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February 7, 2008

The Clothes-Pin Election Nightmare

John W. Ashbury

It started too early. It might end earlier than ever before. And the choices are far from prime. Yet, a selection must and will be made in November.

Candidates have been dropping like flies since early January. Their delegates to the two national conventions have not had time to announce for whom they will cast their votes since their chosen candidates are no longer running. Fortunately, if you want a certain person to go to the convention, you can still vote for them, as the candidates who have dropped out have released those committed to them.

The choices have primarily been whittled down to four – New York Senator Hillary R. Clinton, and Illinois Senator Barack H. Obama for the Democrats, and Arizona Senator John S. McCain and former Massachusetts Governor W. Mitt Romney for the Republicans.

Democrat Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Republicans Michael D. Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, and Texas Representative Ronald E. Paul have little or no chance of gaining their party nomination – unless there is a brokered convention.

For those in the media – both local and national – such a convention would be exciting. Warren Harding was considered a “dim bulb” going into the Republican Convention in 1920, but he emerged as the nominee and was elected president.

As an aside, that brings up another salient point. Only twice in the 20th Century were sitting members of Congress elected to our nation’s highest office – Harding and Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. There were quite a few “former” members elected, but each held an office other than “member of Congress” at the time of their selection. LBJ and Bush 41 come quickly to mind.

This brings us to the point of major contention in the current campaign. Pundits and the media have focused on so many things that really don’t matter. We hear so much about the need for “change” from the candidates, yet we hear little or nothing about what “change” is needed specifically and how and what are the candidates going to do to accomplish “change” if elected.

Sound bites are driving Americans to distraction. Those phrases that come across well to the uninformed are repeated time and again. The coverage of campaign appearances often shows the same “stump” speeches with the same slogans making the headlines.

Most Americans want to know what the candidates will do if elected, not a bunch of platitudes that sound great but deliver little substance.

The health care issue is a prime example. We hear so often that every American must have health insurance; but how that goal will be achieved is left to the listeners’ imagination.

There’s the call for national health insurance. But what form is being proposed? Previous attempts have failed miserably. The primary reason for those failures has been the cost to taxpayers. This cause will be at the forefront of any attempt at national coverage especially since the media is beating into our heads the risk of a recession – if we aren’t already in one.

And the immigration problem is out of hand and not one of the candidates has mapped out strategic plans with any details. Oh, there was the Kennedy-McCain measure, which failed to garner enough support in the U. S. Senate to pass muster. And the American people, for the most part, objected to many of its provisions.

Some candidates are saying they are best suited to handle the “War on Terrorism,” but no details on what they would do have been forthcoming.

And the conflict in Iraq has taken a back seat to just about every campaign issue especially since President George W. Bush’s “surge” seems to be working. Little rhetoric is being heard demanding a quick pullout of American forces. Funding that “war” is still a major issue in Congress, but the candidates aren’t talking about it very much.

Both of the Democrats leading what used to be a pack are considered quite liberal in their positions. A recent survey listed Senator Obama as the Senate’s most liberal member based on his short voting record in Congress. Senator Clinton isn’t far behind. And everyone knows Representative Kucinich’s record of accomplishments – or lack thereof.

Over on the Republican side, Senator McCain is in the left wing of his party – more to the center than many conservatives would like. Just listen to the national talk radio pundits and you know he is considered way too liberal for their tastes. Governor Romney ruled perhaps the most liberal state in the union. He knew on what side his bread was buttered. He had to get along with the liberal Massachusetts legislature for four years. And he switched sides on major political issues, giving rise to the charge that he is a flip-flopper like another politician from his state.

Mike Huckabee is the darling of the religious right, but his chances now to be the nominee have been greatly diminished. And Ron Paul never really had a chance, although his libertarian beliefs sound a resonant chord with many Americans.

Senator Clinton is the first woman to gain such a prominent position during a primary season. Senator Obama is the first African American to gain a real foothold on his party’s nomination. But neither of those reasons should be any cause to favor or reject them when you get into the voting booth.

The national media has made them issues so often that it is now ingrained in everyone’s mind. Their liberal record and agenda is enough reason to reject both – if you happen to consider yourself a conservative – or to support them if you agree with their positions.

Senator McCain has abandoned his party’s platform in too many instances during his long service in Washington. The McCain-Feingold Law, which sought to revamp our campaign laws, yet gave rise to 527’s groups which operated with immunity during the 2004 election, and the Kennedy-McCain immigration measure seem to be the linchpins that keep Republicans from falling into his corner. Talk radio has been blasting him for weeks due to his liberal positions, forgetting the many times he has stood tall for conservative values and beliefs.

Governor Romney would seem to be a better choice for conservatives; but he, too, has stepped on values they hold dear – like the “right-to-life,” embryonic stem-cell research and gay rights.

Governor Huckabee ruled Arkansas with a mostly liberal pen – freeing countless criminals from their bonds long before their debt to society was paid. And his position on taxes doesn’t sit well with conservatives, either.

So, whichever candidates rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of these campaigns to represent their party on the national ticket in November, the electorate is faced with lousy choices.

It would certainly seem that most Americans will need a clothes pin to take to the polls this fall. Placing it on one’s nose when entering the booth will eliminate the smell as they touch the computer screen for a candidate for President of The United States.

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