31 August 2008

Reconsider Baby

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

I had never thought of Lowell Fulson’s 1954 hit single as being particularly political, but the events of the last week or so might be changing my mind. Fulson’s slow-driving guitar, and his oddly precise enunciation of certain syllables, give this song a life, even 50+ years later. But it’s the chorus, of course, and the song’s message, that are most inescapable. Thus some reconsidered thoughts, and thoughts on reconsideration:

First, there is Senator John McCain’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. Senator McCain, are you sure you don’t want to reconsider a decision that looks (at best) like pandering to women, as if “women” constitute a uniform and unified block of voters. At worst, McCain’s decision reverses one of the main arguments behind his candidacy—his long experience—while embracing what has been one of the most malicious and malignant forces in American politics for the last three decades, the Evangelical Christian voters from which the Senator had previously shied away. Now, Senator McCain proposes leaving the nation in the hands of an inexperienced Evangelical should anything happen to him on his next bravery tour through Iraq? Thanks, but no thanks.

I’ll do some reconsidering of my own: last week I wrote that Senator Joe Biden was a terrible choice for Senator Barack Obama's running-mate. I cannot completely let go of the idea that he might not have been Obama's strongest pick—but after the speech Biden made at the Democratic National Convention, I can say that I am more optimistic. It was not a great speech; Biden will never be an Obama or a Clinton in the speech-making department. But it was a very good speech, and it accomplished what it needed to in terms of putting an aggressive face forward against the McCain campaign, and articulating a strong rationale for his candidacy.

Indeed, the Biden and Palin selections are but a small element of a broader reevaluation needed by American voters: we should be reconsidering our choices across the board, from president and vice president to our local congressional representative, state elected officials, and city or county leaders. One can argue the merits of legislated term-limits, but I prefer the voter-run type, when after a certain number of years, we just vote people out of office. The stories abound of comfortable politicians getting too chummy with those around them, or using their powers in small and possibly abusive ways (indeed, even Ms. Palin may not be immune to this). There is a reason we hold elections every few years: precisely to allow for the important and necessary reconsideration of the politicians we choose to manage our governments. They work for us – and we and they should never forget that.

Lastly, there’s the current administration, for which reconsideration has never been a high priority; certainly not for President George W. Bush, who finds no mistakes worth acknowledging. I suspect, however, that the American people may be suffering from a bit of buyer’s remorse about two terms of this Bush presidency—which may support the voters’ appetite for reconsidering their options come this November. And well they should.

None of the candidates are perfect, but there are also very clear choices to be made. Or at least I hope so.


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