Tag Archives: Election

It’s Morning In Ohio

Dispatches from a battleground state:

– I sip my Canadian coffee and eat a maple donut and think, “this might not be so bad.”

– I miss the old days, when the Olentangy river used to catch fire. Maybe I’ll get to see them again.

– Someone on the phone asks me who I’m voting for and I answer in Klingon. I’ve either said “Your mother’s a targ” or “ahead warp factor one.”

– We’re the state that elected Jim Trafficant. You sure you want us picking the president?

– No matter who wins in January, our defensive coach is probably out of a job.

– A recent NPR news story says that for every hour spent sitting, your lifespan is shortened by as much as 22 minutes. That means not only did I lose 4.5 hours of my time to the debates, but an hour and a half of my life.

– We eat buckeyes here, but they’re made of chocolate and peanut butter. The real ones will kill you.

– You may be targeting white males with ads during our Buckeye game, but I’m gonna get a beer.

– Our secretary of state fought in-person early voting. He lost.

– We hope both of you pick up after yourselves after rallying so hearty these last couple of weeks.

– O-H

Have a good day America.

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It’s Not The Economy, Stupid!

Both candidates for President have tried to frame the economy as being the most important issue. This is an assumption that is carried forward into mainstream news media, and just about every corner of political commentary.

But is the economy really how any of us are going to make our decision for president? Personally, I don’t buy it, and I think most of the reasons we vote for one guy or the other have little to do with the issues as everyone wants to frame them.

First off, many of us simply vote party lines. We’d rather vote for a dead republican than a live democrat. Now one could argue that we some of us choose the party we’re affiliated with because of economic philosophies, but those are general principles  not specific to an election cycle.

Many people don’t want to vote for Obama because he’s black, Muslim and not born in this country. Hopefully these people are in the minority, but there has been enough nonsense tossed around about these issues by news outlets like Fox News that more people believe them than ever should.

Many people have other wedge issues, abortion, gun rights that trump everything else.

Many people are uncomfortable with the fact Romney is Mormon. If you’re the kind of guy who makes his decision based on who you can have a beer with, or even coffee, Romney’s not your man. And I do think that there is a difference between evangelical Christianity and Mormonism  one that makes a lot of conservative Christians less than comfortable with him.

Many of us just don’t like the other guy’s personality. We think Obama is cold and a technocrat, and we think Romney is an arrogant jackass.

Most of us have still had jobs these last four years. As concerned as we might be about the economy in general, and whatever scares we might have been through, the story for the majority of Americans is one of continued employment. I’m not saying you can’t still be worried about the economy if you have a job, but I do think it leaves you more open to other factors in making your decision.

Many of us are concerned about international relations more than social issues. Iran is a threat and Syria is a human rights debacle. We want someone who is tough on our enemies  and doesn’t piss off our allies.

And lastly, most of us made up our mind about who to vote for months ago. In these last two weeks the candidates are fighting for an incredibly small but valuable piece of the pie. But even undecided voters will probably make their decision for a lot of the reasons I expressed above. It’s not like we don’t know both side’s opinion on how to handle the economy. In the end we just have to go with our gut.

Politics is sports, we root for the home team no matter how they are doing. Who won these debates is largely determined by who you liked in the first place. We cheer for our guy, and can’t believe how people could ever like the other guy. Its 6:28am and Romney still sucks, etc. We like to think that we are making these decisions for important reasons, and many of us are, just not the ones the candidates want to think we are.

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Focus!

So, ironically enough, I just got paid to give my political opinion.

Last Thursday I was invited to take part in a focus group on political and civic issues. We met on Monday night. Normally I don’t go in for this sort of thing. I don’t do surveys over the phone, and even less of the ones I get in my e-mail. I generally think that we poll too much as Americans, that we’re always asking for opinions before people have really had a chance to form them.

But $100 to sit in a room for two hours and talk, I’ll bite.

