Monday, November 03, 2008

For Change. Real Change

I had thought that we weren’t supposed to do election stuff beginning this weekend, but my opposite number did a piece entitled “Democratic victory can only bring danger” (no exclamation points, but you could feel they were supposed to be there), which you can see here. I then wrote a counterpart (newspaper version here) so both could be packaged together. My suggested headline was above but that wasn’t upset enough to match up properly with the other side. Sometimes it’s just so tiring to be the angry left.

Again, I’m the D talking head on Horizon (PBS Channel 8 Tempe) Tuesday night, 10 – 11 pm, doing local and AZ election punditry, then again on the McMahon Group, which will air Sunday 11/9 at 4 pm on KTAR radio.

East Valley Tribune, Nov. 2, 2008

I’m getting slightly woozy over which McCain argument I’m supposed to rebut this weekend. First, the Republicans argue that we should elect the Arizona Republican because he’ll be real change -- from the incumbent Republican. We need change!

Then they argue that we can’t elect Obama because then the Democratic Congress will have a free reign to do things. We must stop the Democrats from giving us change!

Change! No, stop change from happening! Remember when politicians were supposed to stay “on message” with just one message? The good old days, when you needed two candidates, not just one, to have a debate?

You wonder where these “we need gridlock!” Republicans were the past 3 presidential elections. With the GOP firmly in control of Congress, shouldn’t they have supported Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry, to provide a much-needed check on the partisan excesses of Trent Lott and Tom Delay? Oh, wait.

There’s also a weird quality to GOP demands that Democrats must work “across the partisan divide,” that only bipartisan solutions can solve our problems. McCain is supposedly a better choice because of his past record of working with Democrats -- so we should elect him Tuesday so he can become president and refuse to work with Democrats.

These are rather politically-oriented arguments from those who claim to be rising “above politics.” I’m not much of a believer in the deeply-held American myth that politics and government are best populated by amateurs. “I’m not a politician,” cry people running for elective office, the very definition of a politician. Or that you’re not a “career politician,” because unlike every other form of human endeavor, in politics having experience apparently makes you less competent.

I’m also not big on anti-partisanship, the belief that there are somewhere-in-the-middle solutions around which we all can coalesce if only both sides’ extremists would let us. So what exactly are these incredibly obvious compromises, that the Iraq war would have been wise and popular if we had invaded with 65,000 troops instead of 130,000? That gay marriage would be resolved if gays could marry but then had to get divorced after 5 years?

Then when both parties do reject their extremists and come together at a time of a national crisis, the same anti-partisans reject these “expert” solutions of those back-scratching “Washington insiders.” McCain found out how well an immigration compromise played with GOP primary voters, and didn’t everybody just absolutely love the bank bailout?

But even if you believe that politics is beneath you and that ideologically-consistent political parties -- rather than making voting generally clearer, and allowing like-minded people to organize for greater impact -- are bad, the closing days of this campaign, at least on the GOP side, aren’t going well for this faux bipartisanship.

I’ve learned that because (like John McCain, or at least the 2000 version) I support a graduated income tax, and support taking money from one group (taxpayers) and giving to another (teachers and schools), I’m a socialist. So which one of us is the extremist?

It’s no big deal to call me a redistributionist; it makes me nostalgic for my brief political career. And I don’t take it that seriously when McCain or Palin talk about the “real America” that clearly excludes me.

But as Matthew Yglesias wrote last week, there are lots of Americans who might take this “real America” business differently. You might think differently about whether the Constitution was “perfect” if your ancestors were legally not “real” and got counted as 3/5ths of a person. Lots of pundits talk about crucial voting demographics as if the only votes that “really” count are white, blue-collar males. There are Arizonans who happen to be Hispanic whose families have lived here for dozens of generations getting lectured on what it means to be a “real” American by recent transplants from the Midwest.

I don’t think America has much to fear from Tuesday’s election. At least not the America that includes us all, not just GOP-approved “real” Americans.

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