Staff column: Confusion after the conventions
In the last two weeks I have watched both political conventions and during both I thought there were some outstanding moments, and some low moments as well. Depending on your point of view, I guess one had more of those than the other, but for me they were about equal.
All both of them did is prove to me that American seems to be moving more toward polarization than ever.
I know that candidates for president really need to play to the middle of the road so they can win an election. It used to be that much of the country was either decidedly Republican or Democratic. But most statistics today show that our republic has a lot more independent voters than it used to. I think that is something our founding fathers would like, particularly George Washington who hated the idea of political parties.
Elections have become so much about winning for the party that we forget that the winner should be elected for the people of this country. And I think for all Americans that have an interest in the race, many of us find ourselves in a quandry. The problem I have is that I am not a single issue guy; I have a wide range of views some of which fit into a conservative line while others fall more left of center.
As I have looked at the Obama ticket and the McCain ticket I've found myself agreeing and disagreeing with each of them on many things. I spend little time worrying about their family or personal life, but do care about what kind of philosophies they have spoken about in the past as compared to what they are saying now. That doesn't mean I could put anyone down for having changed their mind, I certainly have done that on a lot of issues over the years. I am more interested in how they have changed their minds.
I have to say there has only been one time since I turned voting age that I had a clear picture of who I wanted to vote for for president before I stepped into the voting booth. That time period makes for eight presidential elections when I couldn't make my mind up until the last minute. I don't know if that is a sad commentary on me or on the kinds of candidates we have had to vote for in the last 36 years. And unless something compelling happens, I will be that same way in this election.
I generally have little trouble picking out a person to vote for in local and state elections. I also never have been unsure about who I wanted to vote for in congressional races. Maybe that is because even though I have lived outside of Utah a couple of times, I never have lived anywhere else long enough to vote there. And in Utah, for me it is easy to pick, because the sides are either (1) so diametrically opposed that I had no problem picking out the one I liked the best, or (2) I happened to know the people running personally and prefer one over the other.
But in presidential politics I have found myself often lost. Not one person that has been sworn into office since I was 18 years old has fulfilled my dream of what a president should be. Realistically, I should know that probably could never happen, but I keep hoping that someday one of those presidents that we see in the movies comes to exist. You know the one I'm talking about: the guy or gal with honesty, integrity, leadership, intelligence, fairness and common sense. One that works for all Americans instead of a few; one that will stand up to the bullies of the world, but will have the sense to not take on things we shouldn't ever be involved in.
All the past presidents of my adulthood have lacked at least one of the above qualities and more often more than one.. We have had crooks, indecisive executives, bumblers, poor decision makers, economic knotheads, war mongers, outright liars, and a natural comedian (although his comedy has always turned out to be of the black variety). Some of our leaders have had many of these poor qualities; some of them only had one, but in those cases that one was a big problem for our country. By the time these past president's four or eight years in office were over I was glad to see us get rid of them, hoping for better times ahead, but never finding it. It's kind of like when you were a kid and you had to spend nine months in the meanest teacher in the schools classroom; you looked forward to the end of the school year. But then on the last day of school the principal posted the class lists for the next year and you found out you were enrolled in the second meanest teacher in the schools class the next fall.
Some people I know are sure of their choice for this election. They are either liberal enough or conservative enough to know what their choice is. It appears they can see things much more clearly than I certainly can. It seems they have a crystal ball and are convinced they are right and that things will be great if only __________ gets elected.
The way I see it, right now anyway, we are once again in a crap shoot. Maybe we will get lucky and one of the two large party candidates running will turn out to be great presidential material.
But I'm certainly not going to bet the farm on it.