By staff writer Et Nola
November 5, 2006
If there is one thing the fall reminds me of, it’s that not all magic tricks are reserved for Vegas and the silver screen. In fact, this fall—as often is the case every two years—has been entranced by the most captivating, if not deceptively consistent, illusion of all time: election season. Certainly the mysticism is not about assistants who can swallow swords whole (though congressional aides who can certainly may receive media attention). The mysticism of the election season lies more in the diversionary foci of our national media and the political parties running the show. Whether you look to the left or the right, you’re bound to find yourself under the big top of yet another election year circus.
First, there are the clowns, specifically the political clowns. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I’m not a fan of any types of clowns, except for the killer ones from outer space. When it comes to political sideshow clowns like those who siphon public attention from complex issues, I can become outright livid. Few of them are any good and even the ones you like will disappoint you because at some point you remember they are just distractions—all filler and no thriller.
I won’t get into listing all of the “clowns of the political arena,” but that’s only because not all have exited the little red car yet. Besides, I’d hate to overlook someone. Certainly you’ve got your Ann Coulters and your Al Frankens working the pundit-machine, but the foremost clowns are the gladiators who entered the arena for presidency in ’04. Yes, this is the part where I incorporate Kerry’s recent remarks and the political backlash into a must-read paragraph. Do read on.
“We could spend this election debating character as is done every election, or we can try an expanded approach.”
Let’s just say the state of political discourse in our country is in a sorely misguided state when the bumbling, poor-humored remarks of a man whose elitist tone has been exploited as a “weakness” can become the leading story in the news cycle. I’m furious. I’m furious because there was more to Kerry’s message, yet again his execution diluted his message’s potency. I’m furious because some speech writer (if not Kerry) inserted the joke (by the way, if you don’t know, the full joke is about how unintelligent students make ill-informed decisions like committing troops to Iraq, a nod to President Bush), and Kerry didn’t even properly execute the bad joke. I’m furious because this is fuel for the fleeting Republicans who are grasping for any leverage they can get a hold of and somehow manage to turn the nation’s attention to Kerry as the “straw man” of their weekly fallacious political attack. But that’s just me swinging from the right with a light jab from the left.
The haymaker comes from the fact that neither party has anything to say about serious policy inactivity. I’m referring to how this election should focus on how Congress has been more inert than the cancerous growth on my testes, which I certainly hope is more benign than our current Congress. Focus is directed to Iraq and the war there, while issues such as the deteriorating state of healthcare and the economy (yes, that age-old issue) remain questions without specific answers. The President has blasted Kerry’s patriotism and mentioned that the Democrats don’t have “a plan for victory,” which sort of begs the question of what constitutes a victory in the first place, and whether the GOP even knows what such a plan looks like, outside of the super-secret, hush-hush, win button that the President has been saving in case of an “emergency*.”
I mention the misdirection we face as citizens because it actually happens to be an effective tool for political parties. I mentioned how Kerry is often a victim of the informal relevance fallacy of the straw man, particularly of the structure in which “contextomy” is used to provide an argument that can be won versus the actual argument at hand. Yes, I’ve abbreviated the depth of the straw man fallacy for the sake of being too tired to dissect it. Pick up an OED for more info.
The point is that the idea of reshaping the intended context of a legitimate argument is a common tactic of misdirection that seems to catch the masses all of the time. Even the opponents of the GOP utilize misdirection through ad hominem attacks like the debacle circling Rep. Mark Foley and his solicitation of an aide. Granted there are issues to be addressed in the Foley case, but there are far more policy issues that need attention no matter how difficult they are to convey to the public. We could spend this election debating character as is done every election, or we can try an expanded approach.
Of course the character of our elected officials matters, but certainly there exists candidates of both moral fiber and actual legislative competency who can address the real issues. It shouldn’t be about people who “look the part” because they are Republicans and we vote Republican; or because they are Democrats and we should vote Democrat. We’ve got enough actors vying for votes in ads that barely graze the surface of the issues facing our government. We’ve already got roles for these actors to fill, like aiding someone who’s qualified. How about electing people who know what the play is actually about instead?