My three-word summary of the political landscape in 2008: image over ideas.
Of course, this could probably be said about most political elections since the flourishing of news and television media outlets over the last half century. Sure, the Lincoln-Douglas debates (the so-called 'roots' of today's Presidential debates) in 1858 had its fair share of rhetorical flair, but there was always a since in which there were real ideas and methodological commitments behind the rhetoric. Today, one is constantly bombarded with 60 seconds here-90 seconds there to answer a question....which, of course, only encourages more 'political spin' without ever really discussing anything at all.
Remember teary-eyed Hillary in Iowa a month or so ago? Or more recently, the 'hand-shaking incident' with Ted Kennedy during the State of the Union address? TV outlets (from Fox to CNN) ran gang-busters with this. But what do either of these incidents really have to do with the issues that the average America? It might as well be Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson that we're talking about, where the media goes out of its way to cover an issue by stating: "We, the media, should leave this one alone...because it really has nothing to do with Romo's poor performance in the playoffs." What's the real difference here? National issues get reduced to the level of 'sporting event' event tabloids.
[NB: Admittedly, I didn't follow the campaign trail to the elections of 2000 and 2004 terribly closely -- in the case of the former, I was finishing seminary and working in a Santa Barbara (internship); in the case of the later, I was preparing for and traveling to Canada. In neither case was I able to watch television due to the poor television reception in Escondido. So I've probably seen more political coverage (i.e. 'sound bites') this time around than the previous two combined....and we still have another 9+ months of this to go!]
The internet has plenty of pitfalls in the area of mis-information. But (surprise, surprise!) I'm starting to think that number-crunching articles, Q&A's that actually answer substantial questions, etc., may end up the better medium for cutting through so much of the 'spin' that takes place on television newscasts and 30-second advertisements.
The reason I'm voting for Ron Paul next week can frankly be summed up in one word: economics. All the so-called polls say the economy is now the #1 issue for most voters in America, even more than the Iraq War. The problem is that these same people that are so concerned about the economy don't understand the economics of government taxation.
The National Taxpayers Union Federation (NTUF) issued a statement this week analyzing President Bush's recent State of the Union address, and conclude that it amounts to a $134.6 Billion-dollar spending increase from 2007, the largest single increase of his 8 year term. Weren't the Republicans suppose be the party of less government spending?
The NTUF also issued another report analyzing the various budget proposals of the various candidates running for the President in 2008, showing that more spending is likely on the horizon. Increases from the various candidates include:
Romney: +$19.5 Billion
McCain: +6.9 Billion
Isn't McCain suppose to be the more 'moderate' of the three? Then there are the Democratic front-runners:
Hillary: +218.2 Billion
This is one of the reason I'm not really buying the 'compassionate Obama persona' that a lot of people (including a number of conservatives) seem attracted to. When it comes to government spending, Obama is as 'big government' as they come.
There was only one (remaining) candidate that scored in the negative category:
As stated in one of my previous posts, the GOP simply doesn't understand what to do with Ron Paul. Could it be because they have become so accustomed to big-spending that someone like Paul actually sounds like a 'radical'? In fact, Paul is the only candidate that I really trust who says he wants 'change' and actually has a voting record to back up real change.