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Entries in Obama (2)


A Third Way: Saying "No" to Obama AND Romney on November 6

As opposed to an elephant (GOP) or a donkey (Dems), the owl is the symbol of the Modern Whig Party.In the early days of this blog, in posts that aren't currently online but hopefully will return soon, I used to write a lot more about politics. I've moved away from that in recent years because I don't know if we've ever been so divided politically. And in recent years, I see those who call themselves Christian reflect values that belong more to a political ideology than a biblical worldview. 

Nevertheless, it's an election year; and as I have usually done in the past, I'll write at least one political post as well as make a few predictions for the November presidential election.

As with the previous election in 2008, I'm not overly thrilled with either of the two "primary" choices this time around. But at least in the last election, I was able to make a choice and cast my vote. This time around, though, I don't believe that I can vote for either of them in good conscience. I won't go into all the details of that sentiment, but many people I talk to seem to have it, too, for various reasons. 

As I've stated before, I'm neither a Democrat or Republican. In the late nineties, after the fallout of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, I decided I didn't want to belong to either party. I became an independent. I did that in spite of the fact that my college political science professor stated in class that independent voters tend to know least about the issues. After taking his class, I think he knew least about the issues. 

Plus, I had biblical reasons for not belonging to any party: there were political parties of a sort in Jesus' day (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Herodians, etc.), and he did not choose to affiliate with any of them. What party would Jesus join? Well, probably none of them!

But I think I've actually found a party that I like: the Modern Whig Party. Although they are not yet overly organized or influential, I like what they stand for--from what I've read so far. There is no Whig ideology that they feel they have to keep to. They're willing to listen to voices from all sides and make pragmatic decisions. Both Democrats and Republicans have become extremists it seems, refusing to compromise with each other on important issues and ultimately becoming caricatures of themselves. The Whigs are willing to implement solutions to our country's problems regardless of who came up with the idea. If there's any veracity to the idea that "the truth is usually in the middle," the Modern Whig Party is willing to be politically more moderate than either the Democrats or the Republicans who continue to grow further and further apart, while accomplishing very little. 

Oh, I know what some of you are going to say: third parties are for those on the fringe; don't vote for candidates, vote for judges; voting for a third party is throwing away your vote. Well, those defenses usually come from deep within the two major parties who are trying to maintain the status quo. Much of politics these days has become a means to manipulate the average person, and the above rhetoric goes a long way to doing that. 

Here's my answer to those ideas: (1) I see a lot of fringe elements in both of the major parties these days. (2) I can't in good conscience vote for a candidate with whom I've got fundamental disagreements because these individuals will ultimately appoint judges with whom I've got fundamental disagreements. (3) A vote of conscience is never a vote thrown away.

Plus, since Kentucky is a "red state," the electoral college (which I believe is a system no longer necessary in a modern technological world) determines that unless I vote for Romney, my vote doesn't matter anyway. 

I promised you some predictions. Both are pretty obvious at this point, but here they are: (1) Romney will win Kentucky where I live, but ultimately (2) Obama will be re-elected, although with less enthusiasm than the first time around. Barring some major last minute scandal, that's where things stand, like it or not.

Thus, I feel even greater freedom than ever to vote my conscience. Therefore, I am currently planning to write in T. J. O'Hara as my choice for president. O'Hara has the endorsement of the Modern Whig Party and seems to have some really practical, and outside the [Washington] box, ideas. And more than likely, when I go to vote, I will also change my affiliation from independent to Modern Whig Party.

I like their ideas, I like their historical ties, and I even like that owl.

If you're uncomfortable voting for either Obama or Romney this year, I hope that you will also consider voting for a third-party candidate. I recommend O'Hara, but if not him, vote for one of the others. I would really love to see a higher than normal vote for candidates outside the major two parties this time around. Within my lifetime, I'd like to see our nation have more choices when it comes to solutions to the problems we have, rather than limiting ourselves to two extremes that refuse to work together. 


Review: Game Change by Heilemann and Halperin

Heilemann, John, and Mark Halperin. Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.

Kindle: $9.99
Paperback: $16.99
Hardcover: $27.99
Audio: $26.45

"This [expletive] would be really interesting if we weren't in the middle of it" —Barack Obama, September, 2008 (Kindle location 6590)

If you're a longtime This Lamp reader, you know that I don't cover politics much anymore. When I first started my blog, back in 2003, I intended political analysis to be a regular feature in the midst of other topics. But I've found that politics is often so divisive that I've chosen in most instances to steer clear and remain mostly apolitical on this site. In fact, this review is the 70th post I've written since moving my blog to WordPress, and today, I actually had to create the "Politics" category.

Following this week's election, I can sympathize with you if you're absolutely sick of politics—who isn't? However, if you can push party loyalty aside for a moment, I'd like to recommend, Heilemann and Halperin's extremely fascinating Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. Truth be told, the name John Edwards ought to be part of that title, too, since he is a significant "cast member" in the book, but obviously, the title was too long already.

