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Friday, September 26, 2008
Politics Are Strange Bedfellows...
...This is more of a general statement on the state of things. If someone wants to try and spin it to look like I'm favoring one side or the other then that's your business, but it's stupid business.

And I know I won't win any points with anyone today. I figure this is another of those "WhizGidget has dug her own grave" sorts of posts, and nobody is going to like me when this is over.

I've watched political debates, campaigning and posturing between candidates and candidate supporters for a long time. This year is no different, although it's easier to avoid with the DVR. I don't think I've sat through one campaign commercial yet. I hate those because they're never truthful, they're always slickly done, and they distort facts. On *BOTH* sides.

But I have watched people debate all over the web on bulletin boards and blogs, and I've got to say that I have shaken my head in disbelief in the last few weeks at some of the things people have to say. There are people out there who are so adamantly in love with their candidate that they will defend that candidate to the death against others who are just as in love with theirs.

Sometimes it's like watching two badly behaving pit bulls fighting over a fresh cow femur. For those who don't know, you can get full femurs for your dog, and they are *large* tasty bones. I used to get them for Sasha and she loved them. But I digress... but you get the picture, right?

I've watched people walk away from discussions because they don't want to lose respect for people that they consider friends because they don't agree with the politics of those friends or the methods by which those politics (even if they're politics they agree with) are being debated. I've watched people whose marriages go through rough patches every 4 years because they belong to different political parties or don't agree with each other's political standpoints. I've watched people agree to disagree most of the time on issues, but when it's a political candidate espousing those issues those same people are at each other's throats. Or are sadly walking away because they've lost respect for everyone.

I have shaken my head at people who point out that others won't even acknowledge anything their candidate says as being anything resembling intelligent or OK when they won't do the same themselves for the other candidate. Likewise, people will just fight for the sake of fighting because they haven't bothered to do the research and spout whatever conventional wisdom they've picked up from a favorite blog (who didn't do the research either). I've also watched people get uber-defensive about the littlest thing instead of staying on topic - maybe because they want to win at the little thing, or because they realize they're fighting a losing battle and want to change the course of the discussion.

Let's just lay it all out there - candidates on every side are posturing. I don't care if you come out in the comments and say no no, the *other* guy is posturing, my candidate is *campaigning*. It's the same damn thing. They're all posturing. It's what politicians *DO*. To think otherwise is naive and shortsighted. If they didn't "posture" they wouldn't have their current government representative jobs, now would they?

No candidate is perfect. You may be able to politically align yourself with a candidate, but I suspect that few agree 100% unless they're blindly following their party. Meaning, that their candidate is the right candidate because the party said so, and the party can't be wrong. Because it's *my* party and I believe in them. And then they'll get defensive if you say boo to anything about the candidate.

I think that's also shortsighted. I'll just call those people sheeple because I can't believe that someone can follow a political party line 100% without something that they don't agree with unless they just don't do any research on the candidate. Or are too lazy to do the research.

Let's get real people. Supporters on both sides are going to try and shout the loudest in a debate to be heard. Sometimes that is just the way it is. They're both going to think that they're right, and very few will acknowledge that the other side has their heart in the right place. Or that they have a heart at all. But don't point out shortcomings of the side you don't agree with if you're not willing to acknowledge shortcomings of your own candidate; to do otherwise is just hypocritical.

I'm not innocent either in all of this nor am I proclaiming from on high (because someone will accuse me of that - it happens every four years when I comment on social behavior in political supporters). I've done my share supporting my candidate too, and arguing about it. I need to back off of that too, while putting out more factual and topical discussion instead of opinion. But opinion is a big part of it when you discuss something that's important to you. You have to get down to the *why* I support this candidate and the facts that made you decide on that candidate instead of a blanket decision because you liked a sound bite, or because they believe in only one thing you agree with.

I've also done enough research that I know why I don't want to vote for the other candidate and why I do want to vote for the one I'm planning to vote for. You see, there's a simple thing called history at work here.

I'm ignoring the posturing. I'm ignoring the campaigning. They're all empty promises most of the time anyway when something new happens in the middle of a campaign. This whole finance and economy issue that's going on right now? Neither of the major party candidates have anything to do with the bill or the leadership committees, so anything they do in the media arena is just posturing.

Look at what they've done in the past in terms of policy creation - before they chose their running mates (whose records I look at too, prior to when they were announced as such) and before the election heat was really turned up. What did they do for their constitutes? What bills did they pass, good and bad? Was it the best course of action for the people that they represent (and was any ripple effect to other people good or bad)? Did they start to neglect their responsibility of office for the purpose of campaigning for a higher office?

