Thursday, April 17, 2008

Inauthentically Authentic.

Tons of ink has been spilled and millions of cyber ones and zeros have been stored on the issue of how “authentic” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are. Barack was seen rubbing elbows at a bowling alley while Hillary was knocking down a beer and a bump in PA. Partisans on both sides sang hosannas about their candidate while relegating the opponent to the ninth level of hell for fraudulence and fakery. Can everyone please relax?

Barack did look goofy in that tie trying to bowl and the “bitter” comment did not help him with the lunch-bucket crowd. But honestly, when do you think was the last time Hillary pushed a cart down the cereal isle at Kroger? Come one, do you really think that she has pulled out any coupons from her purse to save on the Special K offer lately? It is sincerely doubtful that her bowling skills are much better than Barack’s. Can you really see her in a league bowling shirt with “Hill the Hammer” emblazoned on the back?

Of course Barack is an “elitist.” He belongs to a very special club of one hundred people. That is 100 out of 300,000,000. If that does not qualify one as part of the elite, what does? Yes he has gone to some very privileged schools and has lead a charmed life. The bull-pucky about him being the child of a “Single Mom” is just that-garbage. He had two loving grandparents help raise him and the support of a highly educated mom too. His life in Hawaii was miles away both figuratively and literally from the hard-scrabble lives of ghetto kids living with one parent. He had resources those down-and-out children could not even dream of.

Not to say that Barry Obama is not a success story; he is. But the story is a very middle-class story. It is a story of education and enlightenment; it is, to be blunt, a story of comfort and security. Barack never had to really deal with the gritty urban reality that so many other children of color had to. While he may have worked with the urban poor and with the working class, he never was part of that cohort.

Hillary too is the child of middle-class values and mores. Her daddy may have shown her how to handle small arms but she will never be confused for a hard core NRA type. Put a M1911 .45 ACP in her hands and she would be totally lost. She might be ok with a hunting rifle, but it would be advisable to stand well behind her if she had one in her hands. Truth be told, that is ok. We really don’t need a pistol packing momma to become the president. She gets the gun thing a little better than Obama; Barry was really stupid trying to walk away from that questionnaire. Honestly though, neither of them is going to get the blessings of the hard core god,guts, and guns crew.

We have also been treated to dueling lunch-bucket contempt. Barry was first out of the box with the “bitter” quote, then came Bill with a similar quote in ’92 and finally Hillary checked in with her “screw ‘em” quote. Note to the cognizant, there is a whole book out on how the Democrats should stop pining for Dixie and go west for votes. Now you might disagree with the premise of Whistling Past Dixie, especially if your name is Mudcat Saunders, but the theory behind the book is solid. Why are we spending time and resources on people who refuse to vote for us? Even Bill Clinton did awful with white male voters and he got reelected. Note to Taylor Marsh and Larry Johnson, Regan Democrats might just be a lost cause.

This is not to say we should not reach out to Moderates, swing voters and that rarest of breeds moderate Republicans. The way you reach them is via programs, not hot button issues. You got to keep hammering the Elephants on bread-and-butter issues like the war, the economy, health care, and social equality. You have to push the issue of how Bush and McCain favor the super-rich over everyone else.

Regan and Bush were able to push the regular guy meme to the hilt. John McCain is also getting a pass too. If we let the debate about whom the “regular guy” or “regular gal” is; Democrats loose. Republicans will jump into the rotten skin of Sainted Ronnie and the Donkeys get creamed. John McCain is the “straight talking Maverick” don’t cha know? The moron media is going to stick with that meme until the sun explodes. Prove the opposite and they will just accuse you of being negative.
Of course the man is a fraud. We like frauds. We like having sunshine blown up our nether regions. If we were at all logical we would stop worrying if a politician is “in touch” with the great unwashed masses and start holding them accountable for their actions. We would stop worrying if Hillary or Barack or McCain would be good beer buddies and start worrying if they had the chops to do the job. We would look at their philosophy of governance and how that effects us. We would be wary of someone who is offering up just more of the same as John McCain is.

