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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fear and loathing -- 2008 style

Hunter S. Thompson must be wishing he could write about this campaign.

The father of gonzo journalism could well be considered a swing voter in this upside down year -- an advocate of guns and drugs, often at the same time. But his unique take on things would be a welcome change from the real fear and loathing that is the hallmark of Campaign 2006.

Let's start with the day's news: those "values voters" we've heard so much about finally expose the real underlying issue of this campaign. And the campaign of John McCain proves a bit prickly when it their own words are sent back at them. It's not the typing part -- it's the total unfamiliarity with the concept guys.

Which brings me back around to the sad state of Campaign 2008. Where are the issues?

Submerged under the mud being heaped to avoid discussion of the war, the economy and the legacy of eight years of Republican White House control and six years of Republican congressional rule.

Barack Obama caught fire for his call for change. But change from what? In the feeble attempt to co-opt the issue, the McCain camp believes it's simply a change in who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But the millions of idealistic folks who have signed up to vote this year -- many of them young and previously turned off by politics -- are yearning for a change from politics as usual, the politics practiced by George W. Bush and his handlers, a politics now being practiced by John McCain.

What is that politics? Turn them off, they stay at home and McCain wins.

Cynicism is at the heart of Republican presidential strategies -- and has been for awhile. The shorthand of course is guns, God and gays. Divert attention from war and poverty and focus on the raw emotions. It worked for Nixon and both Bush 1 and II. Earnest but inarticulate Democrats named McGovern, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry were no match for the Cynical Talk Express.

Now McCain, the supposed maverick, has caught the same "get elected at any cost" virus. He has flipped on immigration and taxes to bowed at the altar of the Theocons -- all the while proclaiming he still stands for straight talk. Heck, I expect him to proclaim any day now that he's a uniter, not a divider,

I don't rule that a President McCain (the thought makes me shudder) could behave more like McCain 2000 than the current model. But there's one major reason yet another flip-flop would be unacceptable: the governor of Alaska.

By cynically selected a completely untested and unready running mate like Sarah Palin -- bypassing experienced GOP women like Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas or Olympia Snowe of Maine -- McCain chose politics as usual over change.

That's not a change anyone should believe in. And that's they key to the strategy. Alienate the idealistic young base that flocked to Obama this year and have them sit on their hands, fed up over the lack of change in the way we tackle the pressing problems they are inheriting.

At least someone gets it.

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