Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Post-Election Hooptedoodle (U.S. Edition)

Got some more election / U.S.A. politics stuff to purge. This is a long one, so I might have gotten it all out of my system for a while. Or maybe not. We'll all find out together.

Just after the election, some of my co-workers were discussing what the future holds for Sarah Palin. "Rehab, probably," said one.

I asked them, more sharply than they expected, why they would say that. I added, "Just because you don't like her doesn't make her a junkie."

Taken aback, they stammered out something like "going to rehab doesn't mean you're a junkie" (Right. It means you sold the most Girl Scout cookies of anybody in your whole troop) and tried to get out of the conversation. I let it drop.

Thinking about it later, I tried to figure out why their remark, among all the ignorant leftist gloating that was going on in that room, was what I responded to. I think I've got it.

I wasn't being particularly protective of Palin. Worse things were said about her without my batting an eye. However, it frequently occurs to me that most of the people who call her stupid - the most common comment I heard about her during and after the election - are far less intelligent than she is.

I was being protective of comedy.

Good comedy tends to reside at one end of the spectrum or the other: either completely absurdist or shining a light on some truth. A "Palin in rehab" joke is neither. Because it is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, then it should not come out of anyone's mouth. Lukewarm comedy is lame and sad, although judging from talk show monologues it sells well.

Instead of suggesting that Palin will wind up in rehab, put a spin on it. I hear that her husband's been known to enjoy a few drinks; say that she'll be spending 2009 as his chauffeur because of his suspended driver's licence. Children of famous people are under even stranger pressures than most adolescents, and often make disastrously bad decisions about what to put into their bodies; say that she'll spend the next few years visiting the kids in rehab.

To say she'll be in rehab, with no context or justification of any kind, is offensive because it's so lazy. If you're going to make jokes about someone, put a modicum of effort into it.

Someone else came over to me the day after the election and, clearly hoping to gloat, asked what I thought of the results. I said, "What a horrible, humiliating night...for Obama."

Their eyebrows shot up, and they asked how I could possibly say that.

"Easy. After Bush's two terms, given his incredibly low approval ratings and popularity, the Democrats should have been able to nominate a lava lamp and get almost 500 electoral votes. Obama's under 400. His winning by that close a margin is like me playing one-on-one against Michael Jordan, and his winning by ten baskets to seven. Nobody expected me to win, but the fact that it was that close is embarrassing to him."

They blinked at me a few times, said, "You're unbelievable", walked away, and left me alone for the rest of the day. I call that a win.

It was clear by early 2006 at the latest that the Republicans had essentially no chance of winning the presidency in 2008. Being a Republican in 2008 was a lot like being a fan of a lousy sports team. Some years you take the pennant, and other years are "building years." That's fan-speak for "We fully expect to get the tar knocked out of us this season, and we're making our excuses now."

McCain had to have understood this. It speaks well of him that he agreed to be the one to jump under the bus. I keep trying to explain to "non-political" friends that he wasn't liked by the Republican base; they didn't want to waste a "good" candidate on the 2008 suicide run. Note that a common theme on conservative blogs on November 5 was "At least now we can go back to not liking McCain."

In a sense, this election was a no-win scenario for the American people. They had to choose between a RINO and an empty suit. The fact that McCain came as close to winning as he did shows that the American people as a whole were deeply ambivalent about Obama.

Vocabulary sidebar: despite how you hear it used all the time, "ambivalent" doesn't mean "indifferent." Far from it, in fact. It means something closer to "pulled in two directions simultaneously". The word is formed by joining "ambi-", meaning "both" (think "ambidextrous"), with "-valent", meaning movement. To be ambivalent about something means that you can see both sides of the matter, find aspects of each side attractive, and are torn between them. End sidebar.

As I've said before, America will survive this. Although if Obama is as soft on terrorism as it looks like he intends to be, some individual Americans may not. Ask the families of 3000 or so people who didn't come home from work on September 11, 2001 what happens when the administration doesn't stand up to terrorists (and, just in case you didn't read that last link, I'm not talking about the Bush administration here).

I hope and pray that nothing so awful happens to America again. One of the few consolations is that another attack would at least remind people that there are actual serious bad guys in the world, and they need to be dealt with. If 9/11 could make Dennis Miller accept that, then another attack might even jolt a few Code Pink members to sanity.

Incidentally, that "serious bad guys" bit in the last paragraph is how I explain terrorism and war to my young son. He understands it. Why don't some politicians?