Aside from jokes my wife was making about the name “Harvest Research” and how she’d worry they’d taken my brain if I didn’t come home (a real nice joke to make to someone who’s been playing System Shock 2 for the last week), I was worried that I was going to be thrown in the midst of a fairly confrontational and controversial setting.

It’s one thing to be listen to extremist views of Facebook and the like, it’s quite another to be dragged into a conversation at work, or to choose to sit in a room with people who don’t agree with you.

I enjoyed it.

There were definitely a couple of early cringe moments, particularly when playing word association games with current and potential Presidents. There are a couple of the classic attacks of both sides that when I hear them causes me to have to use all my will power not to vent in frustration. However, the same could equally be said  of some of the things I say, and I was impressed at how civil and even convivial the conversation was.

We were a surprisingly diverse group, even with just eight people, all guys around my age. While we had been told to let every one talk and finish their sentences, there was no real disincentive preventing us from debating with one another, or even going on the offensive. We’d get paid either way. But we didn’t fight. Instead everyone displayed fairly sophisticated opinions and emotions regarding the election, the various political parties and the candidates. I felt comfortable sharing some of my own mixed views and disappointments, as well as my aspirations and hopes.

Additionally, we experienced a phenomena that I (perhaps this is biased) think is unique to men. Within less than two hours, a group of men who had little in common, and in fact openly disagreed with each other on important issues, were cracking jokes, both about ourselves, the situation, and our fellow focus group members. We took what I thought was going to be a kind of stressful situation, and made it fun.

It was the typical weird focus group experience. There were one way mirrors, and everything was being taped. But it was also a surprisingly vibrant and interesting discussion of the issues, without trying to make converts of the other people in the room. It was refreshing, at a time when I’ve been seeing a reacting to vitriol that is being spewed in so many other places on the web.

We need to do this more. Find people who disagree with us and invite them to dinner. Talk honestly about our feelings and our beliefs and really listen. Maybe it was the formalized setting. Maybe we felt we should behave because we were getting paid. But I actually think it was more than that. We can be better versions of ourselves if we just make a little effort.

And yes I still have my brain, though I think one of my kidneys is missing.

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Okay, enough with the crazy

I’m sure most of you don’t really care who I’m going to vote for in the 2012 election. I try to keep things around the blog from getting too political, in part because I think it detracts from the overall theme, and because I believe if I don’t have something to say on a subject, then I shouldn’t write about it.

Facebook on the other hand seems to bring out the crazy in everyone.

I have friends on both ends of the political spectrum, some who are moderates like myself who care about specific issues such as labor conditions or alternative energy, but most of the ones I see in my newsfeed are coming from the more extreme ends of the spectrum.

It was different when the internet was anonymous. People could spout off any opinion, take on any personality they wanted to online, and it wouldn’t be traced back to them. But now we really can’t lean on anonymity as our excuse for why we’ve gone off the deep end. It’s something else, a fracturing of society, an over simplification of viewpoint, I’m not sure what.

I’m a believer in the complex argument, in the discussion, in the long form communication. When I’m trying to wrestle with an idea I write about it essays, in short stories, even in novels. I try to listen to other people’s opinions and see where they are coming from and not assume they are the enemy.

We’re all in this together.

Regardless of who wins in November we will still be all in this together and sometimes it’s important to remember that when we say things that might lose our friends, or at least force them to stop following us in their newsfeed. 2012 won’t decide us, nor will 2016, or the next dozen elections. How we treat each other as people both online and off, will.

As a bit of sidebar, I think it is in extremely poor taste to joke about a heinous crime being the sign of a zombie apocalypse. If you actually think about what happened, it’s not something to joke about. I understand that zombies are kind of in again, that they have historically been used in all sorts of fiction to represent various fears, socialism, communism, etc. But biting a man’s face off while being high on drugs is not something to laugh about.

Think a little bit more about what you post, and what kind of person it’s making you.

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