The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Obligatory Day After Election Day Post

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.”


Your favorite sister said...

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...

You may as well insert any given President-elect's name there. I, for one, can't understand why so many attribute so much power to this office. While it's true that the US Presidency does hold much sway, oftentimes those things that a President is credited with (or discredited, as the case may be) are items that he held little to no control over in the first place.

However, I will admit a slightly greater degree of concern about this presidency; not of the man himself, but of his supporters, who seem to think that their lives are going to be substantially transformed by the simple marking of a ballot. Such unrealistic expectations of Obama's most rabid supporters is - to me - the most depressing result of a generally increased reliance upon government as an agent of change as opposed to the self.

I think there are many, many, many Obama supporters who are going to be disappointed when they wake up on January 21st to find that their lives are going to be more of the same.

Anthroslug said...

That's pretty much what I was getting at - no mattere how good he is, he won't be able to meet expectations because, well, the structure of the government is such that he simply can't.

I don't know that this is a modern phenomenon, as you seem to suggest, as I have read of historical leaders from many different countries (including the US, but harkening back to ancient Rome) being met with similar unrealistic expectations.

Of course, a Roman emperor was more powerful than the president. But, then, of course, a pre-Imperial Roman Consul wasn't.

Evan Davis said...

I'm not sure about how much change he is not going to exact. He has a democratic house and senate. This could be a good thing or a really bad thing. I don't know.

All in all I am pleased with the election.

Oh and "I, for one, am no fan of his and really can’t grasp why anyone would be". Well, look at it from my perspective. I received huge tax rebates; the price of gas only went up when my commute dropped to 10 minutes; house prices are finally at a price where I can afford one; and I am now ready to start a retirement fund in a deflated market that should only go up from here.

If all these things were attributed to George Bush then I would be a fan. Since I'm smarter than that I am not, but I still am unsure about what horrible attrocities that Bush comitted.