Politics and the PBS Effect

Bill Moyers had Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul on his program this week. The interviews reinforced my growing suspicion that they are the only Democrat or Republican candidates in this Presidential race. The others differ so little on policy that they’re becoming almost indistinguishable. Almost.

Even if most of the Democratic candidates won’t openly champion equal rights for gays, at least they’re not a threat. Paul excepted, any Republican candidate–Rudy included–would gladly pry up a two-by-four from the party platform and gay-bash the fuck out of me for some quick votes. The one thing that hasn’t changed is my disgust for the entity currently masquerading as the Republican Party.

I also can’t support any candidate who wants to keep us in an unjust and horribly executed war. This administration has deeply shamed us and our armed forces in the military arena even though we’re the only superpower in the world. Ideally we need to get troops out and bring everybody else in to create a real coalition and broker a diplomatic solution. My second choice would be a candidate with the anatomy to say “Let’s drop a few hundred thousand more troops on this, open up the special toys locker, and end it quickly” rather than leave our troops to burn in the spreading conflagration we ignited.

Biden had the best grasp of foreign policy on those rare occasions he wasn’t full foot in mouth. You think the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee might actually have a clue about foreign policy? Duh. I’m sorry he dropped out of the race since he might have raised the bar on the war debate in the run up to Super Tuesday. I hope he’ll still be in the running for Vice President. The Cheney Legacy makes me wonder which office actually has more power now anyway.

Other things have changed. Until recently I considered Hillary inevitable. Not in a bad way mind you, I think she’s smart and tough and wouldn’t make things worse. It wouldn’t hurt being the first President with a successful two-term ex-President lying in bed next to her for bouncing ideas around. Oh, and I have no fear that she’d be Bill’s puppet. Please.

She and Obama are effectively identical on issues for me. Maybe she’s a little more hawkish (doesn’t bother me) and he’s a little more inspiring (except for my instinctive distrust of smooth operators). Edwards might be a little more palatable on a few social issues but doesn’t really stand out in any other way. I’d be comfortable with any of them in office, just not terribly excited like I am for Nutter becoming mayor next week. Woohoo!

But something strange is happening. I visited a few sites that poll your position on issues and match you with the most compatible candidates. Hands down on both sites it was Kucinich by more than 10%:

I’m a little skeptical of the second one since I jumped there from a Kucinich site and couldn’t immediately determine its owner. Then again its results matched the first, more clearly non-partisan one pretty closely. Gravel tended to be second, then Obama. When I visited Gravel’s website, it played a clip that actually played up the perception he’s a little bit crazy. Something about that made my innards twitch and I don’t really consider him viable. Clinton appeared just above the first of the Republicans, Ron Paul.

I have a few problems with Ron Paul in particular and Libertarians in general. There’s this idea of tearing everything down to make everything better. It sounds good on the surface, but that kind of myopic utopianism scares me, conjuring up images from Larry Niven’s Cloak of Anarchy. Thing is, the more I see Ron Paul, the more I like him.

I don’t really agree with him on most things, but I do feel there’s both a brain and a heart to the man. He’d be a “do no Constitutional harm” president for our ailing republic. If he fails, I think he’d at least be a glorious failure to the American Experiment. Bland and safe, status quo for its own sake, mediocrity are things I cannot tolerate when my world is trending down.

Maybe Kucinich and Paul can say anything because they have no real hope of being elected, but that’s not the impression I’m getting as I dig a little deeper. I have to say that TiVo, podcasts, and the internet as a whole have raised my political awareness during this race far beyond any previous election. Being Between probably isn’t hurting my political awareness either.

The strange conclusion I’ve come to is that I’d vote first for Kucinich–and probably will if he’s still in the primary–then for Paul, and finally for any of the three generic Democratic front runners. Of those, right now it would be Obama to reinvigorate politics especially among the young, then Clinton for the reasons above, and finally Edwards because he’s not a Republican (Ron Paul excepted). I did vote for Katz over Street after all. Little good it did Philly.

What particularly infuriates me is how the media completely ignored my two front-runners from their Iowa Caucus coverage. (The whole caucus “process” is a maddening circus in the same tradition as the Electoral College.) Last night I checked the usual media outlets to see how the two underdogs did, and I found myself wondering if they’d dropped out of the race before Iowa. In fact, Paul got a 10% showing–amazing considering the media blackout he and Kucinich both suffer. Kucinich predictably didn’t do well and caught heat from his own supporters because he made a great recommendation going into the caucus. I hate people.

Here’s the story. The caucus process weeds out candidates that don’t get a certain percent of votes in a balloting cycle. Kucinich said that if he got bumped (he did), then he wanted his supporters to vote for Obama in the next round. That makes perfect sense. If he’s out of the race because of the convoluted rules of caucusing, then having a plan B is smart. His supporters, not nearly as smart as he, thought he was bowing out and recommending Obama instead of him beyond the Iowa caucus. Idiots! Including Michael Moore apparently. Tsk, tsk.

Thanks to the PBS Effect, I’m exceptionally informed and annoyed on this and a bunch of other issues. At least Jon Stewart made me laugh occasionally. Watching The News Hour, Now, and The Journal are like following Kassandra’s blog during the Trojan War.

Do you prefer seeing the train coming or having it clobber you from behind?

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