The far-right perfected the art of demonizing its opponents—but the left is no slouch either. Romney—a rather bland, non-committal alternative to fire-breathers like Rick Santorum and Herman Cain—isn't even distinctive enough to mark a strong contrast with Obama, who (health care excepted) has offered up a mostly milquetoast centrist agenda to those wishing to cash in their hope-and-change vouchers. Yet the left has still managed to build up an effigy of Romney as a heartless, hoarding Scrooge who'd steal the money under your grandmother's mattress.
Whenever I see political posts on Facebook—particularly the ones that passionately denigrate or celebrate a given presidential candidate—I can't help it... I feel a little pity for the person who posted it. I mean, come on... Obama vs. Romney? How much will it really matter in the end? Without a doubt, I will ultimately support Obama, but how do these people muster up so much enthusiasm or fire and brimstone for the lesser of two evils? There's a reason why the right wing establishment isn't overjoyed that Romney is their nominee; it's because he fails to assert himself convincingly in many of the issues that preoccupy the mouthbreathing Republican base. In Middle America, for instance, there are still people who imagine that the president, with the wave of his royal scepter, can outlaw abortion. Pragmatic candidates like Romney and Obama, on the other hand, understand the business of American politics. It's a lot like showbiz, actually: image is everything. It doesn't matter if Obama contributed to the recession, helped slow the recession, or had no discernible effect on the recession—if the economy is bad at the time of the election, he will be blamed for it by many voters. This is the crude populist thinking that tries to establish a meaningful correlation between any adjacent ready-to-hand variables. Again, the perception of effective leadership will always trump the complex realities—which most voters don't even seek out, at any rate. And if they craved thoughtful and challenging political analysis, where would they turn? The Today show? Newsweek? If the constituent gets lucky and finds a source for news and analysis that transcends the almighty blurb, then that source will inevitably be impugned on ideological grounds. Oh, you read X? That's just liberal propaganda.—or: You listen to Y? He's practically the mouthpiece of the Republican National Committee. Alternatively, you can always think about what Noam Chomsky says—that media outlets are essentially beholden, ideologically speaking, to their advertisers or donors. You might think you're reading all the news that's fit to print, but you're really reading all the news that JPMorganChase thinks is fit to print.
Hey, I'm not offering my viewpoint as a recommendation to anyone. I know I'm not fulfilling my civic duties by remaining detached and coolly cynical about these proceedings, but at the same time I'm not sure how to drum up excitement about the status quo. And when I see people regurgitating the Democratic talking points on Facebook like giddy cheerleaders, I get... kind of horrifed, actually—because now I'm seeing them in the same light that I saw all those brainwashed right-wing ideologues. It's a disturbing realization—that they're just dogmatists with empty slogans too.
As I said before—yes, I'll support Obama, but I'll do so with the same reluctant sense of duty that drags me out of bed on Monday mornings to go to work. There's no hope in it—and there's no certainly no sense of satisfaction that comes from electing someone I feel will make a real and substantial difference. We all know by now that a true dyed-in-the-wool liberal will not win a presidential election in this country—at least not in the foreseeable future—because 'liberalism' has been transformed (very effectively, I might add) into a dirty word by the right wing. So as a compromise, we get Obama.
To return to Romney's blunder again—that he doesn't care about Obama voters—when I hear anyone harping on this, I think, Really? This is what we're talking about? Of course, Romney doesn't care about Obama voters. And Obama probably doesn't care about Romney voters. Let's put on our big boy pants and face facts here. We all understand the hard truth, don't we?—that there is a strong ideological divide in this country that can't be remedied by rhetoric or P.R.? Romney only said what we know to be true—what is obviously true in American politics today: that a president's positions are dictated by his constituency and the practicalities of governance. The fact that we expect Romney to say otherwise exposes the political arena as second-rate theater on a grand scale. The script may change, but the actors remain the same—still strutting and fretting their hours upon the stage and signifying a whole lotta nothing.