Thursday, October 19, 2006

Election 2006: God Help Us!

Our friend was agitated as my wife and I sat with her and her husband over dinner at a local restaurant recently. "I'm so sick of both parties, the Democrats and the Republicans," she said. "Who's going to look out for the interests of the common people? They're both so corrupt. They just look out for themselves. What we need is a new party: the Common Party."

Her husband chimed in that all politicians seem interested in is telling us how bad the opposition candidate is. He also said that he didn't like the nominee for governor of his own party and that he wasn't sure his opponent was any better.

These are Republicans who live in the reddest part of the red state of Ohio, an area that hasn't voted for a Democrat for any office at any level--except for an occasional township trustee--for as long as anybody can remember. George Bush got close to 70% of the vote here in both 2000 and 2004. Yet, this year my friends--and others--are considering voting against every incumbent for every office.

And if the conversations I have with folks in the community and the national polling about voters' attitudes about politics are indicators, our friends represent a strong and growing sentiment.

While this may superficially be read as the early warning signs of political realignment, I doubt the conventional wisdom that this year's election will bring a shift in partsian loyalties. By that, I mean that people may vote for Democrats because they'll be the handiest tools for saying they don't like the way politics is operating in America today. But they won't necessarily be declaring themselves to be Democrats.

The bottom line is this: Voters are, by and large, disgusted with the Republicans. But they're not enchanted with the Democrats either.

If they could say, "A plague on both your houses" and opt for a credible, compelling third party, they would cast their votes that way. But absent credible, compelling third parties, Americans hold their noses and cast their votes for candidates and parties they flat out don't trust.

While it's likely that the US House and maybe the Senate will go to the Democrats this year, I wouldn't be surprised if Republicans maintain their majorities in both bodies this election day.

The lack of other options means that folks are going to vote for either a Republican or a Democrat. But they won't be happy about it. And if they could, they'd like to avoid giving either party any encouragement.

I've been interested in politics all my life. Throughout the 70s, I was actively involved. I ran a congressional campaign in 1976. I ran for office myself two years ago. I'm no babe-in-the-woods naif.

I'm also a student of history. There have always been disgusting campaigns. But now, virtually every campaign ad, almost any political campaign speech, makes you feel the need to take a shower to wash away the filth.

No candidate is perfect because no human being is perfect. No party is going to "get it right," from our personal perspective, all the time. Compromise is an essential element of democracy and the first compromise we all must make is to vote for candidates with whom we don't agree on everything. People can live with that. But what people are finding hard to swallow these days is our kabuki dance politics, candidates employing formulaic taglines and predictable assaults on one another's character, none of which means a thing once they've gotten a sniff of K Street. (Or, in the case of Ohio, Broad and High Streets.)

This year, as in no other in my memory, the operative questions for most voters whose revulsion hasn't totally turned them away from our country's prostituted political process are these:
  • Who is the least objectionable?
  • Who do I distrust less?
  • Who repulses me least?
It's awful. God help us.

[Thanks to Bruce Armstrong of Ordinary Everyday Christian for linking to this post. He lists it as one of six things "you need to read this week." Wow, Bruce, I'm honored!]

[Thanks to Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice for linking to this post. Joe's site, with contributions from many folks other than himself, belies the notion that being a moderate means being wishy-washy. These are people with decided opinions on many contemporary issues. Those opinions just happen to be somewhere in the middle between the right and the left. It makes for interesting reading.]


Deborah White said...

If it's any consolation , Mark, most of the country isn't seeing what Ohioans are seeing.

Outside of a TV ads on propositions, we see very little here in California, since Arnold has this one sewed up.

Pennsylvania, Ohio and Tennessee are the states probably seeing the worst of it. With the Blackwell-Strickland race, and the DeWine-Brown tussle, it must be tough for the good citizens for Ohio.

God bless! Remember the prayer you sent to me: Lord,send me someone I can serve in Your Name today.

Mark Daniels said...

Thanks for the comments.

I'm sure that we're seeing a lot of junk here in Ohio. I hope you're right about most other states not being subjected to so much nastiness. But the ads from other places I've seen on the cable news channels seem about as bad as what we're seeing here. (I am thankful that I don't watch much television.)

I try to say that prayer--and mean it--every day.

God bless, Deborah.