Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Descent into political chaos

by Cody Lyon

On Wednesday, September 10, 2008, New York City saw puffy clouds, cool breezes and sunshine that gently bathed the city's tall buildings in crisp golden sunlight. The bike path along the Hudson was filled with cyclists and joggers while on the streets, tourists made their way to places like Times Square or the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty.

Outside towers near Wall Street, office workers took smoking breaks enjoying the hints of autumn while others lunched on benches tossing an occasional crumb to pigeons while traffic whizzed by on the West Side Highway. From an observation deck of an individual life in the city, the island of Manhattan was enjoying a beautiful day.

Still, there is no doubt, countless New Yorkers have been engrossed by the ongoing nonsense gripping the current contest for the land's most important political office a horse race that has recently been punctuated by references to dogs, swine and lipstick.

But with that captivation has come an increasing sense of worry and frustration, as many New Yorkers watch and listen to a political contest that has in many minds descended into a chaotic diversion and not a debate over party ideology, values and solutions.

Here it is, the second week of September and despite a Congressional Budget Office report saying the United States deficit is projected to rise to $407 billion, along with a continued rash of failing financial institutions, the nightmare of misled war in Iraq, a mere treading of water in the land of the Taliban, Afghanistan, despite the fact that 50 million un-insured, a disappearing middle class, the headlines are filled with talk of pitbulls, swine and lipstick, as if some sort of Animal Farm like fever had stolen the meat from the potato's of reality that politics is meant to address.

Even on this day before the anniversary of what is arguably the city's greatest tragedy, a crime of death, destruction and horror, a memory that still blips loudly on the radar screens of so many New Yorkers and Americans everywhere, text messages were being sent and phone calls made among political junkies who call themselves Democrat as they worried aloud that the party values they support were facing increasingly tremendous obstacles come November.

For many, some who call themselves transplants, those who originally come from places far away from the so called sophistication, the bustle and hustle, those who ran away to New York to exist in tolerance and acceptance, an added sense of urgency was setting in as polls showed increasing numbers for the party they held responsible for exploiting pain and tragedy for political gain.

They wondered why, in an election year where the baggage of the past administration would simply and dramatically sink the hopes of Republicans maintaining control of the executive branch, the Democrats were failing in their attempts to make victory, perhaps more appropriate, change, a "sure thing" in November

Since the days of September 11, 2001, New York City has moved on. Sure, the memories are still there, the pain, the hurt and the anger, but regardless, the busy lot that New Yorkers are, dictates staying on their toes, and that includes politics.

In one phone call, a CEO of a small marketing firm downtown said that whomever devised the coronation of Sarah Palin as a running mate for the 25 year veteran of Congress was "simply genius."

He went on to say that they, the Republican strategists, long ago mastered how to get into the psyche of America's heartland.

Just what is that psyche?

In a chapter tilted Persecuted, Powerless and blind from his book "What's the matter with Kansas", author Thomas Frank asserts that in what he calls 'red land' "both workers and their bosses are supposed to be united in disgust with those affected college boys at the next table, prattling on about French cheese and villas in Tuscany and the big ideas for running things that they read in books.

According to the transplant marketing exec in Manhattan, the people described in that book are his family, his family's friends and other people who see the antithesis of those college boys in Sarah Palin and John McCain.

"David Axelrod just got his head handed to him on a silver platter," he yelled into his phone.

Not that the marketing exec is happy about that. Rather, he says, the Democrats, i.e. Obama and his team must rise up, perhaps take a humble pill, and somehow figure out how to "inspire" the reportedly "more than half" of the nation's voters. He, his running mate and his surrogates must figure out a way to re-inject the hope that a better America is somehow attainable through the political process, a poisoned process that they can overcome, if they maintain their sincere message of opportunity for all.

To be fair, the marketing man on the phone was a Hillary supporter during the primary and as of just a few weeks ago, made no denials of his reluctance to grudgingly support the Obama-Biden ticket. But, with the new Alaska superstar stealing the thunder from everyone else in the campaign, he says he realized that his frustration was geared more towards the American people, and perhaps the media for not highlighting the crucial differences in the candidates and what it is they intend to do, or not do, once in power.

Plain and simple, how can Democrats spell out to the people that voting for the Republican candidate would most likely do little to change their lives from the current state it is in now?

Still, during the chat, he said some members of his own mostly politically moderate working class family had been energized by Palin simply because they can identify with her.

"They really don't care about her stand on issues, it's about a person that's like them, not some fancy pants elite politician like Obama," he said.

At that moment in the conversation, thinking back in political time to the Democratic Primaries, one can't help but recall the moment that Senator Hillary Clinton seemed to wake up and embrace the populism espoused by the now "disgraced" John Edwards. It was at that point Clinton appeared to whip her campaign out of an entitled, arrogant state of being and began to aggressively market herself as someone who passionately embraced the populist issues of all the people in a manner that was purely political, but somehow sincere. In the waning days of her campaign, Clinton was able to work that political formula, while guzzling whiskey shots and beer all the way to several victories, but alas, to little to late.

For some reason, despite being a Clinton, people began to believe, that this candidate would wake up every morning and fight for their interests. They saw someone who would seek to bridge the glaring economic inequity that had helped further foster the class divides of the states. Perhaps, they even began to believe that she was sincere.

It is imperative that the Obama campaign figure out its way in doing the same, perhaps not a carbon copy repeat of the Clinton awakening but certainly not the sad tit for tat insult show that the campaign has engaged in along with the Republicans. Otherwise, millions of Americans will continue on their quest to choose a candidate they can relate to.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the anniversary of that day that shook modern America to its very foundation, tested its resolve and for a brief shining moment, unified a nation so tightly, will come and go just like every other day.

1 comment:

opit said...

If it looks like a farce...there may be a reason.
I took the plunge. On balance, I trust the public dialogue too little to prefer it over other explanations.
Besides, I've had time to have a look around and consider a few things.