Sunday, September 28, 2008

C-SPAN blues

My DVR recording of the debate carried the helpful crawl to tell me now that C-SPAN's coverage had been moved to C-SPAN2, so I guess I'm SOL. No, I didn't feel like listening to throwaway speeches from the House of Representatives. There's only so much praise across the aisle for retiring long-time Republicans that I can stand, and that's measured in nanoseconds.

Ah, hell, probably all the insight into the performance has already been said somewhere. But I've been holding off reading from the great soup of punditry so that I could write something fresh for me and uncolored by all the other commentary.

So, on this rainy Sunday when the Pats have a bye and the Red Sox are locked in a scoreless and meaningless duel with the Yankees, when my tennis club is booked solid, when the dog didn't even want a walk, I'm listening to a little John Mayall. (Yeah, the laws must change one day, but not that CD.)

I'm not a big fan of debates anyway. They're not aimed at me; they're aimed at the muddled and unanalytical middle, at people who don't know enough or think hard enough to need anything approaching information or argument that would be useful to a political junkie like me.

Usually a general election Presidential debate has me cringing at both contestants. The Republican spews a fog of atomized bullshit in a spray so fine you'd think it came out of a snow-making machine, and I guess that's not far off the truth. The Democrat tries to reduce his positions to the sort of Splenda-sweetened sound bites that appeal to the lowest common denominator. Since I fancy 75% cacao dark chocolate, treacly sweetness makes me say, "Yuck!"

Much of the trouble in our politics stems from the need of both sides to appeal to the worst, dumbest voters of all, the ones who start as clean slates for the debates. The bases on both ends are locked up, and the left and right are fighting over voters who are marginal in several senses. They only vote in Presidential elections, they get their news if any from the most pandering TV outlets, they can't remember who did what last year, much less ten years ago (unless it involved a soap opera), and they believe all sorts of myths that would be demonstrably untrue if you could actually demonstrate anything to them that differed from the opinions they have been filled with by rote repetition, starting with their parents but culminating in their becoming perfect foils for advertising of every kind.

This marginal middle won't notice if their decision process, such as it is, results yet again in the choice of yet another image-driven establishment bullshitter. Rational actors would re-examine how they decided and think about changing. These people are more likely to "remember" that they voted for the guy they actually voted against.

So, debates often devolve into pandering contests. I don't mean that the politicians can pander to small audiences. What they can to, though, is pander to the short attention span and lack of depth of citizens who meet the very minimum standard of social engagement and vote once every four years.

But you go to the election with the citizens you have, not the ones you wish you had.

And, hey, I'm actually guardedly optimistic about November 2008. Given the McCain-Palin ticket's dismal and transparently manipulative performance over the past two weeks, even voters who choose based on tie color are noticing that the Republicans are full of bullshit. Still, while that's better, it's not even up to half a loaf.

Obama and Biden really should be twenty points ahead.

No comments: