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I just can’t get excited

February 13th, 2008 · 15 Comments · Politics

It’s rare that I mention politics here these days. But so many of my friends are getting such a hard-on for Obama that I just have to state my opinion: Obama isn’t saying anything. He seems like a really neat guy, somebody who would make a great mayor or senator (duh) or friendly-rich-guy. He’d probably be an awesome uncle. I just can’t get excited over someone who doesn’t really have any political history and doesn’t really seem to have an opinion on how the federal government ought to be run.

All of his speeches are motivational, emotionally-driven pep talks about how we need change and unity and all that great stuff. Uh, yeah. No shit. We need all that. How are you going to give us all that stuff?

Aside from the obvious traits that aren’t supposed to matter (and truly don’t, to me anyway), I just don’t see how he’s all that different from most other popular Democrats.  Sure there’s an issue here or there, like net neutrality or corporate immunity for domestic spying, that he’s cast a “good” vote on, but the rest of his literature and positioning gives general warm-fuzzy responses to issues without saying exactly what he thinks we ought to do about them.

This election cycle is extremely boring. It’s clear that on almost every issue or candidate or party, the country is pretty equally divided. This suggests to me that these issues shouldn’t matter. Most of the “issues” shouldn’t be issues at all, at least not in the sense that the federal government should be trying to resolve them. Most of these things shouldn’t be criteria for choosing who’s the CEO of our aging corporation. But our idea of what we will allow the federal government to control has been slowly perverted over the centuries to where these things, instead of being handled by states and municipalities, are part of the big scoreboard we use to determine which shifty jerk we’re going to allow to screw up our country next.

Ok, so I didn’t really say anything here either. Call me a hypocrite, I don’t care: I’m not running for President. Those of you who know me better probably have a good idea of who I want to be President, and can probably infer from that why it’s pointless for me to stump for him.

The overall response to Ron Paul is both awesome and puzzling. That he even got the number of votes he did is comforting. Almost everyone I know has said something to the effect of “Well, I agree with him on pretty much all the issues, except for x & y.” Well? That sounds pretty fucking good to me. I’m fairly certain that most of my friends could probably only find 1 or 2 issues on which they agree with Hillary. And since Obama doesn’t appear to have a position on many issues, how is he the better choice?

For the first time, I realize that there is very little about which I agree with most of the Republican candidates. I still think most of the platform is a good idea, but that doesn’t matter at all since nobody appears to be honoring it. Except for Ron Paul. And if you support Ron Paul, you’re a nut, because he’s a creationist and a Christian, and once knew a guy who was kinda racist. Well, I’m neither a creationist, nor a Christian, and it’s pretty obvious to me that Ron Paul’s opinions on federal policy suggest (correctly, I might add) that it doesn’t fucking matter what you believe. Religion doesn’t belong in politics.

And don’t start down a debate path with me to try to prove Ron Paul’s a racist. It just isn’t true, and if you think otherwise you’re being dishonest with yourself and everyone else. Look, I know he’s not the perfect candidate. But to me, he seems to be the only one who has stepped back and said, “Ok… How should the US federal government handle these things?” and come up with some logical answers. There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, at least not in the USA we’ve become.

My hope is that his sort of thinking will stick around, and that next time there will be somebody a little younger with fewer meaningless but politically damaging blemishes to take over and gradually show the country, and the world, what a real government based on the Constitution ought to do to keep us as free and happy as we were originally intended to be.

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • justinm

    When the Republican Debate was here in Simi at the Reagan Library, the Ron Paul headquarters was set up in the hotel across the street from our offices. He had the coolest, longest (ahem) fifth-wheel-limo-trailer-thingy that I’ve ever seen. It was long enough to spell out “Ron Paul Revolution” in 2-ft letters on the side. It was awesome.

    I agree completely. Politics is so piddly these days. No one wants to face up to the facts that if we (the Government and the Governed) keep spending money like we can just print more things are going to continue down the slippery slope the past 4 years have brought. The Democrats don’t seem to give a shit and just want to be socially liberal and not care about where the money is going to come from. Most of the Republicans don’t seem to be too much better. I think maybe all of the politicians are so used to getting everything they want paid for by rich donors, they just expect that the rich people that are going to pay for whatever programs they want once they’re in office.

