Staff of the Goths, DNC, RNC, and Why This Election is Very Important to Me

Now, Heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster and right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don’t blame You, I know You’re angry that the Republicans tried to blame You for Katrina by calling it an “Act of God”–when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over 1,000 people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You.

– Michael Moore’s prayer – Hello, God: About the Hurricane

Hurricane Gustav is a serious topic but Michael Moore’s prayer made me chuckle. There is gleaming truth behind the parody. On a serious note, I’m glad Moore’s prayer was partially “answered.” Gustav weakened as it hit Louisiana. FEMA and the Bush administration did much better this time around, learning from the past nightmare that was Katrina. But the plight of the people in New Orleans, as well as all those who were in the path of Gustav, are far from over. I send my prayers to all of them. I hope they get back on their feet real soon.

Why this election is very important to me

It’s my first time to pay attention and watch major political party conventions. In the past I didn’t care too much. That’s because I wasn’t qualified to vote. It was just recently that I became an American citizen. So, like a lot of the youth voters out there, I belong to the demographic known as “league of first time voters.”

Regardless of our political preference, if we’re qualified to vote and this election hasn’t fired us up already, chances are we’re either callous, or just plain ignorant – a very unhealthy attitude for someone who had been blessed to live in a great nation of freedom and opportunity.

I’m neither patriotic nor nationalistic. In fact, I don’t really like politics. I grew up jaded by shallow politics in a developing nation, wherein popularity and pandering to the uneducated and religious populace are winning strategies. At least, here in U.S., the politics is a bit more sophisticated, even if it’s just on the surface. So in spite of my distrust and disgust with politics, I’m doing my civic duty to keep abreast on this election.

Aristotle was right. Man is a political animal by nature. This election has awakened my inner political beast.

My thoughts on the DNC

By all standards the 2008 Democratic National Convention was a resounding success. There may still be lingering tensions with the Clintons (and their supporters) but this was put to rest during the convention. The Democratic party is now united and looking formidable, unbeatable even. Barack Obama’s historic nomination and acceptance speech are now in the history books of American and international politics. Even Pat Buchanan loved Obama’s speech. That says a lot.

But when we consider the fact that Obama’s speech generated more than 38 million views (note that this doesn’t include internet statistics) that tells us something bigger is happening, beyond what the political pundits and talking heads on the media could ever imagine. It’s a phenomenon greater than Obama. And Obama has captured it well in his speech when he said:

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me; it’s about you.

Obama is right. But I would add that Obama as a symbol is not only about “us” Americans. It’s about people all over the world who dream of being inspired by a political champion. Consider this reaction from someone across the globe who’ve seen Obama’s speech via the internet.

Today, 10AM Manila time, I witnessed a moment in history that moved me to tears and overwhelmed me with emotions. I saw a multitude of hopefuls (multi-racial Americans) listen to a man talk about not just his dreams for his nation but his promise as well…and he said all these with such sincerity and eloquence…and I wondered, do we have an equivalent here in our land?

I empathize with that. I grew up in the same developing nation where such political leadership qualities (as symbolized by Obama) had been lacking.  So never mind the fleeting national polls. Attention is everything.

My thoughts on the RNC

It’s unfortunate that the Republican National Convention had been impacted by Gustav and bogged down by protests. Even if I had already decided that I would vote Democrat in this election, I’d still like to see how the GOP would present its candidates and woo the conservative base. I think it’s a blessing in disguise that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney weren’t able to show up in the convention. The last thing that John McCain would want is an endorsement from the most unpopular president in U.S. history and from a Vice-President who is loathed by many.

But my remaining respect for McCain was completely erased when he treated this election as a game of football and threw a “Hail Mary.” McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate is not a trademark of a “maverick.” It’s a clear sign of desperation and pandering to the lowest order. No matter how the GOP talking heads spin it, it can be summed up like this: John McCain would rather win an election than pick a qualified VP running mate. The rest are obligatory party-loyalty spins. It’s not about Sarah Palin, “it’s McCain’s character, stupid!

That said, George Lakoff is right. It would be foolish for the Democrats to underestimate Sarah Palin.

Election campaigns matter because who gets elected can change reality. But election campaigns are primarily about the realities of voters’ minds, which depend on how the candidates and the external realities are cognitively framed. They can be framed honestly or deceptively, effectively or clumsily. And they are always framed from the perspective of a worldview.

The Obama campaign has learned this. The Republicans have long known it, and the choice of Sarah Palin as their vice presidential candidate reflects their expert understanding of the political mind and political marketing. Democrats who simply belittle the Palin choice are courting disaster. It must be taken with the utmost seriousness.

In short: Issues are secondary, worldviews and framing are primary. Even McCain’s campaign manager agrees:

Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain‘s presidential bid, insisted that the presidential race will be decided more over personalities than issues during an interview with Post editors this morning.

“This election is not about issues,” said Davis. “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.”

Exactly. Like I said previously, whether we’re aware of it or not, we pick the presidential candidate who shares our worldview.

Of course I’m biased! Show me someone who’s not.

A couple of days ago, I had this tweet exchange with Clay Shirky.

c4chaos: @cshirky yes, brilliant and *devious* – – just hoping that the target demographics would see through the cracks.
3 days ago – View Tweet

cshirky: @c4chaos Can’t see “devious.” Seems pretty straighforward to me — “If having a conservative woman in the White House appeals, vote for us.”
15 minutes later - View Tweet

c4chaos: @cshirky I was referring to the “devious” tactics. then again it’s politics.
17 minutes later – View Tweet

cshirky: @c4chaos Hardest discipline in political analysis is holding yr side to same standards as yr opponents. Palin and Biden are equally devious.
about 4 hours later – View Tweet

c4chaos: @cshirky so true. but it applies to almost any divisive topics. confirmation bias is part of our cognitive nature.
about 2 hours later – View Tweet

I appreciate the reminder. Shirky is right. I would even go farther to say that confirmation bias and tendency to fall for narrative fallacy are parts of our cognitive nature.

Then again, I’m not in the business of doing political analysis. Political pluralism and relativism has its place. But there are times when we have to be bold and clear where we stand while calling a spade a spade. I’m neither Democrat nor Republican. I value my independence and prefer to exercise my critical thought process. In the end, I vote with issues and with my worldview.

Dennis Kucinich may have looked silly in his DNC speech. But there is truth to his ballsy call to arms: Wake up, America! Wake up, America! Wake up, America!

The Democratic party speaks the language of a post-American worldview while the Republicans continue to speak the old and tired language of social conservatism that is no longer suited for a nation that wields such superpowers on the world stage. I hope that majority of Americans who would go to the polls this November would find it in their hearts that this is not the time to be U.S.-centric. This is the time for us and America to wake up.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (2)

  1. […] are secondary, worldviews and framing are primary. Pandering to the lowest common denominator is key […]

  2. I Just Casted My Vote for Obama-Biden < ~C4Chaos on Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    […] my country of origin. But as a first generation immigrant and a first time voter here in the U.S., this election is very important to me. I followed it since the primaries. I got to know all the candidates. I watched the debates. I read […]