Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A Horrible Ol' Condition

    First, a few disclaimers:

  • What follows is a bunch of rather disconnected thoughts about the election, so I apologize in advance for it being disconnected. It's mostly a ramble on "who I'm voting for and why". Although it's obvious, my reasoning may not be.

  • In the following I will have occasion to quote H.L. Mencken. Before anyone gets offended, I am aware that he is considered an anti-Semite. Given that there are members of my family I never met thanks to Mr. Hitler, I am well aware of the despicable nature of any form of racist thought. However, given that we are meant to accept (and in some cases, hero worship) the founders of our country despite the fact that many of them were slave holding misogynists, can we also accept that even if people have some things horribly wrong, they may also have other things right? The great thing about dead people who wrote is that you can evaluate, agree and disagree with different portions of the written work without having to think about whether you'd let them anywhere near your home (in the case of Mencken and Jefferson, for me the answer would be a resounding "No").

With that out of the way...

...The deduction I propose to make from it is simply this: that a like increase [in human happiness] would follow if the American people could only rid themselves of another and worse false assumption that still rides them - one that corrupts all their thinking about the great business of politics, and vastly augments their discontent and unhappiness - the assumption, that is, that politicians are divided into two classes, and that one of those classes is made up of good ones.

- H.L. Mencken, "The Politician" from Prejudices: A Selection (Originally in Prejudices: Fourth Series for you pedants).

I accept this judgment on politicians - at least those who run seek and attain national office - as axiomatic. Even if one starts out in an attempt to do good, once commencing the run for national office, all bets are off - the entire process is too corrupting. And once national office is achieved, retaining the office requires even more corruption. I don't have a program to fix this, and I'm not complaining, I'm just saying those are the rules of the game as I see them. So, to beat another dead horse, character, nobility, honesty, honor - these are not things I look for in a politician. Doing so is like walking into a McDonald's and trying to find where on the menu they list the filet mingion. Besides, most of our best presidents were men of extreme "moral" failure of one kind or another. So when people start talking about character, I just ask:ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? They're all corrupt, they're all scoundrels, they're all effin' jerks.

"Great. So what do you look for, you effin' cynical jerk?" The answer to that is "Unfortunately a mish mash". There aren't that many rock solid indicators I can look to - and being something of an empiricist, I find that intensely frustrating - but there are a few I have found useful.

One is ideology, and how much a candidate is enslaved by it. For instance, I viewed the Bush Presidency and the state of the country today as inevitable from the day he announced he was running, solely based on ideology. His - and his crew's - was an unholy mixture of the worst parts of Ayn Rand, Pat Robertson and Theodore Roosevelt - the "Greed, God, and Guns&Glory" platform. What terrifies me most about this platform is that each plank requires that you take it's efficacy on faith and on faith alone. So we were going to have massive tax cuts, deregulation, erosion of the barrier between church and state, and war, no matter what the facts of the day might be. One of the reasons I haven't blogged about the Suskind article that had the blogosphere so a-titter last week was that it wasn't a revelation. When everyone went apeshit with indignation and suprise, all I could think was ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME? That was obvious. Say what you want about Clinton and Gore, but they were different. They did have faith in government to do certain things, and they wanted to use government to solve problems. If they saw that something wasn't working, they'd be willing to change direction to try something else.

A very distant second indicator is "the record". Often that's difficult to discern, or at least it's difficult to extract useful data, but it's there. Bush's record in Texas could give us a decent flavor of how he would govern, and Clinton's in Arkansas did the same. Kerry's is a bit harder to figure out, mainly because he's been a senator, but there are certainly things you can determine aside from political opportunism.

However, it seems to me that Kerry's going to be the less brazenly idealogical, less enslaved to one limited set of impotent ideas, the one less likely to get us into trouble and then ask us to "have faith". So I'll be voting for Kerry.

BTW, I'm pretty damn far left - in case anyone cared - but I don't think it's possible to have my particular set of values represented in the country at large, so you take what you can get and participate in other ways when possible, which for me is a far more satisfactory and sensible method than what Hitch proposed.