Likening an interest in American politics to a committed relationship with someone terminally ill is a cynical and hyperbolic leap to make, but I’m going to make it anyway.
Part of you really does want to believe that things will one day get better, that your vain hopes will by some miracle be made real — and certain events may even serve to give them breath — but at day’s end, the relationship’s disappointment will prove to be as bitter as it is certain.
Let me be clear in saying that in no way am I suggesting this should preclude people from voting, or enable them succumbing to any level of apathy, because the political process is simply too important for that. I will also say, however, that it’s totally understandable for this generation’s politically active or inclined to harbor a degree of cynicism and disinterest with regard to the current State of the Union.
The first Democratic Presidential debate got off to a bad start before even beginning by being held in Las Vegas, the single most heinous example of wretched excess and debauched moralism this country has to offer. Why the DNC, in all its infinite wisdom, chose the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah as the setting for their introduction to an already treacherous endeavor for the White House is very much beyond me. Whatever, suck it up.
I’m writing this in a cardigan sweater from behind horn-rimmed glasses, drinking cold brew coffee and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes while listening to music that was already pretentious when they recorded it 60 years ago. In other words, I am doing everything in my power to embody as many stereotypes associated with the deplorable bleeding heart liberal as possible.
Making my disappointment and distaste for the opening debate all the more meaningful. The current GOP candidates for the 2016 election have swiftly and irrevocably revealed themselves as a gaggle of outrage-mongers and media whores the likes of which this country has not seen in recent memory. My favorite analogy for the party’s showing thus far is that of a clown car full of expensive suits, which makes me want to chuckle and weep all at the same time.
Ben Carson, for example, who is currently running second in the polls, has somehow managed to make a cocktail of blatant stupidity and political obtuseness something the American public is able to swallow. Ted Cruz is an ogre and Jeb Bush an amoeba. To say nothing of the hysterically absurd and unfortunately infamous Donald Trump, a man I will not deign to recognize as a “candidate” even in the loosest and most inclusive sense of the term.
But Hillary Clinton is a soft candidate; she is running on the sole precedent of being Hillary Clinton, which would be commendable if not for the fact that her policies are ambivalent at best and worryingly impressionable at worst. Bernie Sanders, for all his radical promises of governmental overhaul, will never win the electoral college, because candidates who run on a campaign of anti-candidacy always reach a point of having to contradict their supposedly impregnable values — no matter how provocative and anti-establishment they initially market themselves as being.
And the rest seriously do not bear mentioning. Jim Webb made a right fool out of himself almost immediately by openly bitching about unfair delegation of time for questions directed towards him (something known to be agreed upon by the committee beforehand); he sounded like a fucking child behind the podium. Martin O’Malley’s responses closely resembled those of a weak link on some high school debate team. And Lincoln Chafee looked like a very lost and confused old man up on that stage, indeed.
Nobody seemed to have anything grounded or decisive to say on the critical subjects of gun-control, foreign policy, campaign finance or education — which, to be fair, is more or less the norm in any presidential campaign. And what CNN themselves have proclaimed to be the “high-point” of the debate came when Sanders played to the crowd by defending Clinton with regard to the drawn out and ultimately irrelevant matter of [sic] “her damn emails”.
I do not yet “Feel the Bern”, sacrilegious though that may be to admit as a lifelong Democrat. For starters, I cannot take seriously a presidential candidate who refers to himself in the third person on national television. Yes, Sanders may appear to be a breath of fresh air by identifying himself as a “democratic socialist” (we’ve come a long way since McCarthyism), but the fact remains that he is just as susceptible to political success as any other person who thinks they’re capable of single-handedly curing the nation’s problems.
To put it bluntly, none of these people are leaders — not yet, at least. And to be this aware of that so early on is genuinely frightening, regardless of your party affiliation. I voted to re-elect Obama not because I agreed with all of his policies, but because I could tell that he was a leader. The fact is that most people old enough to vote are not going to cast their ballot based on a candidate’s policies so much as they will on how discernible a leader said candidate is.
In other words, people want to like their president, even if they are bound to end up hating him (or her). It really is that simple. Not only do none of the DNC’s offerings qualify as being likable — and I won’t bother to specify that to be accurate of the GOP’s — but none of them convey an image of true leadership. Say what you will about the man, but Barack Obama is one hell of a leader, and there’s no denying that when you hear him speak. His victory speech in 2012 brought tears to my eyes, made me feel genuinely inspired; and I have a hard time believing that will be true of whoever delivers theirs in 2016.