Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Icky Election

In a world that feeds on power there is no greater position of power currently than being elected President of the United States. Our president controls the most powerful military in the world and their actions are scrutinized by billions around the world. Given these facts, it is surprising that all U.S. presidential elections haven't had the enthusiasm that the current one has exhibited. 

Why is the current election so dramatic? Why is the election so polarizing? It seems that most everyone has an opinion about our two main choices: McCain and Obama. There do not appear to be many people who are undecided. Everyone has there reasons. Often, these reasons come through "sound-bytes" from television advertisements. Unquestionably, each candidate can spin a story that makes his adversary out to be something just shy of a three-headed monster. Why? We have had a bad economy before. We are at war more years than we are at peace, or so it seems. Yet, this doesn't seem to excite the country... or polarize it... as the current election. 

I wonder about racism. Is that underlying thread in this election that is polarizing so many people? The strangeness i that no one would ever admit to such a thing. It is so unpopular to say that one is racist. However, I am not sure about the frequency of latent racism in our country, and would it be such an odd thing? There are countless examples in the world of groups of people hating people with whom they live as neighbors: Jews versus Muslims, Sunnis versus Shiites, African tribal warfare, to name a few situations. Racism doesn't die because it is socially or politically incorrect. 

Our past is very complicated, and it comes back to power. We (whites) have always had all the power. We have even been slow to give power in the form of management/ownership positions to African Americans in sports, where they have excelled for generations. How could it be easy for us to give an African American the most powerful position in the world by electing him president? If racism can't die, it would be wonderful if we could at least confront its reality (and our fears about it) and vote for who we believe is the most qualified to get the job done. That would be an easier decision, in my opinion. 


Virginia Beasley said...

Race certainly holds an important place in this year's election, but I think it is helping the Democrats much more than it is hurting them. Certainly for many people the fact that Obama is black makes them hate him more, and this does make it a more highly polarized race in some degree. Even so, I don't really think this has lost votes for the Democratic party, and if anything has just brought them more attention. The people who wouldn't vote for Obama simply because he is black in most cases probably don't often vote for a democrat anyways. Obama's youth, race, good looks, charisma, and fresh-faced enthusiasm about change have captured many people who normally don't pay much attention to politics. He has been accused of being almost a celebrity candidate, which seems fairly true. I myself am a supporter of Obama, and will give him my vote, but I do worry that too much attention is payed to the charming aspects of him, and not enough is payed to his actual policies. Many of the most fanatical of his supporters know virtually nothing about him, except that he has plans for the broad concept of change. Change could mean many things. That is one of the reasons this elections is so interesting, because increased fanaticism over candidates does not seem to go hand and hand with increased political knowledge.

Courtney Martin said...

I definitely agree with you Virginia, in that the ethnic difference of Obama has helped the democratic party. The fact that he is black has contributed to his support and added to the media coverage of the election. I think that this is one of the main reasons that the election is being covered so much more than is has in the past. Along with what Virginia was saying towards the end of her post, people need to study the candidates for their own platform and not for the stories behind them that are out in the media. Although it has been interesting to read the different stories behind both men, it is important to keep their personal lives from the reasoning of why you would give them your vote. With ignorance of the candidates past and present, personal and political lives, one can not make a vote that is logical.

Paul Bendor-Samuel said...

I think that race may be a reason for some people in the election, but I disagree that it is the overarching factor that is polarizing the election to such a great extent. I also think that this election looks more dramatic than others because we (you) are more directly influenced by it than in years past. As I recall, the last few elections were very passionate and everyone had very strong opinions as they do today. The increased media coverage may also be a factor.

Alex C said...

I agree with the idea that race is playing a large part in this years election, but I also believe Virginia was right in saying that Obama has other things helping him out. His personality, charisma, and speaking ability have played a large role in his success, but no one can deny that most of his supporters are saying "He could be the first African American president, how amazing." I disagree with Paul however in saying that this election only seems more dramatic because of our ability to vote. I remember very clearly the election of 2000 when I was in 5th grade and they had the counting issue, and even all the way back to the Kennedy vs. Nixon debate. Even though these both were before our time we still know all about them, and this election is no different. For the 2000 election the drama was the recount, for Kennedy vs. Nixon it was the makeup, and in my opinion the 2008 election drama is race.