Saturday, January 12, 2008

The straitjacket of ideology

The straitjacket of political ideology forces many to contort and make choices that are uncomfortable and many times, regrettable.

Given President Bush’s current poll numbers in the 20s and about half the country split on the Iraq War, I’m sure many conservatives feel like veritable pretzels. It’s got to be tough forcing issue-oriented decision-making into a field of candidates, vetted by talk radio’s pantheon of punditry.

Over on the left side of the field of candidates, a choice between Hilary and "the black JFK," Obama, is also an exercise in double-speak and values abandonment. Nothing validates the thought that “politics is an exercise in pragmatism,” like this season’s horserace.

One of the strange things about this election cycle is that there is no real consensus on what the big issues are. Rather than the focus being on the war, or immigration, we’re treated to a new “flavor of the week,” determined by who is deemed that week’s Republican/Democrat front runner.

The diversity of dialogue among candidates has rarely ever been so sophomoric. When Obama’s theme of “change” propelled him to victory in “corn country,” the other candidates were quick to seize that mantra.

While many will justify this strategy by saying that today’s voters have the attention span of gnats, I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy to believe that all Americans are morons, when it comes to choosing their leader. My message to both the candidates and the “drive-by” media—try focusing on the real issues. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Not surprisingly, the sycophantic press has gone all “ga-ga” over their favorite sons (and daughters), falling all over themselves to push their candidates forward. Networks, like Fox, have done their damned-well best to spin their coverage favorably for this moment’s conservative champion, the Mittster. For a network that wears a perpetual hard-on for the military, they seem to have an issue with the only real military hero in the Republican field, John McCain.

Now I’m not an idiot. I know where dear old Fox is coming from. Sir McCain can’t receive their support (unless he’s the only thing standing between another Clinton presidency) because he committed the unpardonable sin of not hating Mexicans enough. Poor old John McCain. All he’d have to do is say he wants to kill all the “illegals,” or at least build a wall 100 miles high and 1,000 miles wide and he’d have all the hairstyle boys and augmented bimbos of Fox, swooning. Instead, he tries to run as a moderate to the rest of a field that’s running a typical post-Reagan campaign foisting xenophobia, tax cuts and family values.

Personally, I don’t think McCain will make it. It’s tough to combat 24/7 talk, designed to counter his message and remember, McCain’s war chest isn’t very deep. We’ll know better after South Carolina, whether McCain can go deep in this race.

Sunday, Hillary has an hour-long campaign commercial, courtesy of MSNBC and Tim Russert. The “iron lady” will hold court with “pumpkinhead” and she’ll have the chance to counter charges that her performance in New Hampshire was anything, but staged.

Speaking of Mrs. Clinton, Camile Paglia, a writer I enjoy reading and really admire, has an interesting piece written for Salon, on the wife of Bill.

Paglia, who’s made a career of being bombastic and for a Democrat, she’s an amazingly original thinker. Her article at Salon begins thus;

"A swarm of biographers in miners' gear has tried to plumb the inky depths of Hillary Rodham Clinton's warren-riddled psyche. My metaphor is drawn (as Oscar Wilde's prim Miss Prism would say) from the Scranton coalfields, to which came the Welsh family that produced Hillary's harsh, domineering father.

Hillary's feckless, loutish brothers (who are kept at arm's length by her operation) took the brunt of Hugh Rodham's abuse in their genteel but claustrophobic home. Hillary is the barracuda who fought for dominance at their expense. Flashes of that ruthless old family drama have come out repeatedly in this campaign, as when Hillary could barely conceal her sneers at her fellow debaters onstage -- the wimpy, cringing brothers at the dinner table.

Hillary's willingness to tolerate Bill's compulsive philandering is a function of her general contempt for men. She distrusts them and feels morally superior to them. Following the pattern of her long-suffering mother, she thinks it is her mission to endure every insult and personal degradation for a higher cause -- which, unlike her self-sacrificing mother, she identifies with her near-messianic personal ambition."

It gets even better. Paglia, who regularly goads the “liberal establishment” and in particular, “feminazis” (she borrows the term from Limbaugh in her article) like Gloria Steinem, makes the case that Mrs. Clinton is a man-hating, member of an old-school feminism, lost in the 60s, that Paglia and many other forward-looking women (and men, for that matter) have little use for, in the 21st century.

Read her article. It’s original and thought-provoking. It’s also timely for our political times.

Interestingly, Paglia, who is supporting Obama, writes that she sees him as representing the future, not the past, like the Clintons. However, she will vote for Hillary, if she is the party’s nominee. In my opinion, this is strange thinking and even an original-thinker, like Paglia, refuses to shed her ideological straitjacket. Her rationale is that she wants Democrats appointed to the Cabinet and Supreme Court.

I can respect her choices and freedom to make them. Yet, it disappoints me because there is little difference between Paglia’s pragmatism towards Democrats and that same sentiment and practice of those on the right, who will ultimately suck it up and vote for whoever their nominee ends up being.

This is the challenge of where we are at in 2008. How do we break the nearly 50/50 logjam of partisanship that paralyzes us? Is it possible for a candidate to draw voters across the ideological divide, to the promised land of political partnership?

In my opinion, that’s where Americans need to head, if there is hope of leaving our current political ghetto. Can Obama deliver the goods, or must we wait for a true independent candidate?

1 comment:

Margaret Evans Porter said...

Love your closing question. It's one I've been asking myself. Early and often.