So here we are. It's been nearly a month since my last post and I feel just awful knowing that I've let so many regular readers down by not pouring my own special concoction of drivel into their clamoring ears (I didn't think ears could clamor either, but you try telling that to the good folks at www.earsaclamoring.org). In that time we've witnessed the shocking declines of the Dow, the Nasdaq, the TSX, Nikkei, Heng Seng, and countless other made up sounding exchanges. We Canadians went to the polls and elected ourselves basically the same folks who were just there, and then some. Finally, our American cousins are continuing their 342 month trudge toward the 2008 election.
The end is in sight for them now, the last debate was held tonight resulting in the trouncing of the other guy by our guy if you listen to the clinical morons opining before whatever biased networks cameras they pretend not to work for. Given today's CNN webpoll, I'm beginning to suspect that the whole debate process is an excercise in space age futility. Today's webpoll (don't you love how you can make anything "current" and "accessible" by tacking "web" on the front of it?) revealed that debates have the potential to change the minds of a whopping 9% of the respondants! Well heckfire, I say we add five or eleven more mind numbing debates with as many "free thoughts" and "unrehearsed" answers that sound about as natural as twelve year olds reading Roman Catholic catechisms.
I've got to say that is probably the most infuriating part of politics for me these days. I love the game of politics, the sport of it all, but I can't believe that these highly educated men and women don't seem to be able to find a way to meld the all important feedback from the focus groups into who they are and what they're selling as opposed to "becoming" the feedback. These people, and say what you will about them, but I believe they get into a highly public and thankless life out of desire to affect change, have dreams and visions but always allow themselves to be twisted out of their comfort zone and into the realm of the "politico". The only guy I can think of who was adept at appealing to the "common man" while flaunting his personality, and remaining an intellectual who didn't frighten people was Bill Clinton. That guy could work the whole package. As interesting and ground-breaking as Obama is, he still isn't as fluid and comfortable out there as WJC. I would even hazard the somewhat sacreligious opinion that if he weren't breaking ground here, he would be a little less remarkable. He does well with many voters because he is certainly a change from the past, and a clear shift from the status quo embodied by McCain, but he doesn't have Clinton's excitement and joie de vivre. He's not eating Big Macs on the DL from his wife one minute, and playing awkward sax (but somehow working it all the same) the next. Like Obama, Clinton is an intellectual. He was a Rhodes scholar and an Oxford alum. He did have more political experience as two time Governor of Arkansas, but certainly this election isn't going to be about experience. It will be what it's always about - how do the candidates make the electorate feel?
That's what it always comes down to: feeling. When Clinton famously said "it's about the economy stupid" he wasn't just stating the voter's main concern that election year, he was saying that he understood that that's what they were concerned about. It's another Clinton quote that is more often parodied than any other: "I feel your pain". There it is. That was it folks. He got it, and voters saw that he got it. That's the real reason that up here in Canada yesterday Prime Minister Harper didn't pull off the majority government they were aiming for: people didn't feel he understood what concerned them. Oh they trust him to govern and see him as more of a leader than anyone else running, but in this economic crisis he didn't connect with his potential supporters. That's the real reason he didn't make any gains in Quebec; it wasn't the funding cuts, it was what they represented: a lack of understanding of the Quebec perspective.
So much has been made this year in the States of everyone apparently coming from small towns, poor small towns, tiny, dirt-poor miniscule towns. Everyone wants to be an "everyman". Heck, that's how Bush got into power - he's just like you: he puts his pants on one leg at a time, he walks the dog, clears the brush on his Texas ranch, that resonated with voters. Somehow the whole he was born in Connecticut, went to Yale, and grew up the son of a millionaire didn't so much find a voice. The thing is, all these politicians who have never held a blue collar job and have degrees in being politicians want you to believe that they're from small towns just like you because it makes you feel connected, it makes you feel good. That's also why a two party system can be so tricky. Eighty percent of the electorate is already decided, hell people register as one or another. So it's down to the swing voters, you know, the 9% who can be swayed by a debate?
These campaigns are so tightly managed, so focus grouped that these men and women have no chance of being anything close to themselves. Obama actually gets knocked for being too intellectual, too smart. How does that make any sense when you are vying for the most important office on the planet currently? The truth is you don't want an everyman, you want a betterman, screw it, run down to the wedding down the street and grab the best man! You long for these guys to grow a pair of balls and throw off the shackles of opression that are campaign runners and be themselves! McCain used to be a man, he used to be a war hero, a real maverick. Then he knelt down before Falwell and his cronies and became this wraith of a man running for the Republican Party. I must say I have many Republican friends as I have many friends who count themselves Democrats and I love them all - they are all good people believing what they do from good places. What bothers me most about politics as usual in this form is that it lessens the integrity of all involved by distilling everything down to talking points, and always the same ones. Elections in this day and age in this modern a country should not be decided on the backs of ridiculous "wedge" issues like stem-cell research, gay marriage, or Creationism. They should be decided by issues of import like the economy, healthcare (even if not for yourself at least for your children), environmental issues, and positions of Domestic and International policy.
Obama needs to stand up a little taller, and speak from the heart and a little off the cuff. Take a break from the stock answers and gravitas. I know that it's late in the campaign and he's ahead on numbers, but maybe just a little for me. Being real will make people feel good, and whoever he loses by being too real, I'll guarantee he'll pick up others to replace them by making them feel as though a real human being will be out there fighting for them, and not some corporate and lobbiest automaton. Mr. Obama is breaking barriers here, so let's do it with a little style. It's not always enough to just be the first, I think we should all aspire to be the best.