The people who lost out the most in this election were the peaceful majority in Iraq. He already seems to be hedging, but if Obama carries out the plans he hinted at during the campaign, then he'll be abandoning them to slaughter. The power void left by a sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces guarantees that Iraqis will suffer a massacre the likes of which they haven't seen since... well, since Saddam was in power.

During the campaign McCain should have continually hammered on the theme of wanting to bring American troops home as soon as possible, but not at the expense of leaving innocent people to be slaughtered. That could easily have been explained to the American people, and would have resonated, but it needed to be explicitly laid out at every opportunity. Instead it was only mentioned occasionally, almost offhandedly.

If Iraq is abandoned, then several years from now the world may get a reminder that there is no enemy more bitter than a former friend. Remember when the U.S. stopped supporting the freedom fighters in Afghanistan, and one of them (a guy named Bin Laden) was a little miffed over getting dumped like a Hugh Hefner girlfriend on her thirtieth birthday? What ever happened to that guy, anyway? He probably calmed down once he had time to cool off and think it over, and never did anything drastic, right?

Hopefully this defeat will re-energize the conservative movement (not necessarily the Republican party, although right now they're the only viable national-level game in town). Take hope, Americans, and remember that four years of Carter wound up getting Reagan elected. I've seen a theory that America decides to elect an unabashed liberal every sixteen years - that may be how long it takes people to forget how idiotic and ineffective liberalism is - but I'm not sure that three times constitutes a cycle. Check back here in 2024.

I've often been asked why I'm so interested in American politics, especially since until the last couple of elections I had minimal interest in the politics of my own country (that has changed).

Imagine that you're at a boxing match. You have a choice: you can either watch the shadows of the boxers, or look up and see the actual action.

That's why I follow U.S. politics instead of Canada's.

Plus, American politics are far more entertaining. Polarization makes for good television. During an election cycle we get to watch heartless greedy Nazis versus mindless tree-hugging surrender monkey potheads, or so the media (including blogs of all stripes) would tell it.

In Canada, everybody's pretty much in the centre. By American standards even our "Conservative" party would only be considered slightly to the right (and I would debate even that). All our other national-level players are centrist or off to the left by varying degrees. In recent years some of the minor national parties have drifted steadily further left, which is fine with me. It means they fragment the liberal vote even more, giving me hope that one day an actual conservative party will come along to win elections while they squabble over the global warming acolytes. (As always when I'm writing about Canadian politics, whether the words "liberal" and "conservative" are capitalized is deliberate and significant.)

It's also indisputable that American policies affect Canada deeply - sometimes more than the policies of our own government. The U.S. is our largest trading partner, greatest ally (despite the efforts of Canadian liberals - including Liberals - to poison that relationship in recent years), and we share the longest undefended border in the world. That's something to be proud of and to attempt to preserve.

On a related note, a lot of Canadians think it's funny that some Americans don't know much trivia about our nation. Rick Mercer strolls around California with a microphone and proves that Americans don't know the capital city of Saskatchewan, and Canadians point and hoot.

I don't find that funny in the slightest, and I certainly don't find it insulting. You have 300 million people, we have 30 million. Your gross national product is measured in trillions, ours is measured in moose pelts. There's no reason for an elephant to care much about the flea on its backside. Why should the average American know, or care, about Canadian minutiae?

For my part, I like to wait until some yokel has just snorted Tim Hortons coffee out their nose because somebody in Burbank doesn't know how warm Yellowknife gets in July, then ask them to name the capital of West Virginia, or the third president of the United States, or the year that the Alamo fell. When (not if) they don't know, I say, "Wow. I guess you're as stupid as an American then, huh?"

One final note. I watched the 2006 disintegration of Cynthia McKinney with great amusement (although I don't know how far down she had to fall to reach the lowest pits of crazy). As soon as I saw that was running a feature on The Most Insane People Ever To Run For President, I knew she had to be there. I was not disappointed.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of former Democratic congresswoman, Green Party presidential nominee, and race-baiting, cop-slapping, raving loon Cynthia McKinney at her finest.

1 comment:

RebelAngel said...

Haven't looked it it Regina?

Is Calgary the capital of Alberta?

Does Prince Edward Island have a capitol?

I am afraid I do not know New Brunswick at all. Where is Halifax?

Jay Leno goes around and asked Americans questions about America and airs the real "winners." It is like a commercial for home schooling.