Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

Back when Barack Obama was still duelling banjos with Hillary Clinton over the Democratic Party nominations, there was a huge flurry of speculation as to who black women would vote for, and how conflicted they must be feeling, forced (as the media had it) to choose between the first African-American president and the first female president.

If the language of those discussions was anything to go by, many people were already sure the Democrats would win; or maybe, given that neither candidate was the first woman/African-American to run for president, it was simply more exciting to assume that one of them would succeed. Whatever the reason, however, more commentators than not focused on Clinton as the (potential) First Female President, just as Obama was then, and is now, the First African-American President, and these perceptions dominated discussion.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been cheering for Obama since last year, and the significance of his being the first African-American president is not lost on me. That being said, the Democratic primaries and all their attendant speculations on whether race would trump gender made me extremely angry: because the ultimate display of non-prejudice is to vote in someone regardless of ethnicity or sex, simply because that person is the best candidate for the job. When the media based all their commentary on the face of these two qualities, they only served to emphasise the problem: that these are things we should be above considering, but aren’t.

Look at this another way. Historically, when both candidates have shared the same gender and pigmentation, the media focus has been on policy. If (and, inevitably, when) the debate has veered into personal territories, it’s been understood as the triumph of our human fondness for gossip, but not lauded as a vital part of the political process. Often, in fact, it has been condemned – rightly, too. So when Obama and Clinton first locked horns, it angered me that here we had two powerful, intelligent competitors – equal underdogs, if you like – stuck in a process where most of what passed for commentary hinged on the twin novelties of their gender and parentage.

To cut a long story short: I am vastly more enthused by the idea of Barack Obama as an intelligent, forward-thinking leader than I am by his being the first black president. Because the real point of mentioning his race is, ironically, to prove that it doesn’t matter: that skill, regardless, of the body in which it resides, should always speak for itself.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin; or, rather, to the nebulous-yet-worrying notion that she plans to run for office in 2012. Maybe. It’s less a plan at this point than an unfertilised potential plan, and at best, it’s a tiny wee zygote. Nonetheless, moose-lovers and moose-haters everywhere have pounced on it with a kind of animal glee, whipping themselves into a frenzy over what is right now, and will be for at least the next three years, zip, nill and nada.

But. (You knew there’d be one.)

Even from her supporters, and especially not from her critics, the obvious phrase which hasn’t stuck to Palin – ever – is First Female President. The women who rallied to Clinton (and who, pointedly, threatened to turn Republican once Obama won) have not subsequently rallied to Palin. There’s a variety of good reasons for this, ranging upwards from She’s Not My Type, through She’s A Republican and into the land of She’s A Raving Imbecile, Are You Insane?, because to say that Palin polarises is an understatement akin to comparing the Grand Canyon with a cracked pavement. But the point, the lesson we should take from Sarah Palin, regardless of what happens (or doesn’t happen) in 2012, is this:

That supid people can run for president too, and that not all of them are middle-aged white men.  

Because stupidity doesn’t have a gender. Poor leadership doesn’t have an ethnicity. The flaws of the human race are universal. Margaret Thatcher’s femalehood didn’t make her a fluffy bunny, nor did it make her intelligent, left-wing, determined, frivolous or anything other than biologically capable of falling pregnant. Obama’s race, undeniably, was responsible for the influx of black voters this past election, but it’s not what makes him suited to leadership, nor should it be the sole reason for which we laud him.

The moral of this story is: don’t be dazzled by what shouldn’t matter. If we truly are building a world of equal citizens, we should be free to vote for or against women and black candidates, not because of who they are, but because of the strength of their policies.

Now that’s democracy.

Goddamit, America – I make one small promise not to blog anymore about your ludicrous electoral processes until after the Big Day (which neatly coincides with the Melbourne Cup: just one more reason to crack open a series of bottles and screeeeam at the television) but I just can’t do it. The pressure of saying nothing has both exhausted and weighed upon me, so that I feel like Will Smith in Independence Day, hauling a half-dead alien through the desert. And now – by jingo! – I need to get some things off my chest.

