Atrios brings up an decent issue in this post that I think is worth exploring further. For the next few months, particularly after the Olympics end, all you are going to hear about on TV is the most recent updates of the “horserace” for the Presidency. All election news will immediately be posted everywhere SportsCenter style, and analyzed to absolute insanity. And for what?
The differences between these candidates and their policies are very real, but the frankly the point of all of this posturing is being framed in the worst way possible. We talk endlessly about the “economy”, “security”, and “social values” but neither candidate has managed to articulate how these specific policy positions apply towards a truly moral ethos: happiness. If either Obama or Romney convinces you by explicitly saying that “I will work to make your life suck less” than you need to vote for that person. Anything else is not just a distraction, but is probably complete bullshit.
Romney on this more universal issue is thoroughly useless. His response to someone asking him this question (after saying something classist) would probably be some boiler plate Grover Norquist nonsense about how he wants to work in the government in order to “unleash the private sector”. Unless you are stupid enough to think that your (private sector) boss at your non-union job gives a half a fuck about you, ignore this meandering word salad of awful when making your decision in November.
Obama is not much better in talking about this concept, and this is truly disappointing (although he is getting better). Addressing this sort of question requires speaking about specific policy positions but it also requires someone to demonstrate how the government (the entity which Obama is seeking to retain control of) can in fact aid in making someone’s life suck less. When a Democrat speaks about “prosperity”, they need to stop bullshitting the American people into thinking that their message is one that (like the GOP’s) will make you insanely rich and keep it that way. Instead tell the fucking truth, that progressive politics does put a damper on the excessive assholery in America’s dressage class but also manages to make sure that everyone in society has access to a decent education, infrastructure, court system, healthcare, food supply etc. If we can’t convince people that this is a good thing (and that people saying the opposite are full of shit) then we need to find a new line of work.
So at the end of the day let’s start speaking in moral terms about why the things we believe in will strengthen families and lead to a broader sense of happiness throughout this country. Make the vaugue promises that things will get better and then follow up with those promises with policies that are designed to help as many people as possible. Ruling through obstruction, wrath, and demagoguery is not making anything better.
UPDATE: I wrote this post yesterday before the craziness in Colorado, but I wanted to include this speech from Obama today as I feel that he (obviously in a completely unexpected setting) hit on the theme in which I wanted someone to address in our political realm:
“I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you,” he said. “This morning we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways we are united as one American family.”
“We’re going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time,” he told the crowd. “Such violence, such evil is senseless; it’s beyond reason.”
“We do know what makes life worth living. People in Aurora loved and were loved.”
“If there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s the reminder that life is very fragile here, time here is limited and it is precious,” the president said. “What matters at the end of the day is not the small things; it is not the trivial things … Ultimately it is how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.”