Just looking for that special someone…

9 Oct

Last Monday NPR’s Morning Edition ran a story on white Catholics from northeastern Pennsylvania. Local residents were asked to give their opinions on McCain and Obama. I think the woman quoted in the following excerpt provides an ideal example of one of the core problems currently afflicting this country’s democratic culture:

Democrat Roseann Smith said she’s voting for McCain. It has a lot to do with Iraq, she said.

“I like the fact that he doesn’t want to pull out of the war. We’re there, right? You can’t go pull out now, because everything that’s done will be undone. All the insurgents will come back in,” she said.

Smith’s husband, who recently died, worked two jobs to support the family. She sees McCain as the candidate who believes in that kind of self-reliance.

“Obama wants to, as far as I’m concerned, put all this money out for all these programs. He’s gonna break us,” she said.

Still, she’s not done thinking about this: “You kind of pick a person that you kind of have a feel for. And I kind of have a feel for McCain. And who knows, I may even change my mind. That’s my prerogative — I’m a woman.”


(I’m not even going to touch that last bit.)

Voters sidestep nuanced engagement with serious policy issues because they think, apparently, that the best policies will come from the candidate whose phony personality has that certain special “feel.” The candidate reminds them of their father, or seems like someone who could be their friend. It’s easy to narrow the scope of this complaint and just make fun of all the Bush supporters who voted for the guy they’d want to have a beer with (not least because Bush claims to have quit drinking in 1986,) but I think the rot goes deeper here.

Obviously, it’s probably unavoidable that things like the cultural identity of voters and the candidates’ charm will emerge as factors in electoral politics. But it seems that in the US today, the most superficial manifestations of these have become deciding factors.

At work last week, a conversation between myself and two co-workers about Sarah Palin was interrupted by a middle-aged man clutching a stack of political magazines.

“I like Palin. She’s really won me over,” he said. “I’m a registered Democrat, but I’m voting for McCain.”

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

“Because they’re a couple of no-bullshit mavericks, and I’m a maverick myself! It‘s about time we got someone in the White House who gets it. And that Sarah Palin is a real fireplug, am I right?!”

“Oh,” I replied. “She sure is.”


One Response to “Just looking for that special someone…”

  1. Al-Kantabi October 15, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    As two heads of the same beast, neither the Dems nor the Republicans want educated voters who would realize how similar the parties are to each other. I think most people in this country have long understood that no candidate’s actually going to fix most of the shit that the system serves to them daily (the exception being our newly-flowering Obamaphiles), so superficiality, encouraged by the media circus and the parties themselves, naturally abounds.

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