Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

Successful politicians will be political

Okay. I don’t get it.

I’ve been following the 2008 US elections for the past year, and I don’t understand how people can make it sound as if such-and-such candidate clearly would make a bad president because she or he did X—with the implication that the other candidate(s) would never do such a thing. Whether it’s Obama calling a reporter sweetie, Hillary implying only whites are hard-working, or McCain supposedly getting “cozy” with a lobbyist. I’m sure as the campaign goes on, there will be more and more smears from all sides.

Look, first of all, politicians are people. They have flaws. Sometimes they say dumb things; no, not all as dumb as what George W. Bush and Dan Quayle have said, but the real problem with politics is… politics. To be a successful politician, you have to try to please as many people as possible, and that means walking on eggshells, not appearing too extreme, and not taking a strong stand on certain issues.

Right now, gay marriage is in the spotlight and all the news stories are basically saying that McCain, Clinton, and Obama are all not taking a stand on it. Do you really believe none of them has a strong opinion on the issue? My guess is that in real life (in the privacy of their own homes), McCain is strongly against gay marriage, and Clinton and Obama are in favor of it. But here’s a great snippet from The New York Times:

John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton — are pretty much in agreement. All oppose it, while saying at the same time that same-sex couples should generally be entitled to the legal protections afforded married couples. All think the decision should be left to the states

Really? They all think that? How convenient. Really. I mean, they all just happen to hold a position that won’t blatantly offend the conservatives and moderates while also not appearing to be homophobic?

I don’t blame them, though. To say “No, those fags shouldn’t get married” or “Of course gay people should have the right to get married” would be campaign suicide. The degree to which politicians have to lie and be vague about political stances in America (I’m not sure how many other countries suffer this problem to the same degree; perhaps many, perhaps only a handful) is well-represented in the fact that people now easily divvy up the US into “red states” (Republican) and “blue states” (Democrat). If you take a look at the red state and blue state map, it almost looks like a Civil War map, doesn’t it?

Would it be a terrible thing to have two USes with two US presidents? Two nations, not exactly under God, definitely divisible, with liberty and justice for a lot of people? Perhaps, then, they could still be politicians, but they might have to lie a little less and would actually be able to have strong stances on things and get stuff done?

I loved the Matt Gonzalez and Gavin Newsom mayoral election we had in San Francisco a few years ago. San Francisco is one of the few places in the US where the mayoral election comes down to a Green Party candidate and a Democrat. Did they lie in their campaigns? Sure. Probably. But I think we essentially got their stances on things, and I don’t think they had to sweat quite as much. I like that.

Frankly, I think McCain, Clinton, and Obama are all liars and politicians. They will say anything to get elected, will slip up and say something obnoxious from time to time, and then give the obligatory public apology for said slip-up. After eight years with George W. Bush’s unique blend of incompetency and bravado, I’d be happy with any one of the three candidates being president. I kind of do hope that Clinton or Obama wins, though, just as it would be a historic breakthrough and would set a precedent for future women and/or black US presidents.

2 replies on “Successful politicians will be political”

I like your logic in this article. Yes, politicians have to walk the thin line between the two extremes. We don’t even realize how small the gap is btwn the two sides.
I think politics in my country are even more distrubing. In Kenya,candidates do not have stances and no one cares about the issues. The most important thing is which region one comes from.

I agree. Politicians have to be fake to some degree and that is frustrating. What frustrates me more is that abortion and gay rights are probably the two topics that will yield the most votes (in either direction), but are really at the bottom of the next administration’s agenda. I would like to see politicians who actually do something with their stances on these issues, That said, I think the logical thing to acknowledge is that right now, we have other things, more desperate issues like health care, the housing crisis, and the war, that need our attention. But still, people are going to let abortion and gay rights determine where their vote goes… I hope I am coherent–I did like your post.

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