Lies, Damn Lies, and National Division

I’ve just been pondering a problem I’ve pondered before, and cannot see a solution to.

One thing I heard a fair bit of both before and after the election was a frustration at some people’s reasons not to vote for Kerry, because they were at odds with his platform. The idea being that someone who was dissatisfied with Bush but voting for him anyway because they were against gay marriage and turning tail in Iraq was dumb or ill-informed, because Kerry was also on record as being against those things.

The problem here is that we’ve come to a point where it’s very hard to reach across the political divide on issues, because the people on the other side just won’t believe you. In this case, I suspect a lot of the folks on the red side of the divide just didn’t believe that Kerry wasn’t lying through his teeth, all the while planning to surrender Baghdad to Zarqawi while raising taxes to all-time highs and making it legal to marry a box turtle.

It’s not a one-way divide, either. Let’s hypothesize, for the sake of argument, that the President had gone on national TV last week and said that in a second term he would allow most of the tax cuts to expire on schedule, replace Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, repeal the more egregious provisions of the PATRIOT Act, and leave gay marriage and other social issues to the states like a good conservative should.

Well, I’d think that was a hell of an improvement to his platform. But I wouldn’t have believed him. I don’t think many of the folks on the blue side of the divide would have. Not unless Rumsfeld and Ashcroft were on the street immediately, and even then it would seem awfully convenient.

I’m not sure how to wrestle with the credibility problem, but I think in a very real way it *is* the national division. We can’t start building consensus and compromise on issues when there’s that basic chasm of distrust to contend with.

Originally published on LiveJournal

The Company You Keep

I just finished working out my sample ballot for tomorrow. It’s pretty long; this is a proposition-heavy year even for California, and the propositions are of particularly poor quality. Even the ones I’m voting for I’m holding my nose a little bit.

The race I find most troubling, however, is my state assembly race, between Ira Ruskin and Steve Poizner. Ira Ruskin is a Democrat; I think I voted for him for City Council last year. I have no particular beef with him. But he’s run a campaign you could almost use as an example of how not to reach beyond your base. His home-stretch TV ad essentially says, “I’m an environmentalist because I was at the first Earth Day.” The whole campaign message boils down to, “I was a hippie, and I have the blessing of the Democratic machine.” I don’t usually have reflexive Gen-X reactions, but every time it comes on I find myself muttering, “Fucking boomers”.

Steve Poizner, on the other hand, is the kind of Republican the California GOP needs to find more of. He’s a pro-choice, pro-education fiscal conservative. I’m not totally thrilled with all his positions, but on the merits, I would feel compelled to give him a good hard look. Would, except for one important point.

I hate the Republican caucus of the California state legislature. I hate them a lot. They’re like the unscrupulous wing of the national GOP, without the moral and practical responsibility that comes from knowing you might someday have to run the joint. Every year, they dig in their heels and hold up the budget (to the extent that they have in the past refused to vote for any budget which included tax hikes while simultaneously refusing to suggest spending cuts. In some ways, thank God for Governor Schwarzenegger*; he seems to at least be able to drag them kicking and screaming to the table). They are, I think, an important reason why this state’s government is such a mess.

I just can’t bring myself to vote in any way that might strengthen their hand. That makes me sort of sad; I’d prefer to think that I’d vote for a Republican of sufficiently sterling qualities (and I would, in an executive position like Controller or Secretary of State — in fact, I have, though it’s been a few years). But in a legislative position, it just ain’t gonna happen. So Poizner gets no love from me.

It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with the Greens, that I only have one Green candidate on my ballot. If the Greens have a shot at state and local offices anywhere, it should be around here. If there were a Green in this race, I might have mixed it up a little.

*There’s a phrase I never expected to use.

Originally published on LiveJournal