Friday, September 21, 2012
On Caring, and Thinking for Ourselves
Should we really be making sympathy and style the primary criteria by which we judge candidates for the highest office in the land, and the most powerful one on earth?
I'm sure that would please an incumbent President whose principal boasts are multiplying an already obscene national debt, conning/intimidating Congress into passing a coercive, unpopular, and impossibly expensive health care law, and overseeing the dispatch of one miscreant on the other side of the planet. The economy has been stagnant for years now, work force participation is plummeting, real household income is declining, food stamp and welfare rolls are burgeoning, and the Middle East is in chaos and our embassies and diplomats are under siege, thanks to Obama's meddling. His requirement of insurance coverage for abortion and birth-control has alienated the large and influential Catholic population, Mormons, and most evangelical Protestant denominations. His advocacy of same-sex marriage has put him at odds with most of those groups as well as many black and other ethnic minority Christians. His federal government is at virtual war with the states over health care, illegal immigration, environmental regulation, Planned Parenthood funding, and a host of other issues. A considerable majority of Americans continue to believe that the country is "on the wrong track."
Yet, up to this point, the President seems to have suffered little politically from all this. His overall job approval ratings have varied only a few percentage points--mostly in the mid-40 percent range--despite the dismal economic and foreign picture, and the unpopularity of his polices among so many people. How is this possible?
I think Obama's "teflon" character owes much to how he and an eagerly cooperative mainstream media complex have managed public perceptions and thinking ever since he took office, and especially during this election campaign. They generally proceed along this continuum: (1) ignore or casually dismiss the bad things; (2) spin them into something that sounds downright positive; and/or (3) obfuscate or flat-out lie--see Libya consulate attack--until they can (4) change the subject by trumping up some distracting issue, usually a remark by their opponent (in this case, Mitt Romney) that they seize on and paint as embarrassing or scandalous, regardless of its meaning or intent. Establishment figures eager to placate the social/political/media elites they depend on play into this game by expressing embarrassment and disapproval, distancing themselves from the "offender," and spreading defeatism. A public more interested in bread and circuses than real issues, and long conditioned to swallow everything dished up by the likes of Katie Couric and David Letterman, mindlessly accepts the theme so artfully spun for them.
A serious, thinking citizen will not participate in charades designed to manipulate lazy, shallow-minded people and their votes. The "beauty contest" approach to Presidential elections is meant to focus public attention on things that are at best secondary, and mostly irrelevant, to the momentous choices facing voters between the liberal/welfare state (Democrat) and conservative/individualist (Republican) systems of values and policy. It is meant to confine public thinking to matters that the media and its political allies can control. To prevent them from virtually dictating the outcome of this election, millions of people will have to shut off their TV sets and refuse to play this game. They have to recognize that their choice isn't really between two men, but between fundamentally different visions for the future of America.
Viewed in that light, such personal qualities of the candidates as demeanor, likeability, wit, style, and even public speaking skill pale to insignificance. Adolph Hitler could be charming when he wanted to be, and his oratorical skills are legendary. On television, he probably would have blown both Obama and Romney away. This is especially important to remember for the upcoming "debates"--which of course aren't really debates, but extended sound-byte-and-gotcha fests controlled by the media who put them on and profit from them. Within moments of their conclusion the talking heads will tell us who scored and who missed, who "won" and who "lost." People, please ignore this cr_p! Why not just mail your ballot to Brian Williams and let him cast your vote? If stage performance was a valid measure of Presidential ability, we could simply make the election an episode of "American Idol" and be done with it (we might even get to see a grown man break down in tears as the other one is declared the winner!).
Perhaps even more important, people have to let go of the identity politics that the elites use to divide the public into contending classes and groups, and manipulate voting by casting the candidates as closer or further away from them. We have to stop thinking in personality-centric terms of which candidate is more like "me" and, presumably, can be expected to more slavishly serve "my" interests. We need to do the hard work of studying the candidates' philosophies and positions on the issues, weighing the possible effects of their policies, and deciding for ourselves which course would be better for America.
Personally, I don't care whether a Presidential candidate is, or ever has been, rich, poor, or in between. I don't care what gender or color he/she is, what part of the country he/she is from, what degrees he/she has, or even what church, if any, he or she attends (all right, I'd be leery of a serious atheist). I don't expect him or her to identify with me (or my group), "understand" me, "care" about me, or "feel my pain." I don't need a sugar-daddy in the White House. A President has to serve everyone--even "the rich"!--and only God can understand and care for everyone. What I am interested in is whether his or her values and policies can be expected to produce a free, strong, and economically healthy country. One doesn't have to belong to any particular class to know what those would be.
Paying attention to the caricatures drawn by a biased media won't help me with this. Nor will they help one reliably discern those personal qualities that are most important to being a good President, especially honesty, integrity, prudence, patience, self-discipline, tact, and--faith. Only a careful study of the candidate's past life, challenges, and accomplishments can give one a fair inkling of those things.
I am a middle aged, "middle class" person who supports Gov. Romney. Why would I do that? To hear the pundits tell it, he doesn't care about me; only about the rich! He wants to gut the health care, Medicare, and Social Security benefits I'll need before long! Well, I don't listen to the media and their prepackaged versions of the candidates. I've done my homework and base my decision on what principles they embrace, what they've done, and what they promise to work for. I vote for fiscal responsibility over entitling everyone, because I believe it will make my future and ours more secure, not less. I vote for personal choice in health care, because I believe it will prove cheaper and protect each of us better. I vote for state and religious rights regarding abortion and the definition of marriage. I vote for respect of the Constitution and of Congress. I vote for immigration policies that put America and its legal citizens first. I vote to support Israel, the last bastion of civilization in the crucial Middle East, rather than pander to its radical Muslim adversaries. These are things I learned and decisions I made without any reference to the latest babble in the mainstream media.
For the sake of our country, it's time to declare our independence from the self-appointed oracles, think for ourselves, and focus on what really matters.