It's been painful. It's been like watching two bullies harass, belittle, lie and push your kid around everyday at school, and not being able to do a thing about it except to try to reassure yourself that, in the end your kid will emerge a better and stronger person because of it.
After all, the same kind of sleazy, low-brow, thuggish politics is exactly the kind of politics that got George W. Bush elected, twice. So maybe "my kid" will come out of it a better and stronger person, AND lose.
But alas, a ray of light. After tying Rev. Wright around the kid's neck like a dead chicken, Obama still won by a huge margin in North Carolina and cut Hillary's lead in Indiana down to a mere margin of error win.
Can this be the first hard evidence that Americans have wised up to political thuggery? Will voters of 2008 have become immune to Swiftboat-like smear attacks?
In the closing days of the Indiana and North Carolina races Hillary Clinton tried to transform herself from New York monied suburbanite into Huey Long in a pantsuit. She promised a chicken in every pot -- in the form of a summer repeal of the federal tax on gasoline. She claimed that Obama's refusal to propose the same meaningless jesture was proof he was not "one of us" -- meaning he was not a white, working class, ordinary citizen -- that he was "disconnected from ordinary working Americans."
Voters responded with a resounding, "forget about it." They were more interested in hearing some straight talk -- the real kind, as opposed to the same old:
"Tell-em-whatever-it-takes-to-get-their-vote-and-then-move-on," strategies of the McCain/Hillary campaigns.
But the past success of sleaze politics made me anxious. I've sent emails to the Obama campaign over the past few months urging the candidate to "start punching back." I was afraid that the Hillary and McCain politics of sleaze and innuendo would work again, and come November I would be faced with a choice between Twiddle DeeDee or Twiddle Dumber.
But Obama never did punch back in kind. He was right not to listen to those of us encouraging him to, in effect, join the "your-mother's-so-fat," quality campaigning of his two opponents.
So, the question is, could it be that we are about to have an Presidential campaign -- at least on the Democratic side -- that will not be decided by the machinations of the lowest common denominator types, but on the very many, very real, very serious issues suddenly facing America and the world?
Will Americans vote based on which candidate is associated with the craziest minister, or will they vote for the candidate most likely to begin healing the widening breach between the Muslim east and Judeo/Christian west?
Will Americans vote based on Internet hoax emails accusing one candidate of secretly being a Muslim? (If so, those same Americans need to start wiring money to those Nigerian bankers holding $20 million in a secret bank account just for them.)
Will Americans vote for a pro-Iraq war candidate solely because, 40-years ago he was held prisoner by North Vietnam during another disastrous, misguided war? Or will they vote for the guy who knew a bad idea when he heard right from the get go?
Will Americans vote along racial lines, as Hillary Clinton "suggested" they might:
Hillary Clinton says Whites are hard working others are not. (Full Story)
Or have we finally gotten past such utter nonsense?
Could it be that this time around we'll actually elect a president based on real things, rather than on childish BS? The nation voted on childish BS the last two times, and we ended up with a childish president who has specialized in BS -- deadly, ruinous BS, stinking, rotting mountains of the stuff surround us -- the embodiment of his legacy.
How will we know the seas have actually changed?
During the primary season the candidate's advance teams were able to be selective about the make up of crowds their candidate spoke before. The Clinton team, for example, has been second only to President Bush's advance troops in making sure no unfriendlies made it into an otherwise admiring crowd.
But a general election requires candidates to speak before general audiences. It will be there we should get our first clues. If a candidate starts tossing around BS issues about his opponent, and the crowd does not start chanting, "no, no, no, no..." but instead applauds, we'll know BS campaigning is still the order of the day, and that the best BS-er will be our next president -- again.
On the other hand, if the crowds insist the candidates discuss specific plans for addressing non-BS issues, like the energy crisis, the financial markets crisis, the global warming crisis, fixing the multi-faceted crisis in the Middle East the current administration will leave on their doorstep of the next president -- then we'll know.... and more importantly the candidates will know -- that the BS jig is up. They may be offering , but we're not buying.
Of course those crowds will have no impact on the many 527 groups lurking out there, like the Swiftboaters who trashed Kerry the last time around. Those guys are still with us, locked and loaded for action again. They are already producing slanderous BS TV commercials.
And of course TV and cable channels will eagerly take their money and run those ads rather than joining our anti-BS movement. Broadcasters claim they can't refuse to run them, even though they know the ads are BS, because it's a "free speech issue."
But wait... aren't these the same broadcasters who routinely refuse to run condom ads on the grounds that some viewers might find be offended. But they are more than happy to bury us (at dinner time) with one ad after another about drug company products that can give geezers a real honker of a woody.
Ads during presidential campaigns are real revenue gushers for broadcasters, and they are not about to turn down all that cash from political heaven, BS ad money included. Just note that broadcasters do have a choice, and legal leg to stand on, to refuse ads filled with lies, race-bating, deception, unproved slanders, outrageous insinuations -- BS.
I don't know about you, but I'm right up to here with the politics of BS. Just yesterday John McCain told a crowd that Obama had the backing of the head of the terrorist group, Hamas because the leader of Hamas said kind things about Obama in an interview. It was a prime example of the politics of BS if ever there was one.
The 527 groups, of course, will still be out in force between now and November. They will be right in our faces via our TVs. It will be up to voters, in the privacy of their own homes, to recognize the politics of BS when it starts spewing from their screens and reject it -- to hit the remote -- change the channel -- change politics as usual, by disarming the perps. Those ads will only stop running when those who pay for them realize they've stopped working. And with the kind of sophisticated tracking now available to broadcasters, they know when you and I hit the remote. Doing so is your way of chanting "no, no, no..." from the comfort of your couch.
Or don't. Instead keep reacting viscerally to the politics of BS. And, if we do, more BS is precisely what we'll we'll get.
Or as my favorite golden oldie truism goes:
"Keep doin' what you been doin' and you'll keep gettin' what you got."