This morning, my wife walked into the living room and looked at me. I was sitting on the floor with Jonathan, who was busy using me as an obstacle course for his monster trucks. I could tell by the look on her face that something was on her mind, and she sighed.
“I just heard Michelle Obama’s speech,” she said, “and I don’t understand why people hate her so much.”
I’ll cop to not watching the speech in its entirety; I’ve mostly read excerpts and selects from the address that the First Lady delivered on Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. By all accounts, Mrs. Obama, as Ann Romney before her, did her husband well with her presentation: she humanized her husband without venturing too far into the pratfalls of standard political speech.
Both women referenced what their spouses would do as President, but they did so in a winsome way that didn’t smack of the usual poo-flinging, an accomplishment that made both speeches darn near transcendent.
Rachel’s point was that Michelle Obama is clearly a loving wife, mother and intelligent woman, and whatever her political faults may or may not be, she seems to be a decent person nonetheless. Rachel opined that the same may be said of many of the people involved in the presidential campaigns, but that reality is getting lost amidst the discord and competing vision for our collective future.
I thought it was an interesting train of thought. Then I read this quote from Bill Clinton’s speech last night:
“Democracy does not have to be a blood sport. It can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest.”
You may or may not like Bill Clinton, you may or may not like his politics. But give the man this: he can certainly turn a phrase.
Or at the very least deliver a finely turned phrase.
Last night’s speech had a lot of content (at 48 minutes long, it was certainly wordy), but of all the things that our former President said, this was the phrase that lingered with me. Images of Jean Claude Van Damme aside, the term “blood sport” was so apropos of the political process of late (his hearkening to the potential nobility within our political process was charming, if not naive).
Bloodsport. Such a great image.
Both candidates have been bloodied of late. Mitt is an out-of-touch, silver-spooned fiscal terrorist who will do his best to make sure that the poor and middle-class become little more than fodder for his never-ending need of servants on his 47 yachts and various vacation palaces the world over.
Barack Obama is shady know-nothing who wants to overthrow the American government from the inside out by shredding the Constitution and implementing a series of deranged ideas borrowed from his late, anti-colonialist father.
Plus, neither of them like kittens.
Do both men have faults? Yes. They’re human after all. Do both men have strong points? Yes. They have achieved too much in life to be bereft of any redeeming qualities.
Would either man make a good president? Well, this may roil the waters a bit, but I say yes. The office of the president is meant to be value neutral – it reflects the character of the person who holds it. I think both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are men of character who would do the office justice.
But that’s not the way we work anymore. If the men up for election were to hold the office as an extension of the American will, and not merely a platform for their party’s ideology, we would be better off. Unfortunately we live in a time where that can’t happen anymore. Compromise, cooperation – these are political codewords for cowardice and failure, and as such they cannot be tolerated in our politicians. And so the different parties are doomed to duke it out for supremacy as the only way to guarantee that any type of progress is actually made.
Nevermind that the competing versions of progress may not be progress at all.
So the battle rages. A fight to the death. Two parties enter, one party leaves.
I could spin my wheels some more, but I think I’ll end with this: when Rome fell, one of its primary pasttimes was turning captured slaves against one another in the vain pursuit of freedom, all done to the tune of a chanting, enraptured public.
Sounds vaguely familiar…