickly reached my limit as I did yesterday watching Tom DeLay spew with a sardonic smile on Hardball. (If you want to see a person’s true persona watch him on a slow fast forward with no sound.)

Truth be known, I tuned to Fox News every now and then. I wasn’t looking for “fair and impartial” but I was looking for intelligent discourse wherever I landed. There’s nothing wrong with a biased media. Plurality is good for a vibrant society. But Hannety, what can I say? You and Rush Limbaugh exude boogieman tactics, pandering to the fears of others and catering to the lowest common denominator. You call Obama an elite but what about the racial and religious elites you’ve stirred up?

In his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America Thomas Frank suggested that people would often vote against their best economic interests, instead letting cultural issues determine their votes. But when we hear “We’re voting for the n***er.” stated flatly to door-to-door campaign canvassers, it’s safe to say Frank’s theory has finally found its tipping point. John McCain, the economy and your attempts to place your opponent on the fringe of society did you no good. You weren’t nimble enough to turn this election around. Instead, you tried to turn the rest of us into ugly, unpatriotic Americans. You even banished those in your own party who questioned your narrowed party orthodoxy, your faux conservatism as George Will calls it in today’s Washington Post. Colin Powell and Christopher Buckley, you’re out. David Brooks, you’d better watch out, you’re next. Exclusion rather than inclusion has marked your campaign and the 2008 edition of your Party.

Instead, Barack Obama’s curiosity drew me in —looking at life with a handful of questions and looking for those answers even when they were ultimately unanswerable. Obama’s message isn’t about liberals verses conservatives: a divisive “us” verses “them.” It’s about looking forward with hope rather than fear. And it has ignited millions who are curious about the future instead of fearful. Last night’s Obama informercial was stirring. Pie in the sky? Just a bit, but a potent piece of pie after the last eight years. McCain, you dismissed the power of this message.

Yelling above your guest won’t get you far, Fox News.

But now I’m tired —tired of being wired to the pundits, spokespeople, and this election cycle. I need some rest from Pat Buchannan. Poor McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer was recently skewered by Chris Matthews when she defended Sarah Palin’s definition of the V.P. Never want to hear from you again, Nancy (and I’m sure you’ve had it with Chris). Tucker Bounds? I’m dumping you for someone who doesn’t believe in elevating obfuscation to a high art form. Carla Fiorina, where will your next job be? Oh, you won’t need one with your $21 million golden parachute from HP. Almost forgot about that. NYT columnist William Kristol: he’s all yours Sarah.

So when Obama decided to take two days off to see his ailing grandmother, I was ready to go with. Two days away from this political circus could do me good: a time to re-energize. When he said he missed his mother’s death in the 1990s and wanted to do things differently this time, I was reminded of my own parents’ final illnesses and the similar decisions I had to make. And suddenly I was back in the real world again. Rather than operating on instruments, Obama decided he needed to step out of this political vortex. When faced with the media in Hawaii, he went back home without saying a word, a strong indication he knows what’s really important.

Mr. Obama, it looks like the economic dive and John McCain’s missteps formed your Perfect Storm. And you just may be front and center for the next four years. (If it’s any indication I’ve just added your name to my Microsoft dictionary.) I’ll be keeping tabs and speaking out when necessary. Election rhetoric aside, I’m counting on you and Congress to make fundamental changes in how we conduct our affairs. But while you’re doing that keep your intellectual curiosity in high gear. It’s what first made me believe in you.

As for me, I’m ready to give up my election analysis and go back to my regular job as a middle class working real American.

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Jeff, Bravo! I read every word and agree with you completely. I have not been active in this campaign as I have in the last two. Too much going on in my own life for once. I have given money, but not the emotional stamina it takes to commit. I couldn’t worry (again) about whether my vote counted for the third time in my life. I am most grateful you and I have connected.

Posted by: Carol Beesley on October 30, 2008 8:28 PM

Yes, it has been an exhausting ride, but well worth it when you consider how far down in the depths of Hell we have been… perhaps we are now on the ascent!

Posted by: Randall Packer on November 2, 2008 5:09 PM

You captured it in a nutshell for me. I also have to work to not be upset about all the fundraising and monies that could go to health care, improved programs in schools, and programs for the elderly.

For the first time I feel I know the power I have is simply to vote.

Posted by: Lavinia Weissman on November 2, 2008 6:19 PM

Hi Jeff. I enjoy your blog, but I came across this page and thought I should let you know that the “Ni**er” story you referenced was from 236.com, which is a satire website. FYI.

Posted by: Joe Rhodes on December 2, 2008 8:19 PM

Joe, thanks for your comment and I’m glad you enjoy LO.

I don’t believe the reference I cited at 23/6 was satire. In fact, here’s the original post from fivethirtyeight.com. Fivethirtyeight is political statistic site not a comedic one.

Posted by: Jeff on December 4, 2008 7:29 AM

Comments are now closed for this post. But there are a few other entries which might provoke an opinion or two.

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