  • Farris

    Hey stranger!

    I hear ya, brother.

  • Monica

    The problem with Libertarianism is the same as the problem with Communism and supply-side economics: human nature.

    Of course, the other problem with Libertarianism is that if a bunch of them ever got into office, I’d be out of a job.

  • Farris

    Human nature’s a good reason to label communism as unworkable. I guess, at a low level you could blame it for anything that doesn’t work. However, at a workable, debatable level I don’t think you can really to the same for libertarianism or SSE. Hell, I don’t think SSE is intrinsically any better than Keynesian economics or economic socialism. They’re both philosophies that presume to “fix” economies through government policy, and I don’t think either works particularly well.

    Libertarianism, however, falls totally short of your pigeonholing. First off, it’s not a quantifiable methodology for government that can be evaluated as correct or incorrect, functional or broken. Secondly, we’ve got decades upon decades of historical evidence that Communism can’t and won’t work. We have no such evidence regarding any form of libertarianism.

    Also, that one person’s idea of libertarianism would lead to the dismantling of the government agency that currently puts food on your table is not a good argument that said libertarianism won’t work. It simply means that it oughtn’t be da fed gubment who gives your employer the money to do so. Having said that, I can’t say I completely agree that a decent, constitutionally inspired libertarian government SHOULD get rid of the NWS (there’s a rap group name for you). You folks provide a service that often saves lives and destruction, and at a cost that pales in comparison to some far less necessary national agencies.

    Lastly, your statement implies that you’ve drawn a conclusion about human nature that may be quite different from the one I draw. In a true constitutional/libertarian/free establishment, the proof of such conclusions would be unimportant. The Bigass Government Bonanza we’ve built here makes it’s own assumptions about human nature that needn’t be made or proved as well.

    What it all boils down to, for me, is that the fact the country is always so closely divided these days is proof that we ain’t doin’ it right, and saying “A change is a-comin’!” without stating what that change ought to be is boring, pointless and unimpressive leadership.

  • amanda

    i’d love to discuss issue positions and all of that more technical stuff, but i’ve been spending too much time lately dealing with the constitution and the tax system in particular on a nauseatingly technical basis. it would be nice to talk to someone who doesn’t either (1) agree with just about everything i say or (2) disagree with everything i say, backing those positions up only with hollow talking points or, even worse (3) agree with everything i say by parroting hollow talking points. so, as an obama supporter, at the moment, i’ll do what we’re good at and speak generally and in platitudes really quickly before i get back to studying. apologies if this is poorly-edited and stops making sense at times.

    i think ron paul and barack obama have a lot more in common than supporters of either would like to admit. both paul and obama have gotten a lot of previously-apathetic people really, really energized this time around, and i, for one, thank both of them for that. both of them have people thinking and talking about change. more importantly, both of them have gotten their supporters believing that they (the supporters) can actually do something personally to make change happen. i think that’s ridiculously important.

    i think that the main problem with our political system and government is not, well, how much their is or what type it is or what it provides or doesn’t provide or what it should or should not provide. it’s the way in which people relate to the system and view their relationship with the system — PASSIVELY. a bunch of people sitting around passively is only good for keeping the people already in power nice and cozy and everything as screwed up as ever. most people feel like the government is screwed up and there’s nothing they can do to make that any better. the news media certainly like to sell that notion, as do most politicians. change doesn’t come from the government without the people. change comes from people paying attention, giving a shit (and knowing what’s really important, instead of just taking the divisive social issue bait that politicians love to throw), and being willing to be in this for the long haul.

