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delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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Obligatory politics post
delirium happy
rho
Amidst all the political blogging, there has to be at least one entry about something else. This one, however, will not be that entry.

I have a fairly deep cynicism and mistrust for politicians. Far too much of poittics is about what is expedient over what is right, and I have very little time for that sort of thing. Take, for instance, the North Carolina senate race between Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole and Democrat challenger Kay Hagan. For those of you who aren't familiar with this one, Dole put up a campaign ad that very strongly implied that Hagan was an atheist when she is, in fact a devout Christian.

The correct response here would have been along the lines of "well, no I'm not actually, as well you know, and you are a wretched scum bag for lying like that, but you are also a bigoted asshole for implying that it would matter if I were". Instead, Hagan reacts indignantly, claiming that being called an atheist is slander against her and threatening legal action.

I agree with Greg Laden's take on this one:

'There was a time when "nigger" was an insult. Or to call someone a "jew" was deemed appropriate if you had certain negative feelings about them. Now it's "atheist."'

I had an argument about this on IRC the other day, and it was pointed out that Hagan might personally believe that using "atheist" as an insult is despicable, but that even if she did, she probably wouldn't say as much, because the religious voters who would be alienated by such a statement are much more common in North Carolina than the atheists who would be attracted to that statement.

This is doubtless true, and is one of the things I don't like about politics. It's impossible to know whether a candidate is saying something because they believe it's expedient, or because they believe it's right. This applies both when they're saying something you like, and you're trying to figure out if they'll really follow through, and it also applies when they're saying somethig you're not comfortable with and you're wondering if it's just spin to try to curry favour with people of different views.

Another example is McCain's concession speech. As I listened to that speech I thought that maybe McCain wasn't such a bad chap after all, and wished that he'd run on a platform more like that in the run up to the election. Instead, he toed the party line of bigotry, intolerance and ignorance, presumably since that was the politically expedient way to try to enthuse the core Republican support. Which McCain would have been president had he won the election, the hate-filled bigoted McCain of the party line, or the bipartisan conciliatory McCain that we heard in the concession speech? Who knows. I certainly don't, and that's why I have so much distrust for politics.

What I want from politicians, more than anything, is to be able to actually believe them. I long to be able to hear a politician say "I believe this, and I'm going to do that" and to actually believe that this is what they believe and that is what they're going to do. Without that, democracy is to a large extent meaningless. What's the value of giving the public a vote if what they're voting on isn't what they think they're voting on?

Needless to say, this scepticism and cynicism I have doesn't disappear when it comes to Obama. Obama is a damn fine orator. It's one of his stronger points. It's also something that makes me somewhat wary about him. I think he's genuine. I think he's the real deal. I think that he really is interested in building bridges, in healing old wounds, and making things better. I think this, but there's a part of me wondering if maybe it's all just an exceptionally slick act put on for political expediency.

So I was listening to his acceptance speech, listening to him saying all the right words and hit all the right notes and I was feeling genuinely hopeful for the future. The message he was giving of hope and unity and of what humanity can achieve if it acts collectively rather than tribally and of how the real power lies not with the political elite but with the unwashed masses.

It was at that point that I finally realised that it doesn't actually matter if he's genuine or not. The people of America haven't just given an overwhelming mandate to a man; they've given this mandate to an idea. And whether he actually truly believes the words he was saying is almost immaterial. They're true either way. What the people as a whole believe and do is more important than what the president does, and in this case the American people have chosen right and believed in something powerful. That's a pretty awesome victory, regardless of how Obama turns out as a president.

Cheers.

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I was really really impressed at how McCain handled his speech there. In particular telling people to stfu when they starting booing. That shows something.

I would have loved to have seen *that* McCain run.

No kidding. Where was that when his sheep were starting false rumors, viciously attacking Obama supporters, etc?
I don't trust him, all the same, because he IS a smooth politician. But at least the positions Obama has chosen are closer to my own views. Finally, we've elected the lesser evil!

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