Monday, September 22, 2008

Why the hell is it close?

We're coming off eight years of a disastrous Republican administration, an administration that lied us into an expensive and ruinous war, spied on Americans, tortured prisoners, turned surpluses into record debt, destroyed our ability to respond to natural disasters (and seemed not to care until that fact became politically damaging), tried to dismantle the core of the New Deal, staffed every level of government with unqualified cronies and right-wing ideologues, continued the long march of deregulation that's destroyed our financial system, and ruined our international reputation, probably for decades to come.

The Republican party has nominated a potential successor who voted with that now-hated incumbent president over 90 percent of the time, would basically continue most or all of the policies people say they hate, is an offputting and uninspiring public speaker, and is really damn old. His running mate is an inexperienced, scandal-ridden far-right ideologue.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have nominated a young, dynamic, inspiring, brilliant candidate whose policies people say they would like much better.

This should be a blowout.

And yet, the election is a nailbiter and will go down to the wire. The Republican might actually manage to pull it off. The Democrats are ahead in every poll, but that wasn't true a week ago, and their current lead is single-digit.

Why? I honestly have no idea, I can only speculate. My theory: People don't vote for president based on issues.

They should, but they don't. They vote based on silly criteria like who they'd "rather have a beer with," or who they "trust" in some incomprehensibly abstract sense that apparently has nothing at all to do with policy.

In other words, they make the single most important political decision there is with their gut, not their brain.

And people have been conditioned to "trust" John McCain. They think he's this noble straight-talking maverick ex-POW. Not stupid like Bush or crazy like Cheney. And, more comfortable and familiar than a black guy they'd never heard of until two or three years ago, with a scary foreign-sounding name.

People have worked out that Bush has been a disaster, but they don't seem to have put together that it's because his policies have been bad, and that electing somebody who will basically continue those policies would continue the disaster.

People vote like policy doesn't matter, then act all surprised when they get policies they don't like.

That's my theory, anyway.

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