    there’s something to be said for a candidate who lays out exactly what they want to do. of course, it’s not like most presidential candidates would be able to do the things they propose once elected. although the bushes and clintons have made some great strides in extending executive power far beyond its constitutionally-mandated limits, the office of the president still isn’t as strong as a vast majority of the country thinks it is. it’s certainly powerful in the area of foreign policy, but that’s not really what most people talk about. the president’s main power lies in being a figurehead and setting the tone for the nation. one way a president could do that is, like ron paul, setting up a very specific agenda. another way a president could do that is, like barack obama, setting a general theme for the administration and setting out some basic guideposts, getting some good advisors, and opening the door for the people to help set the agenda. the presidency is more than just the president, and i think the role of president-as-national-brand is underestimated.

    i think also, the truth is that in this country, we all have very different ideas about what our government should be. the problem with someone like ron paul who sets out a very specific agenda is that you have a lot of people who don’t agree with that agenda. if barack obama set out an agenda as specific as ron paul’s, a lot more people would find a reason not to vote for him. generality gets you elected because everyone can see their priorities in you. for better or for worse, that’s what it’s going to be right now. i think that obama has given a good enough idea of where he stands, in my eyes, in terms of what i see as the role of the president and the amount of power he actually has. he does have a history of political involvement and he has made his positions known. certainly his speeches are general, but i don’t think you’re going to get a crowd fired up with a lengthy dissertation on tax policy (that might get me fired up, but i doubt you’d have too many other tax nerds in the crowd). i do also think there is something to be said for opening the door for the people to set the agenda.

  • Farris

    Amanda: It’s difficult to argue with much of what you say. The only things I can think of that I disagree with are:

    1) The general tone implying that because BO wants to re-open the government to the people, that makes him a good leader. I don’t think it does, and I don’t think he has the experience yet to lead, even in the capacity of this fantasy gate-keeper you’ve lined him up to be.

    2) This bothers me: “i think that obama has given a good enough idea of where he stands, in my eyes, in terms of what i see as the role of the president and the amount of power he actually has.” I know you didn’t word it precisely as I took it, so correct me if I’m wrong… but this seems to imply that you’re basing your choice, at least in part, on what the candidate feels is or should be the role of the President. We already have a document that defines quite well what the role of the President is. You’re right, it has been stretched and perverted by others, but it’s still not the Emperor throne the hip bush-haters like to imply it is.

    I’ve always known that someone like Ron Paul couldn’t even do all the things he has outlined if he DID become President. But I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to vote for someone who SAYS what he’d like to see done, when 90% of those things line up with what I feel the federal government’s job is supposed to be.

    So when you say Obama and Paul both have people thinking about change, I can agree with you in the most general sense possible. But the fact is that you and I both know Obama’s ideal government would be much larger than Ron Paul’s or Fred Thompson’s or mine. And to me, that’s the issue.

    You say that the problem isn’t this or that, it’s that people aren’t active in it. Again, I’m agreeing with you — people aren’t active enough to realize the government does more than it should, spends more than it should, wastes more than it should, etc. etc. et mofo-cetera.

    And lastly I think Ron Paul himself disproves your theory that nobody would want to hear a candidate talking about tax policy.

  • amanda

    on the first point, i guess we disagree on what the exact role of the president as leader is. i don’t necessarily think that the president has to be the most experienced guy at the party. of course it helps, but so does a well-selected cabinet and a good bullshit filter. i don’t think obama is the messiah like so many others seem to (though i do admit that i randomly get choked up about half the time i hear him speak — not sure what that’s all about. i’ll have to talk to my second x chromosone.)

    i didn’t word the sentence at #2 quite right, re-reading it, so let me clarify. i meant that, considering the actual powers of the president (which i agree are pretty clearly set out in article ii), obama has said enough at this point about his specific policy views — not about his views of the power of the president. basically, i have an idea (article ii powers plus the sort of leadership/figurehead role and style i’d like to see in a president) of what the role of a president is, and based on my ideas about that, i think obama can fit the bill. your ideas are different, so obama doesn’t fit the bill for you.