Telling people what they want to hear is a great way to get support, but maybe those things aren't the best for the nation overall. And making the decisions that are best for the whole of the people, and not the best for one group over another group, is what one should look for in a candidate.

I hate it when I hear that someone "identifies" with a candidate because of their life experiences and therefore that candidate must be 'just like me'. Maybe what you think isn't the right course of action when applied to an entire country. I know, that's hard to believe that you (the collective you) might not make the right decisions to lead the country. What I believe might not be the right thing either - it's not going to make me change what I believe in, but it will make me think a little more about whether I like a candidate because they think like me, or because they have actually done things that were for the good (and ultimately were good) of the people.

I've experienced the identification with a candidate thing. I once identified with a candidate because he had a degree path that was just like mine. Therefore, he must be the best one. Nuh-uh. When I did the research I realized that many things he had done and many things he believed in were contradictory to mine. *poof* Just like that I was back at square one choosing a candidate to believe in.

I won't align myself with a candidate just because they're white or female, affluent or intelligent, a business major or a cross stitcher. I'll align myself with them if I agree with what they did as a senator, governor, or other representative of the people. I'll align myself if their general belief system is similar to mine based on the research that's out there for me to find, not on the sound bites that are in the news or on some blog.

So, if you find yourself thinking that you believe in a candidate just because you identify with something like the clothes they wear, or the gender they are, or the degree that they have, then you might want to stop and think about how much you know about the issues they represent and where you learned about that.

You might find yourself needing to do a little research. Avoid their websites. Avoid the blogs. Educate yourself on the status of the nation and the candidates. Check out the bills that were voted on - sometimes a 'no' vote, or a 'yes' vote, is because of something else that's hidden in the bill. & will give you bills and voting records - overall and for the individual you want to look up. What might take a little more research is finding out the *why* they voted the way they did. If you're going to research at a site that says it's for the non-partisan education of the voter then do your research at a couple of sites that make the same claim and see if they all match up. Check out the "About Us" section of those sites and see if they shed light on who is running them, and if they match up with the voting records.

I'm not saying don't watch the candidate speeches and debates either. Watch them, but look through the pretty language that they use and dissect what they're saying. See if it matches their voting records, and ignore the political analysts who get their 15 minutes of fame after such debates and speeches who try and sway people to one side or the other. Here's the other thing - check out if the voting record on the issues that are important to you changed fundamentally from before the campaigning really heated up. If there was a 'no' on something before and a 'yes' now, why did it change - that's also something you might find in the wording of the bill; something may have been taken out that was there before and that's the reason the vote changed. If there was nothing hidden there and the change in vote was completely focused on the issue at hand, then you might want to try and find out *why* it changed.

Actions taken to make one look good during a campaign aren't usually good actions. Perhaps I'm cynical but candidates do not have epiphanies during elections that make them do something that the people will love more than their previous actions did. Candidates have campaign managers, analysts and handlers that tell them what to do that will make the people love them more than their previous actions did.

Yes, what I'm saying takes a lot of work and time - time that you might not have but that you should sacrifice to make. But when you're voting for something that's really important, isn't it worth taking the time to know that you're really doing the right thing? Not just the right thing for you, but the right thing for everyone.

Look through the posturing and attempts to save the day or save the world, or save the three-toed red sloth. Make the right choice. Don't expect everyone to agree with you (the collective you) because everyone isn't the same. Not everyone has the same values, same morals, same ethics, same world view, same opinions. People believe in things they want to believe in - just understand that some are going to fight on those opinions to the death without wanting to admit that maybe they're wrong. Some people are going to want to be assured that they are right even if they're in the minority, and some are going to want to be assured that they are right if they're in the majority. Usually these people want people from the *other* side to admit that the candidate they chose was the wrong candidate so that someone can make a mark on some imaginary chalk board that they have counting up the converts they have gotten to the cause.

But the time to try and convert people is not now. People polarize around election time and are less willing to listen to reason, and that's a big part of why I'm writing this. Stop getting hackles up that you won't change someone's mind, or get someone to admit that they're wrong, or that their candidate is wrong. Just state your opinion, make your argument in a civil manner, and move on. Stop using semantics to win an argument - "posturing" and "campaigning" is the same thing, and every candidate does it and will until the end of time.

It's just a matter of whether you want to buy into the hype, or buy into the history.