Monday, March 10, 2008

Good vs. Evil. Or Perhaps Not.

"The unfortunate side-effect of reading this book is a complete and burning desire never to participate in any political effort at all. If you're a Republican or a Democrat, you'll be sickened by the tactics your own party has used, although not surprised by the skullduggery of the opposition. And you'll be revolted by the mutton-headed willingness of the electorate to believe any damned thing someone tells them, especially if it reflects their prejudices."
Thus speaks Marc Davidson, co-editor of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, who reviewed Anything for a Vote over the weekend. Davidson liked the book, but apparently felt that it painted a bleak picture of the American electoral process.
Perhaps, but it is also a realistic picture. While I hope reading my book doesn't keep people from the wonderfully diverse, chaotic, and insane mess that eventually elects our Presidents, it does show us--the main point I had in writing the book--that dirty tricks are a part of who we are as a people. Not only that, but politicians who "go negative" in the current parlance can be just as effective leaders as those who do not.
The great, unprecedented Obama-Hillary contest seems less about substance than about who is being portrayed as more negative--something our ancestors would have shaken their head at. Of course, you play hardball--that's the nature of the game. You may not try to spike the shortstop in the shins when you slide into second (or, if you're Ty Cobb, you may) but you do slide hard and try to knock him on his ass. But with Hillary vilified as a "monster" and Obama portrayed as a shining knight--well, are we really doing anybody any good promulgating either of these stereotypes? Calling for Obama to take the second spot on a Hillary presidential ticket is insidiously nasty--but so is demanding that Hillary release her tax returns and acting as if she's got something to hide before the fact. And yet I'll wager that both Hillary and Obama would make good, moral, tough presidents -- just as did Thomas Jefferson (who campaigned very nastily in 1800), Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and others who fought hard, rough and tumble campaigns.

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