It may come as no surprise to some of you that I actually enjoy — yes, enjoy — watching political conventions. I’ve spent some time watching them over the past two weeks.
McCain has yet to speak tonight as I write this, but I’ve got to get out a few comments.
First of all, both parties of course were attacking the presidential candidate of the other. But did you notice a key difference? The Democrats attacked McCain on policy, while the McCain people attacked Obama on biography. VP nominee Palin even went so far as to mock Obama’s work 20 years ago as a community organizer. I think that is incredibly telling. It seems to me to indicate that the Republicans know that their policies aren’t working, and are grasping at straws to find something else. There is plenty in McCain’s biography that the Democrats could go after — his involvement in one of the worst scandals in the Senate, for instance — but they aren’t.
What about the other difference? Hope vs. fear. Obama’s speech last week was truly inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired by a politician before. Make no mistake about it, he set the bar for himself incredibly high. I don’t think anybody since Kennedy has done that. Obama realizes that there are things we must do as a country, and he also emphasized that the “ask not what your country can do for you” theme. Watching Giulianni and Palin was an exercise in fear-mongering. It’s a constant stream of “9/11 MUSLIM OIL SHORTAGE TERRORISM NUCLEAR BIN LADEN IRAN GAS PRICES RED ALERT PANIC PANIC PANIC MEXICANS 9/11 9/11 9/11 SCARY WAR WAR WAR.” It’s as if they have discovered M-x spook RET in Emacs.
The Democrats, on the other hand, are talking about reducing health care costs, making sure everyone is covered, ending war, making the economy better for working-class people. It’s an interesting disconnect that Obama highlighted well: McCain has said that the American economy has done well over the past 8 years. And indeed, by some “traditional” measures, such as productivity or GDP, it has. But the vast majority of Americans are not better off today than they were 8 years ago. Obama argues that the way McCain measures economic success is way off; our economy is not doing well if the vast majority of regular Americans are not doing well.
Also telling was how both candidates promised to reach across party lines (Bush promised that too). One actually is working to do it. Take abortion, for example. Obama said that he doesn’t agree with the pro-lifers, but surely everyone can agree that providing better funding and support for alternatives to abortion such that it becomes incredibly rare is a good thing. Where’s McCain looking for common ground? And then, of course, we have Palin wanting her family to be off limits — but only when it’s convenient to her.
I’ve voted in the past, but usually as a vote against someone rather than a vote for someone. This year, I’ll make a single vote and do both.