    to you, a specific idea of what government should be is important to you. i don’t think my ideal government is close to possible because i think in order for it to happen, the hearts and minds of most people and the way they’ve been conditioned to be, both socially and evolutionarily, would need to change. any candidate i’ve seen matches maybe at most 50% of my ideas about what the government should be. i’ve come to terms with the fact that no one will agree with me, though i wish someone did, and i do envy you and others who find candidates that so well represent your views. as for me, i’m just happy to see someone that seems remotely to be moving the government toward the ideal i seek, especially considering they actually have a chance of winning this thing. big government, small government, this constitution or a new one — that’s not important to me right now with this election. that’s another conversation for another time — my utopia and my technical policy ideas are much later. i’m looking for baby steps, and i think barack obama is a pretty darn solid baby step, compared to the comparative shakiness of clinton or mccain.

    i don’t think ron paul disproves my theory at all re: candidates talking about tax policy. ron paul has more to say about it than most, that’s for sure, and he has the advantage of advocating a policy that largely gets rid of or at least goes above a lot of the debates about tax policy, but the talk is still pretty general, and i think that even a lot of ron paul supporters would tune him out if he started talking about his policy ideas in a detail any greater than talking points — and i’m sure ron paul supporters care a lot more about tax policy than average americans.

  • Farris

    I hate to be curt and dismissive, but if your ideal government isn’t possible without brainwashing or seducing the population, then it’s a pretty safe bet your ideal government isn’t a good one.

    You may continue to go on about getting choked up over Obama or what appears to be a feeling that “it’s the thought that counts” is just as valid in federal leadership as it is in gift giving. (On second thought, I think it IS just as valid… ahem… I’ve gotten some shitty gifts in my life)

    To me, it’s precisely THAT type of thinking that will have to be changed before our government will ever come close to making any damn sense. Say what needs to be done, do it, then fucking go home and eat. I’m sick of the reams upon reams of paper it takes to print out the legislation that shouldn’t have been created in the first place.

    This shit with the baseball/HGH/steroids/pop-rocks hearings? Why are we doing this? Why in the name of unholy FUCK am *I* paying for it?

    So I just cannot get behind this fake excitement for these fake candidates who aren’t really saying anything, no matter how unimportant you insist having an agenda is.

  • Fr. Raphael

    We’re just lucky that thing had knees!

  • amanda

    where did i “go on about getting choked up over obama”? i believe that was one parenthetical in which i mocked myself. i also get choked up whenever anyone mentions weddings, when chris jericho “wins” a match on monday night raw, and at the ridiculous endings of bad romantic comedies my mother makes me watch with her. my getting choked up isn’t much of an indicator of anything other than the uneasy state of my hormones. ;)

    at any rate, i seem to be not writing very well tonight judging by your comment, since i’ve obviously gravely misstated what it is i actually believe. maybe i’ll try again later.

  • Ryan Abrams

    You know, he has a 64 page PDF outlining a lot of his policies in detail. http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf

    I admit that many of them are vague, but some are pretty specific. Or at least specific enough to compare to other candidates.

  • Farris

    Ryan: Yes, but he doesn’t say much about them in public. Furthermore, on most of the issues his “stance” isn’t any different from other Democrat candidates. And, for the most part, I think they’re bad business.

  • amanda

    thought you might enjoy ..

    http://barackobamaisyournewbicycle.com/

    (just keep clicking)

  • Jason

    I…..love you.

  • Monica

    Ok, took me too long to read this.

    But let’s just say my view of human nature is a very cynical one, and libertarianism requires one to be much more optimistic about what Americans will do if given 1) a lot more money and 2) a lot more responsibility. I see, in general, a much greater divide between the rich and the poor if you do that for any length of time. I don’t get warm fuzzy Darwinian feelings from that.

    With regard to the NWS, it’s my understanding of the Libertarian platform (and, admittedly, I haven’t read in it great detail since Harry Browne) considers the services of the National Weather Service something that can be accomplished just as effectively with private companies (e.g. Accuweather). Of course, since Santorum’s bill was recently so trounced (not that he has anything to do with the party. I know that), they might be reconsidering what the public thinks about that. (Also, Americans would be none too pleased to have to pay for access to data from equipment they paid for with their money.)

    I’d write more, but I’m already running late.

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