It’s the day after election day, and I have a few links for you to check out, a few statements of the obvious, and absolutely no deep thoughts. We have our first African-American President, a high-speed train linking southern and central California may be closer to being built (whether or not people actually use it is another question entirely), California’s constitution was amended in a way that reflects poorly on us as a people, and chicken cages will be larger – though the necessity of such a measure is sure to be highly debated by poultry farmers and animal rights activists and nobody else. I, for one, am glad that the whole thing is over. Over for the moment, anyway.
I have to say, I was impressed by McCain’s concession speech – after a messy and often ugly campaign, it seemed to sum up the important fact that, whoever is up to bat, we are all playing for the same team. However, call me a cynic if you will, but I suspect that the amount of venom that has been spewed by pundits and activists from, in favor of, and against both of the major parties over the last two decades may have created an environment so toxic that even a well-written and well-delivered speech from such a high-profile figure as McCain will do little to alleviate it. Unfortunately, it seems that too many people have ceased viewing the political opposition as opponents and started seeing them as enemies. Then again, perhaps I’m just grumpy and cynical (at least, I hope that I’m just grumpy and cynical).
The day of the election, this post at one of my favorite blogs referenced a podcast that I regularly listen to, Common Sense With Dan Carlin**. In episodes 135 and 136, Carlin discusses the level of politically-motivated invective currently entrenched in the media, and discusses both the impacts that this has had and is likely to continuing having on how the citizens of the US view elected officials, as well as his own experiences having been a political talk radio host and having dealt with the pressure to be unreasonable in order to get ratings. It’s worth listening to, and gets one thinking about how at least some portion of the current radicalization of many politicians may have more to do with attempting to appeal to an electorate that seems to be increasingly viewing politics as a form of pseudo-gladiatorial entertainment rather than a system for organizing government, and how our media is feeding into this tendency.
I would also point you towards and episode of the Seanachai titled "I Voted?", in which Patrick McLean makes the point that we tend to credit or blame our elected officials in general, and our executive officials in particular, with things that they have limited or no control over. Given the amount of change that people are expecting of Obama, I can't help but imagine that people will be very disappointed with him over things that he likely has little to no control over (though, perhaps, he promised to much during the campaign). Anyway, something else to ponder.
Interestingly, I also heard a good argument for another source of the current level of political poison from a source that I didn’t expect it. I love listening to the Hometown Tales podcast, and their election-day episode (episode #254) was “tales of the presidents” – oddball facts and little-known information related to each of the presidents. The show is high on fun, generally low on substance, but towards the end of the episode they discuss George W. Bush’s legacy, and one of them comments that the degree of vitriol worked up over Bush may be due not only to the 24-hour news cycle (which this sort of thing is often blamed on, and with good reason), but also due to the fact that the advent of blogs and podcasting means that A) anyone can be an “expert” regardless of how much or little sense they actually make, and B) there is a greater ability for people to lock themselves into an “echo chamber” of opinion (my term, not theirs), where they constantly have their own views reinforced without reality or context intruding (the “echo chamber” idea is one that has concerned me for some time, actually). As a result, while Bush has certainly had his problems (I, for one, am no fan of his and really can’t grasp why anyone would be), these have been exaggerated by the nature of information during the times in which we live.
I have no real discussion, nothing much to add – I have just been thinking about these things a lot, and I thought these were good links to point you folks towards. I hope you are all well, and that the outcome of the election does ultimately bring us more good than ill – though I doubt it will bring the sort of massive change that so many seem to believe.
*I really enjoy this show, and it is one of the few political shows that I can stomach. I frequently disagree with Dan Carlin’s conclusions, but as he actually takes the time to explain where he is coming from, rather than going for the usual “this is the PROPER liberal/conservative thing to believe” I find myself often hearing a well-articulated argument for another position. Sometimes he changes my mind, sometimes he doesn’t, but I always find it valuable. Also, unlike most political talk show hosts, Carlin changes his mind when presented with good arguments or better information, and he’s not afraid to say so when it happens. He, correctly, sees the ability to change one’s mind as a strength and not a weakness – if only this attitude were more common, and truly was “common sense.”