1. The Republican Party

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to compare a vote for John McCain at this point to a vote for Nixon after Watergate. The Republican ticket has demonstrated itself to be so duplicitous, hypocritical and untrustworthy – not to mention downright insane – that electing them on the offchance of improvement makes about as much as sense as giving a serial DUI offender a bottle of single malt and the keys to a vintage roadster. Do Not Want.

2. John McCain

Is a cranky old man, and everyone knows it. That’s not the only reason he shouldn’t be president, but it does explain his prejudices, selective ignorance and random interview tantrums. Assuming he ever was, McCain is no longer a statesman for whom patience and tact come easily. Can you imagine him facing tricky questions over the foregin negotiating table without physically lunging for the nearest Russian throat? Having an excellent poker face is moot if your temper never allows it play, and whenever the media starts talking about McCain on a ‘good day’, like they did during the last Presidential debate, I instantly think of a nurse describing a dementia patient during a moment of lucidity, viz: someone undergoing a temporary return to form, not a step towards recovery. Age can bring experience, but only when tempered by self-control and a lively mind. McCain boasts neither – at this point, he can’t even keep his running mate in check. Which brings us to:

3. Sarah Palin

Lord, how this woman scares me. I could talk about her jibberish jargon-babble, winks to the camera, campaign wardrobe, complete and utter ignorance of foreign policy, purposeful deviations from the party line and the Alaskan trooper scandal, but those are all just symptoms of the woman herself. When I look at Sarah Palin – when I read about her, listen to her and examine her actions – I see someone convinced of their own self-righteousness but lacking introspection. I see a politician who takes instinct unlevened by either experience or education as her primary guiding star, and who believes that the Biblican injunction for man and wife to work together overrides political confdentiality. I see a woman so powerfully convinced of the rightness of her vision for America that she’s willing to disregard all due processes – even go against her party leader – to see it take shape. I see a woman who, deep down, believes that intellectuals don’t know what they’re talking about if they don’t know God, and that even intellectuals who do know God are still too far removed from the common man to be useful. I see a rich, power-hungry politician who still believes in her own humility and down-to-earthness because, although she wears the trappings of success, she’s really just a layman on a holy crusade. I see someone who’ll burn the world and call it Rapture.

……..aaaand I’m back to the American Apocalypse. Great. This is exactly what I didn’t want, and the reason I’ve been keeping my Goddam mouth shut. I’m rooting for Obama, all the evidence says he’s going to win, but I can’t shake the awful fear that the USA will vote GOP. Like taking a flu shot to combat the actual flu, I feel the need to fill up on bile and bitterness now, the better to deal with disappointment. Logically, I know it’s not the end of the world. American hegemony was always going to end around now, and I’m not so Yankee-centric as to assume it bespells horror for the rest of us. But the writer in me – the fantasist, lover of apocalyptic fiction – keeps theorising on How It Can All Go Wrong.

Damn America. I give up.

Remember that episode of the Simpsons when Mr Burns ran for Governor? It was called Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish, and began with toxic waste from the nuclear power plant causing one fish to mutate a third eye. Burns starts up on the campaign trail in order to avoid being prosecuted; because of his unpopularity, however, he hires a team of spin doctors, mud-rakers and media advisors to oust Mary Bailey, his beloved competitor. Eventually (because this is, after all, the Simpsons) Burns’ victory hinges on having a middle-class dinner with Homer et al. Marge, a Bailey supporter, has been forbidden to ask political questions during dinner, but gets her own back by serving Mr Buns the same three-eyed fish his campaign has been calling harmless. At the cruical, televised moment, Burns spits out the meat, losing the election as a direct consequence. Family fun all round.

Eighteen years after the episode first aired, John McCain is running for president. There’s a distinct physical similarity between the current Republican candidate and Monty B, but that’s not what makes the comparison so disturbing. Rather, it’s how he refers to average voters, viz: Johnny Lunchpail, Joe Meatball, Sally Housecoat, Eddie Punchclock and – wait for it – Joe Sixpack.

Huh. Now, where did we hear that recently?

