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Politics as usual?

Good citizens are knowledgeable and involved. Ignorance has never made a great statesman, yet in this particular election season I find myself wishing to hear less and less from the candidates. Don’t misunderstand me; I am under no illusion that they have said much at all. I simply wish to hear less of the trite mumblings that have given rhetoric a bad name.

At one point in the short history of my life, I thought most people saw through obvious contradictions. For a politician to claim one thing and its opposite in the same speech would have been political suicide…once upon a time. Now, I fear we have descended to a new low. I fear the Sophists have won the day and we don’t realize it or, worse yet, simply don’t care. We smile contentedly as they promise the best of both worlds, physically impossible though they may be.

Barack Obama has promised that 95% of American households that make under $250,000 per year will have no new taxes imposed upon them. Hurray! He has also promised to put the majority of the tax burden on the top 5%, taxing big business (particularly oil companies) and the extremely wealthy. Yeah! Stick it to the man!

But, wait a minute. For whom do the 95% work? What happens to business owners and major corporations that have to bear the majority of the tax burden for the country (particularly under a president with a penchant for huge spending)? They go under. Eventually, businesses will close and corporations will fold under Obama’s tax plan.

Will the 95% be given tax breaks? Most likely, but it may be because they have no income.

What about McCain? His confusing thought is just as obvious. When speaking to Republican groups, particularly at the Convention, he delivered a remarkable address. I thought it was quite stirring and, at the time, I became even more convinced of his dedication to our country and his ability to lead it. His goal seemed to be to reassure some Republicans and let them know that he really is a conservative. Hurray!

But, what should we make of his speeches when he is outsideof predominantly Republican company. In the most recent debate, I lost track of how many times he spoke of “reaching across the aisle” or across “party lines” or the like. That sounds great and, in my opinion, should occur on many issues, but if he spends as much time reaching across the aisle as he indicates, then don’t we just end up spending our time across the aisle? He has even indicated that he has made his own party mad at him on several occasions.

Here’s how it shakes out in a very rough logical syllogism:

All McCain is a “maverick” (against his own party)

All McCain is a true conservative Republican (in line with his own party)

Therefore, A true conservative Republican in line with his own party is a maverick against his own party.

Perhaps this is a possibility, but it would require and deserve some explanation if so.

It is tempting to simply be angry with these two candidates, whether for outright dishonesty or incompetence, but the blame does not lie primarily with them. It is our fault. We have allowed ourselves to be happily duped. We refuse to read, reject critical thinking because it too difficult and time-consuming, and make little effort to better ourselves.

In November, as most of us step into a booth to cast a vote, we will peruse the candidates and we will see many names we do not recognize because we deemed it too insignificant to research. We will sigh as we begin to select our choice for president and wonder why we haven’t been given better options, all the while failing to recognize that the most troublesome contradictions during election season did not rest with the candidates at all.

P.S. – Dear Reader, consider this an impassioned call for the “change we need” from one eternal optimist playing the temporal pessimist.

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