Politicians are always going to be way different than most “ordinary” people. It is part of the job description . They are going to plow through position papers, polls, studies, memos and other documents. They are not going to have time to watch Dancing With The Stars nor work on their jump shot. That is how it should be, would you rather Barack Obama get real smart on nuclear proliferation or work on his free throw?

If we want really authentic politicians then we have to reward them with our votes. We need to call them when they do something right. We have to support them when they give us reality and not spin. Politicians spin because they are rewarded for it. They craft vague meaningless bromides because that what gets them elected. They craft their messages via polling because people want to hear that stuff. If you are really tiered of dog-whistles then stop coming to them when they are blown. If you are really tiered of gotcha politics then stop voting the gotchas. If you want the “truth” then vote for it when you hear it; stop rewarding spin.

Pols spin because spin wins. Giving real “straight talk” is political suicide. There is no pol living who could come out and say “gun ownership really does not make sense for most Americans.” Are we really ready to be told that our beloved SUV’s are no longer practical or that gas prices are going nowhere but up? Can we really be told that maybe, just maybe, exporting “freedom” and “democracy” is hard? Can we understand that we are not always right and not always loveable? Can we really come to grips with our faults, our failures, our missteps? Can we really stop the idol worship and delving into trivia to find out what really matters? We expect our leaders to be disingenuous, we expect them to pander, we expect them to lie, we expect them spin. Is it any surprise when they succeed in meeting such low expectations?

For far too long we have looked at “Character issues.” It makes for great TV; Character follows an easy story arch. 99.99% of it is facile, meaningless garbage. Jimmy Carter had outstanding character, he was moral, deeply religious, faithful, hard working, goal oriented and sharp. As president he was a failure. FDR on the other hand was underhanded, amoral, devious, faithless, and slick. FDR was one of the great presidents. Watch what politicians do, not what they say. JFK’s private life was a house of horrors, he had several closets full of skeletons, but he is now seen as a hero. Even MLK’s private life was better left private- he caused Coretta infinite heartbreak with his dalliances. But MLK is still a beacon of righteousness when we look at his writings and his speeches and accomplishments.

These days’ candidates “Characters” have been fluffed and spun to absurdity. The gap between the image and the reality is a mile wide and a mile deep. Ever since Nixon, candidates have been packaged for the tube. The image is the message; the web has only amplified that image. The web only heightens the buzz, sells the sizzle not the steak. On the web authenticity can be a dirty word. On the web pot bellied 40 something males can become 20 year olds with Herculean proportions. The disconnect between reality and imagination only gets larger on the Web.

The web also seems to amplify political differences and passions. Again the “authentic” candidate is lost in the passions of partisanship. Web diarist offer cardboard cut outs of the candidates; all the better to throw darts at. It is even worse with the commenters; they get on their favorite hobby horses and off to the races we go. Why would any smart pol bother to be authentic if he or she has got to answer to this lot? It would be a whole lot simpler to pour gasoline on oneself and then walk into a raging forest fire.

We live in a representative democracy. If our pols are sleazy, corrupt, backstabbing, rude and dishonest who is really to blame? They are fun-house reflections of us. If they are inauthentic it is perhaps, just perhaps, we too are inauthentic. If authenticity is what we truly desire then we need to start in out own back yard. We need to talk to each other honestly and with genuine acceptance. We need to dialogue and really find out where the common ground is. Most of all we have to ask ourselves what sacrifices we are willing to make to achieve our goal. It is inauthentic to demand a war against terror and then cut taxes. It is inauthentic to support the troops but then cut VA benefits. It is inauthentic to scream about racial injustice while indulging in rancid anti-Semitism. It is inauthentic to claim to be Christian whilst hating Gays, Mexicans, Crackers, Catholics, etc. If we can not be authentic in our own private lives why should public figures be authentic in their public lives?
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