Dear America,

You are imploding. You are imploding so powerfully, so utterly, so comprehensively, that the ever-hungry vortex of your doom is like a star gone nova. Last night, I dreamed that John McCain and Barrack Obama could both fly like Superman, debating each other as they pirouetted and bounced off the skyscrapers of New York, only to look down and notice, all-too-belatedly, that the ground was collapsing beneath the city, giant sinkholes opening up as chunks of pavement crumbled into them, yawning into great black depths of nothing. I don’t mind saying, I woke up with a feeling of dread like I should apply for a Goddam prophecy permit, but then again, realising the obvious hardly makes me Miss Cleo. You are hurting, America, hurting bad, and like a dog with a broken leg, you’re lashing out with crazed, unbalanced mania.

First: that $700 billion bailout? In the immortal words of William Butler Yeats, Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Put another way, without land in sight, there is only so much distance you can sail a sinking ship before even bailing becomes ineffectual. What you need are structural repairs, while the best you can currently do is limp for land faster, the better to haul out, turn the whole thing belly-up and work some serious shipwrighting mojo. And hey, Wall Street? I’ve got a reality check (not cheque) for you. It’s a major election year. You’ve screwed things up. You’ve screwed up royally. Maybe in the past you could take a golden handshake and walk away smelling of Midas roses, but right here, now, there’s two would-be presidents locking horns like a couple of twelve-tine harts in rutt, and you, my friends, are the fat ole’ tree they’re going to shine their ivories on. Good luck with that.

That’s another thing: the election. Way back in Season 2, remember that episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Martin ran against each other for class president? Bart dominated the campagin, won all the popular support and even held a preemptory victory party under the slide, while Martin ended up a sweating, shivering, nervous wreck. But Martin won: because only Martin and one other person remembered to vote.  And America, let me speak frankly: if you vote McCain and Palin in through apathy and fear, the rest of the world will not forgive it lightly. You have laughed – or rather, certain of your media has laughed – at Obama’s popularity overseas while simultaneously scorning his lack of foreign policy experience. The fact that this isn’t touted as an obvious contradiction should set off alarm bells, because we – the people who, in future, will need to be most impressed by the President’s l337 n3g0ti47ing s|<i11z – are impressed already. Contrast to Sarah Palin, a woman I wouldn’t trust to run a primary school fete, who still thinks the proximity of Alaska to Russia equals foreign policy experience.

Your own media has already kept you well abreast of troubles in the McCain camp, and the economic dangers they’re so willing to hide behind in order to avoid debating anything that hasn’t stopped in the interim. If your eyes are half open, you know the score, even if the sacrosanct Laws of Armchair Sport forbid you to ask who’s playing or what game it is; and if your eyes are wilfully closed, there’s little I can do but weep with mine.

But oh, America, if you stumble now, then Yeats was right: mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Lord have mercy – Sarah Palin is ready and willing to declare war on Russia. Newsflash, guys: the Iron Curtain has fallen. Whenever John McCain starts talking about communism and Eastern Europe, I start to hear flashes of Dr Strangelove: “Mr President, we cannot allow the development of a mineshaft gap!” Has satire taught us nothing? Earth to America: Dmitry Medvedev has seen the Big Board. The spies have come in from the cold and are sunning themselves in Cuba. No, wait, not spies – I’m thinking of enemy non-combatants unprotected by the Geneva Convention. They’re the ones in scenic Guantanamo. Cuba. Thingy. Damn!

Where was I?

Ah, yes, Sarah Palin and her delightful proclivity for warfare. Who knew: not only do the Republicans support a return to the moralism of the 1950’s, but they also hunger for Cold War politics! In cinemas, it could play as McCarthyism 2: The Hottening. Get it? Cold becomes hot. I just kill me (or, if I were Sarah Palin, lots of Russians). But while on the film theme, might I draw your attention to Kyle’s Mom, aka Sheila Brovlovsky, of South Park fame? Remember in the South Park Movie when Sheila declared war on potty mouths and Canada?

This is who I picture when Sarah Palin talks about war. Criminy: they even look alike. (Bonus: if the Republicans win, we can all have a rousing chorus of Cartman’s song.)

And who says life doesn’t imitate art?

Honest to goodness? I just don’t get the Republican party.

Let’s ignore, momentarily, the fact that I’m an atheist Australian left-winger opposed to gun ownership and creationism, and focus on the issue of contraception. John McCain, that cuddly ol’ cadaver, has recently expressed confusion as to whether condomns can stop the spread of HIV. His exact words on the subject, in fact, were: “You’ve stumped me.”

From this, it’s easy to see why McCain is opposed to sex education – he has none himself. The man is, after all, a conservative in his seventies. Back when he was in school, the liberated sixties were but a twinkle in their daddy’s eye, and there were certain things about which one simply did not speak in schools, let alone anywhere else. When AIDS became a big issue in the eighties, McCain was already in his fifties. Nowadays (in Australia, anyway) every child is, sooner or later, sat down and taught about the value of contraception: not just as a means of preventing pregnancy, but as the only reliable method of preventing STDs. I’ve known this since I was eleven. It didn’t make me want to have sex, and it sure as hell didn’t glamourise the concept, but it did ensure my everlasting belief in condoms.

Which leads us to McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, whose seventeen-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant to a self-professed redneck with a poor disposition towards fatherhood. Now: I’m not attacking Bristol. If she chose her current circumstance, well, that’s her prerogative; and if she didn’t, she deserves sympathy. If her mother lived a more anonymous life, she wouldn’t have to endure being scrutinised, judged, shamed, defended, picked-over and used as an example by millions of strangers at a time when, more than anything, she probably wants privacy.  But even if she were Miss Jenny Everyteen from Hicksville, Iowa, she would still exemplify the problem of sex education – or rather, the lack thereof – in American schools.

The only cure for ignorance is knowledge. Not so long ago, respected European doctors believed that menstruation had nothing to do with pregnancy, but was, rather, an aberrant condition that would soon die out. Not long before that, most of the world believed that royalty were innately special, and that being born rich was a sign of God’s approval, while peasanthood implied that you’d done something to deserve it. Go back further still, and humankind poured libations of blood even for the Judeo-Christian God, while menstruating women (again) were isolated from the world at large, believed to be unclean.

Put simply: biological knowledge is not obvious. It has taken our species thousands of years to understand how our bodies work, how women conceive and how disease is transmitted, which understanding has culminated in surgeons, medicine, hospitals, obstetricians and contraception. Once, such information was kept hiden among an elite few, or else spoken of only in whispers. Now, we are able to talk frankly. Western representatives travel to stricken nations in Africa, teaching local communities how to guard against HIV/AIDS, while at home, women and men know to check themselves for stray lumps, the genesis of cancer. All such knowledge is derived from identical scientific principles, and from this data, we deduce ways of solving health problems before they become serious.

John McCain and Sarah Palin are against this.

We are not discussing abortion, which is a rightfully complex issue. Nor are we discussing morality, which touches on when to have sex, or with whom. Rather, we are entertaining the wacky notion of hygiene and disease prevention: the idea of intelligent measures, comparable to a flu shot, which enable men and women not to contract illness, and sensible learned behaviours, which allow couples to decide the circumstances under which they conceive a child. How such an idea might be construed as subversive or wrong remains a mystery to me, and yet, this is what the Republicans are arguing vociferously against: the idea that telling teenagers how to use condoms is good.

Time and again, statistics have shown that abstinence-only education has a much higher fail-rate than its sexual counterpart, elicting greater rates of teen pregnancy than any other approach (as Sarah Palin’s daughter can attest). It almost makes one wonder whether the decision is deliberate: that, like Anne Coulter, the whole party supports a return to traditional young marriage and pregnant housewifery, viewing sexual education as anathema to this agenda. The irony of women politicians advocating such a position is not lost, but neither is it unpredented; nor, oddly, does it gell with the Republican stance that young mothers stay in school or lose their welfare benefits. The only logical conclusion is that John McCain and his ilk believe sexual and biologcal consequences – disease and/or pregnancy – to be self-evident; and yet, as McCain himself is clearly ignorant when it comes to HIV, and as Sarah Palin’s methods of education have failed to serve her daughter, their party leaders epitomise the falsehood of this belief.

