A Year Out From Election Day

When I started this blog, I intended to track the adventure of finding a life I felt had more substantive meaning. To varying degrees, I would judge both the experiment and the web-based diary have proven useful and worthwhile. Two years and about fifty-or-so posts later, I feel this space, like the journey, has to evolve a bit.

While abroad I found myself getting more interested in politics and matters playing out on the world stage. I was influenced by the people around from various countries, and with backgrounds and experiences much different than my own. In short, my worldview expanded. Therefore, I'm adding a new corner to my collection of written observations: politics. We'll see how long this sticks around or builds out, eh?

One year from now the United States will elect its 44th President and right now, there are about 16 different people vying for the office. For something so far off - or at least it feels that way - it seems strange to be paying so much attention to it. Four years ago I was keenly aware of election season because of the prospect - and sadly the reality - of re-electing a man who misled the country into an unnecessary war. This time around it is a question of who will pick up where he leaves off and try to right the ship that has gone so far off course.

If I had to make a wager at this point, I’d have to go with the odds on favorite, Hillary Clinton. She’s got the machine behind her. But hey, Gore won the popular vote and managed to lose the Electoral College. Bush managed to win twice. Neither were easy feats. My point: Anything’s possible.

I think I’m more tuned in than usual at this point because my short stint abroad made me keenly aware how much the rest of the world dislikes the United States right now. Aside from Jamaicans of various economic stripes, I had the opportunity to meet folks from a handful of other countries and the verdict was clear: the U.S. has made a mess with its foreign policy decisions. Supporting the transition to Democracy around the world is one thing. Forcing it on countries just because you carry the bigger stick is quite another. Our jingoism and treading on the very international rights we’ve championed for years have made us none too popular with the other kids and our global reputation is paying the price.

How to fix it? That might be a topic for when I have more time. For now, I’m interested to see who wants to inherit this mess and what they are saying - if anything - about how they plan to fix it. As I said, Clinton is the likely horse coming from the Democrats and what she says is pretty calculated and expected. Whereas Mr. Obama, the darling of the moment, appears to be much sizzle and little steak, Clinton is devoid of sizzle and the steak appears to be a bland medium. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what she is doing. She is more than capable for the job, but the same could be said for many of the long-standing senators and governors comprising the Democrats’ cast of candidates.

As I said, Obama is all the rage these days. Of course, I have to say that being a Chicagoan. I was slightly familiar with the name when he was a state senator here in little ‘ol Illinois and have watched him do, well, little since going to Washington. His campaign is all sizzle trying to mask what appears to be few substantive ideas behind the “hope and change” rhetoric. Hope for what and change of what, exactly? I don’t know. That’s not to say he wouldn’t be good at the job. The guy is clearly smart as a whip, and very cool, calm and collected. Almost to a fault. Perhaps someone with a shallow history in Washington is just what the doctor ordered. Richardson appears the only governor left in the field and a scan of recent decades shows that we haven’t had a legislator-turned-president since Kennedy. And before anyone tells me Hillary gained governing experience by being in Bill’s Oval Office for eight years, don’t. People do not learn things simply by watching. For example, I was raised by a teacher. My sister is a teacher. I basically spent my formative years living at my grade school being raised by teachers. I tried being a high school teacher in Jamaica and guess what? The Almighty did not put me on this earth to be a teacher and I sure did not pick it up after years of “being around it.” You have either done it, or you haven’t. Full stop.

Of course I look on the other side and see the governing experience the Democrats lack. Huckabee, Romney, and Giuliani are the only ones left who have experience holding an executive office overseeing millions of people. Of course Giuliani, or as I call him, Rudy Nine Eleven, wants us to just be scared of everything. The man has me seeing terrorists in my cereal. Not good. Romney did a pretty decent thing expanding health care in Massachusetts but economically the Bay State doesn’t look like it’s faring well. Not a good selling point for a guy who is supposed to be a financial boss and definitely at odds with his reputation for turning around the Winter Olympics in 2004. Huckabee seems earnest and practical enough but listening to some of his speeches leaves me feeling he could swing to the social conservative side a bit more than most of this country would like. However, his state seems to be in decent shape so it’s hard to fault him too much at this point.

I’m happy to see McCain still in it. I’m still baffled how he lost in 2000. He had the drop on W in almost every category: experience, moral authority, and pragmatism. And I’ll admit, that is one example where having governing experience may not mean so much. I suppose I should clarify and say, “successful” governing experience. Bush has been a trainwreck in almost everything he has touched in business and politics. Regardless, I don’t know if McCain will last simply because folks will beat up on him about his age -- and that he’ll be a continuation of the mess we’ve got now. In fact, that’s probably the albatross around every Republican’s neck: their current leader. All you have to do is play a guilt-by-association game and you win.

But that’s my feeble take on things. I know the hurly burly world of politics is more complex than anything I have time to explore at this point. And there are miles to go before we sleep. So let’s watch the fun unfold, eh?