Saturday, October 09, 2004

Peer Pressure

Everybody else I know with a blog is talking about the debates, so I guess I ought to throw in my two cents, too. Just watched the tape of it, and, while I obviously agreed more with Kerry's take on things, I think it'll come down to a draw. Once Bush took a chill pill, after Kerry smacked him down about the size of the coalition in Iraq, he was, for him, clear and to the point. Damn near lucid. From a brief look at the editorials, though, his deeply unhinged first thirty minutes may take center stage. To counter this, Bush will almost surely start throwing like mad the 'John Kerry = Liberal' tag from now until November. His campaign is no stranger to decontextualization, so doing so will be very easy. Debate no. 3, for that very reason, might be a problem for Kerry. For his part, Kerry was much the same as he was in the first debate. I don't think he did much to shoot himself in the foot, and may've even been a bit more appealing to Independents and women. I will be surprised if this debate gains Bush more votes than it possibly might for Kerry.

The real winners of the debate, ideally, are all those undecided voters out there. If you can't find the pertinent differences in the candidates through this debate, then I'm not sure what will do the trick. If it is less about identifying their respective differences, and more about the fact that neither candidate represents your view of the world in full, then I invite you to a mental exercise.

First, identify that issue which is most important to you in the election (foreign policy, gay marriage, abortion, taxes, etc.), pull it aside for a moment and look at the remaining issues.

Second, walk through the remaining issues one at a time, Googling where necessary, and determine which candidate best represents your view / attitude to each particular issue, based upon the incumbent's record (very important, that) and the contender's, and his party's, perspective. If you find choosing one or the other difficult, place yourself on a spectrum between the two candidates. The important thing, of course, is not to simply parrot the opposite party's perspective of its opponent. Rather, when it comes to Bush's record, try to focus on what appears to you as the real implications and results of his administration thus far, and compare with Kerry's criticisms; as for Kerry's perspective of the world and American policy, i.e., what he thinks ought to be done, look at his proposals and decide how or if they jive with what you believe is best. The point is not simply to try to find the truth laying behind a policy, a ticklish search that often tends to say more about your sources than it does about the truth itself, but to find the spirit in which said policy is enacted or proposed. It's not that reality or facts don't matter -- this isn't some exercise in relativism, mind -- but just that we ought first to be self-conciously aware of the individual and collective perspectives from which this sort of truth, be it about ourselves or the world around us, is embodied -- emerges, lives, and breathes.

Third, and finally, as a kind of type-breaker question look at that issue that you pulled aside, that which is most important to you, and ask (aloud if necessary): 'When looking at the other issues, it would appear that __________ best represents me and my perspective? However, with regard to my most important issue, do I think this candidate will fuck things up any worse than they already are? Yes or No.' And leave it at that. Don't worry if Bush or Kerry, depending on whom the other issues show more to represent you and your perspective, will make this important issue go away, or solve it, or keep it safe. Just focus on whether or not you suspect their presence and policies in the White House will fuck things up even more they probably already are, supporting your answer with a short explanation. If you can only sincerely and coherently answer 'yes' to this final question, in such a way that makes sense to you on either an emotional, spiritual, or intellectual level, then, yes, you have a problem, and I can only suggest you remain undecided and keep repeating until November 2. Otherwise, hell, shit or get off the pot.

UPDATE: I edited this post a bit since first publishing it, to make the general point a bit more clear.