In short: the Republicans, in my estimation, are deeply, profoundly confused. Their policy is rooted in an era of sexual silence, the days of John McCain’s childhood and source of Sarah Palin’s morality, when there was no need to know why or how women fall pregnant, because this was all women were for: they married, they bred, they nurtured, and all else was the will of God. That sentiment no longer holds politically, and yet, its consequence lingers, breeding unforgiveable ignorance in a time when all other aspects of culture represent – if not vaunt – sexuality, without stopping to explain it. Whether the media should be curbed in this respect is a different debate entirely: in the interim, however, I cannot conscience such willful ignorance in adults, nor their desire for learned ignorance in the next generation. The fact that McCain and Palin desire to lead a whole entire country only makes their stance more shameful.

As much as I traditionally loathe the Australian Liberal Party, they’re at least a far cry from the Republicans. The closest we have is Family First, a minority party incapable of gaining federal governance in an effective two-party system, and except when Steven Fielding has to get his tie-break on in the Senate or says something spectacularly unsettling, very few people pay them any heed.

And as much as I’d love to be a U.S. citizen-for-the-day in order to vote for Obama, McCain and Palin make me glad I live in the planetary south, and not the deep.

It’s hard to know whether the near-constant presence of Barrack Obama in the global media of late – compared to the marked absence of John McCain from anything outside the American press – is the result of a broader campaign, a reflection of its success, or simply based on the novelty of a black American presidential candidate. It might even be a mixture of all three. But reading today about Obama’s stirring speech to a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin, it struck me that the crux of this election isn’t experience, race or even – to a certain extent – the age-old battle between Republican and Democrat. No. Come 4 November 2008, what the American people will vote on is a choice between isolationism and a policy of global cooperation.

Throughout history, American isolationism has had a sporadic role in world politics, notably in 1914 at the outbreak of WWI. While George Bush’s attitude to foreign affairs doesn’t fall exactly into this category, his attitude has long been one of America versus The World, dividing the planet into those for the War on Terror and those against, an approach which has entailed precious little middleground and not much elbow-room for diplomacy. As a policy, isolationsim tends to suggest a self-assuredness that the country in question reigns supreme – in its own opinion, anyway – and therefore need not sully its hands in external affairs, except as a kind of global policeman. Bush has simply pushed this to the next logical point: active interference, rather than passive, but still with the view that America is prima inter pares.

Should McCain be elected President, it seems likely that this approach will continue, possibly followed by a return to genuine isolationism, should circumstances allow. Certainly, I can’t see the opposite happening. Almost exclusively, his pitch has been to the American people – pragmatic, in the sense that these are, after all, his voters, but symptomatic of a mindset which says: the rest of you can go hang. We haven’t asked for your opinion, and we sure as hell aren’t going to.

By contrast, Obama has set out not just to woo his constituency, but the world at large. And it’s working. Whether or not other nations like America or agree with its current foreign policy, it remains an indsiputable superpower, and for many governments, the thought of a President who might actually bring their kind of diplomacy to the table, regardless which party he belongs to, is an exceedingly welcome change. As far as campaigns go, it portrays foresight, shrewd politics and a view that America needs to take the rest of the world into consideration – to compromise, not just when a strongarm approach has failed, but because it’s good politics to do so.

But the question, as always, rests with American voters. Can enough of them be persuaded to care what the rest of the world thinks? Is the idea of a change in foreign policy more attractive than the prospect of same-old, same-old? Have the failings of the Bush government resonated strongly enough that McCain can’t play to the idea of change = danger, familiarity = safe? Does increased global confidence in the President rate as an important electoral consideration? Or is the idea of foreign policy beyond military commitments so far off the radar that when the polls open, everything will hinge on the pitch-and-toss of national concerns?

I can’t be sure. But as a citizen of the world beyond the States, I know what my plea to voters is.

Choose, America. But choose wisely.