Thursday, April 4, 2013

Election 2012: Is it over yet?

In Texas, there’s never any doubt as to who will win a big election: Republicans. Indeed, in Williamson County where I live, a man can drive for miles before he spots an Obama sign in a front yard. Democrats are out there, but they are so greatly outnumbered that only truly bold souls- such as my neighbor- publicly advertise their support for Barack Obama and the grinning clown he chose as his VP.

Indeed, my neighbor is so assertive about her political identity that she recently slapped a bumper sticker on her car that reads “Not a Republican”. And yet even for hardcore Democrats there is a bright side to living in Texas: you will not be bombarded with non-stop political advertizing to persuade you to vote one way or the other. In swing states such as Ohio I hear that it’s terrible: just Romney and Obama saying nasty things about each other, 24 hours a day.

Me, I gave up cable news two years ago now, so I am rarely exposed to the hysterical jibber jabber that is American political discourse. That whole “Liberal” vs. “Conservative” conflict is insanely sectarian and frequently degenerates into Manichaean fairytales about good vs. evil. No thanks.

I do read the headlines on the Internet however, and even from this minimal contact, I can see that it’s been an atrocious campaign season. 2008 at least was interesting from an anthropological point of view. The media narrative went something like this: Bush was a moron-demon bringing down the republic, while Obama was its savior. Attendees at his rallies fainted as if they were sinners seeking redemption at Pentecostal tent revivals. Obama was like Chauncey Gardner in the Peter Sellers movie “Being There”, a blank screen onto which voters projected their desires.

Four years later most of those desires have gone unfulfilled. The country is still bitterly divided, broke, and mired in Middle Eastern quagmires. Inevitably, Obama has chosen to campaign not on his record but rather on the character failings of The Scoundrel Romney. Romney’s campaign is no better. Voters are thus presented with abundant vagueness and non-stop negativity. Just what the country needs!

But who will win? Well, until that first debate when Obama crashed and burned, it looked like a sure bet for four more years of whatever it is that we just had. The media had successfully defined Romney as a rich buffoon, complaining that he couldn’t open windows on a plane. Of course that kind of stuff is not journalism, but rather free reelection campaigning for Obama- but that’s how things work in the USA.

It was counterproductive however, as it drove down expectations of Romney to an absurdly low level. So when Obama showed up for the debate and was his usual boring self while Romney was alert and quick-witted, the Republican enjoyed a massive boost. Simply by not drooling on his shoes he had provided a viable alternative to the incumbent.

Since then, Obama has appeared on several light entertainment chat shows and put out a political advert starring Big Bird. Why, you’d think he’s afraid to defend his agenda in a serious forum! Meanwhile he has obfuscated heavily over the fiasco in Libya, and the media has (for the most part) pursued the administration far more softly on this than they would have had Bush been in charge. I mean, it’s not like a US ambassador died in a terrorist attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 in a country we had recently “liberated” or anything.

Oh wait: that’s exactly what happened.

A friend in Russia emailed me last week and said that although he thought Obama was pretty bad, it would probably be better for the world if he was reelected. At the very least, he’d be less likely to start wars than Romney.

Is this true? I am uncertain. Obama, after all, is a killing machine. Whereas Bush liked to capture terrorists so that he could torment them until they talked, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate prefers simply to annihilate. He sends a robot overhead to blow them up, plus their kids, plus any nearby wedding parties or passing goats, or American citizens. He definitely doesn’t want to deal with the legalities of keeping them in Guantanamo, which is still open by the way (although apparently not a recruitment tool for terrorists any more as it was in the Bush era). 

Then too, Obama allowed himself to be sucked into Libya conflict, which ended not only with the murder of the US ambassador but a flood of weapons into the hands of religious fanatics. They swiftly turned two thirds of Mali into a hard line Sharia law paradise, though the media doesn’t report much on that.

Would Romney be any better? His rhetoric will be harsher, but as the foreign policy debate revealed, he and the president actually agree on almost everything. And besides, the election will be decided on domestic issues.

As for me, I’m not a citizen, so I can’t vote. Wake me up when it’s over.