Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why I'm So Cynical

September 23, 2004

I mentioned in my first column of the semester that I must echo much of the American populace by saying that I think both candidates act like the same person in spite of attempts to convince us that they are complete opposites. I'd like to talk about that a little more as the election approaches.

Bush and Kerry's propaganda machines have spent the last months trying to make the two candidates look as different as possible, and the stupidest little things have become huge news. The other day, for instance, I picked up and flipped through Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry in a bookstore. When I looked at its dozen-odd pages of endnotes, I discovered that a book which purported to be about the service of one person in Vietnam contained less than 10 sources from before the 1990s. But nobody cares. Kerry's machine is playing his Vietnam service against Bush's National Guard duty, the Bush machine is fighting back, and the only thing that matters to either is the news coverage.

Remember, you can't think about this in terms of one person versus another. These are not individuals running for an office anymore. These are organizations scrabbling for power and trying to convince you that their ideals are the correct ways of life. Bush has appeared at the NASCAR pits and on the cover of Country Music Weekly opposite George Strait because his publicity machine knows his audience. They want you to think that a vote for him is a vote for biscuits and sausage gravy, and that Kerry just wants to abort babies and raise taxes. Their jobs are to make someone, who after three years of coaching still can't pronounce "nuclear," look like he's competent to lead the free world. The Kerry machine is frantically trying to convince America that a vote for this horse-faced socialite who's never held a regular job is a vote for more civilized behavior as a nation and that Bush is just a well-connected redneck who's riding this cash cow we call a country for his daddy's oil business.

Of course, none of these caricatures can possibly even approach the truth, but people fall for it all the same. Bush and Kerry both want to centralize intelligence gathering in America (which I cannot believe is going uncontested after the discovery of the FBI's Carnivore e-mail monitoring program less than a decade ago), ban gay marriage (though Kerry would support the "civil union" band-aid fix), increase the size of the government (though governmental downsizing has historically been one of the strong points of the Republican Party) and neither side wants to hear a third-party candidate talk in the debates they've scheduled. After all, he might shatter the carefully constructed illusion of dichotomy. He might have something new to say, something to show the people that this is not a war between rednecks and hippies, between dumb jocks and sniveling nerds, between cowboys and diplomats, but a real election in a real world where there are more than two courses of action available. The current arrangement is far too convenient to even risk such a thing.

Go vote! There's a registration drive in the Student Union outside of Vic's today, so you've got no excuse for not registering. One other item: Jason Cole wanted it to be known that it was his keen nit-picking eye which caught my slip on the Green Party's candidacy in these elections. Write to me at if you have something to say.


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