Friday, October 10, 2008

An Interesting Election

Isn't this an interesting presidential election?

First, there are several big issues on the table. A few weeks before election day we find ourselves in the most severe financial crisis in 75 years. Pollution and global weather change seem to be at a tipping point; to rescue the planet, something substantial must be done soon. International diplomacy has deteriorated to the point where the U.S. is held in contempt, even hated, throughout much of the world. Two complex and expensive wars threaten our economy, our self-image, our international diplomatic skills, and our military administrative structure. And managing while facilitating the scientific, technological storm that grows wider, more diverse, and more powerful year by year demands urgent rethinking and retooling of civilized government.

Second, there are two fascinating candidates. Each has his own compelling personal history--one an imprisoned war hero and cancer survivor; the other an interracial child of a broken marriage who lifted himself, like Lincoln, by his own bootstraps. Each is an impressive crowd-pleaser. While Obama is more intelligent, better educated, more eloquent and charismatic, younger and healthier, with more stable and mature judgment, and with stronger administrative and organizational skills, McCain is a grand old man, a "true American hero," with long experience, and with more claims than many to ethical lionhood.

At first it seemed that both were determined to have a high-tone campaign contest and to debate the issues without mud-slinging. But as the tide of public opinion turned inexorably against McCain, he decided to try a traditional, dirty route. He chose Sarah Palin, a beautifully charming but uneducated, unsophisticated, inexperienced--in general, dreadfully unqualified--V.P. running mate. He developed a series of untruthful personal attacks against Obama. And he steered away from the issues (which he apparently does not understand and certainly cannot debate effectively with Obama) to platitudes, vitriolic attacks, lies, and otherwise business-as-usual politics which has won elections so often in the past.

Next Obama, seeing that this dirty-politics approach was working--it was tipping the opinion polls back towards McCain--was willing to strike back in kind. He developed counter-smears of McCain and even began to espouse some derogatory (though not deceitful) distortions of McCain's positions.

Obama will almost certainly win. Moreover he will almost certainly have veto-proof majorities in the legislature. And it will be fascinating to see him handle the complicated and severe challenges that lie ahead. But isn't this an interesting presidential election?