The book focuses on the 2008 United States presidential election and the campaigns and events leading up to it. One of the key themes explored in the book relates to the "unexpected" nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate. If anyone had been making predictions for the 2008 Democratic nominee anywhere from 2004 to 2007, Hillary Clinton would have been the assumed choice.

Of course, I don't believe Hillary Clinton is electable (I also didn't think McCain was electable), and according to Heilemann and Halperin, neither did a number of key members of the Democratic party. Concerned with Clinton's uncertain chances of winning had the Republicans nominated a younger and more charismatic individual, these key Democrats, who were publicly offering their support for Clinton, were maneuvering in the background to find someone else who was not only charismatic, but also had less historical "baggage" (read baggage as concern over what new scandals Bill Clinton might bring to the White House).

It would be many months before the Clintons gained any awareness of the incipient betrayal of Hillary by her colleagues in the Senate. And then it would hit them like a ton of bricks in the their psychic solar plexus. The Clintons saw themselves as the party's de facto First Family. As the patrons of two generations of Democratic politicians for whom they'd raised stacks of cash, providing aid and comfort on the path to prominence. As the only Democrats in recent memory who had demonstrated a consistent capacity to win national elections. As revered and beloved figures. They were blind to the degree of Clinton fatigue in their world and deaf to the conspiracy of whispers. They had no idea how fast the ground was shifting beneath their feet (Kindle location 758-763).

Heilemann's and Halperin's writing throughout the book remains lively with vivid imagery as seen in the paragraph above ("psychic solar plexus," "deaf to the conspiracy of whispers"). The book is very much a page turner because even if you vividly remember the election from two years ago, you don't know it in this kind of detail. John Heilemann, national political correspondent and columnist for New York magazine, and Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time magazine, based this book on over 300 private interviews of the persons involved in the campaigns of the chief figures of the book.

There have been criticisms that perhaps Heilemann and Halperin went too far, that perhaps they betrayed too many confidences in writing this book. I cannot answer that criticism, but I can say I've never felt like I had more of an inside view of a significant historical event than before reading this book. When I first heard of Game Change, I thought it would probably come across as the kind of sensationalistic yellow journalism one finds in supermarket tabloids. But it really doesn't read that way at all. Well...for the most part it doesn't. Whether I really needed to know that John McCain liked to participate in daily briefings in his boxers is questionable, but overall, the book does not spend a lot of time on that kind of information.

Game Change contains no footnotes which has raised some eyebrows, but at the same time, there's been very little said to counter its claims. Sarah Palin has said that if someone wants to really know the truth about her campaign with McCain, her book Going Rogue tells the whole story. Yet, I have not heard from her any specifics for which she disagrees with what was described in Game Change. This is also the book that led to Harry Reid apologizing for remarks that he made theorizing Obama was electable because he was "light skinned."

If you feel strong emotional bonds to any of the politicians in the 2008 presidential election, this book is not for you. No one comes out all that clean. Obama probably comes out the best in the book, but his lack of experience is fully explored. Hillary comes off a bit paranoid, and her husband mildly racist at times. McCain seems quite eccentric and quirky (and a bit of a potty mouth as are most in the book) and Palin, quite a bit in over her head. John Edwards comes across as a bit of an egomaniac at times with ambitions far beyond both his abilities and his morals.

Really, though, do politicians ever come out squeaky clean? Do any of us come out spotless if someone is given an insider view?

When the story in Game Change narrows to the two primary candidates, Obama and McCain, two positive aspects of their character caught my attention. While there were certainly a few jabs back and forth, the rhetoric between McCain and Obama never reached anywhere near the negativity and ugliness of the recent 2010 elections. In 2008, McCain was quick to defend Obama against accusations by his supporters that Obama was a Muslim or un-American. I wish we had that kind of magnanimous spirit among more politicians these days.

McCain was also unwilling to criticize his running mate although many of the members on his campaign team were doing just that, and in some cases, leaking statements to the press. In the end, I, like a lot of people, believe Palin was a major factor in McCain's loss, and there are hints in the book that he was aware of problems with Palin. But whether McCain regretted choosing Palin as his running mate, I have no idea. He certainly never voiced that opinion if he did come to privately regret his decision.

As for Obama, his campaign seemed to be more difficult when he was running against Hillary Clinton for his party's nomination than when he was running against McCain for the presidency. There were obvious hard feelings felt by the Clintons toward Obama, evidenced not just in the primaries but also in the begrudging eventual and seemingly half-hearted endorsement that Clinton finally gave to her former rival.

Thus, it is all the more amazing that Obama asked Clinton to be his Secretary of State. The book reveals that she turned him down multiple times, and he all but begged her to be part of his cabinet. She would have been easy to write off and ignore, but he took a higher road and deferred to her greater knowledge of the political system and experience with world affairs. The book ends with this banding together of two formal rivals

Again, if you are a strong loyalist to any of these individuals, or even if you have an insurmountable hatred for one or more of them, this may not be the book for you. However, if you can push aside your political predispositions and look at 2008 as a most amazing year in the political history of our nation, I highly recommend Game Change as a most fascinating read.

I read Game Change in the Kindle app on my iPad, but it is also available in paperback, hardcover, or audio formats. Click link below.