JUST LIKE US
I personally feel that the scariest thing about the upcoming election is that the people want to vote for someone "just like them". In spite of the fact that this is a path straight to disaster, as should have been obvious from the 2004 election. It's really hard to see why people don't understand the simple fact that the President of the United States should understand their problems but he or she simply cannot be just like them; he or she has got to be smarter, more capable and tougher. Otherwise why would that person be fit to hold the highest office in the land? Isn't the difference between understanding the problems of the common man and being a common man yourself clear? Apparently not to the people of this great land.
What gets my goat even more is that in speaking thus, people also allude to Lyndon Johnson, Truman, JKF and FDR who were apparently "just like them". This is just ganz falsch. FDR and LBJ may have understood the problems of the common man but they were far from being like the common man. Both FDR and JFK were born in privilege and lived as elites, a fact seldom remembered. LBJ and Truman might have been the closest to the common man, but LBJ was a man who was one of the toughest and most savvy politicians of the century; one just has to read Master of the Senate to understand what kind of a political heavyweight he was. Truman may have been underappreciated before he became President, but again, David McCullough's magisterial biography clearly denotes the immense capability and potential he had already demonstrated. LBJ, Truman, JFK and FDR; they were far from being "common men". Or let's just say they were common men of uncommon ability.
Previously Americans seem to have appreciated such leaders, exceptional men who were more than fit to lead. Now though, they want common men of common or even subcommon ability to rule over them. This is one of the most fatalistic and downward-looking streaks in the current American voter. They demonstrated this streak in 2004 when they elected Bush because they thought he would be fantastic as a beer-drinking partner. Now they are demonstrating it again by embracing Sarah Palin as someone who espouses "small town values"; this is a woman they hadn't even heard about a month ago, and who is almost completely clueless about the past 8-year history of her country. She doesn't have any idea what the Bush Doctrine is, and she is sending her son to Iraq because she still seems to think it's Saddam who attacked her country on 9/11. One would be extremely hard-pressed to find a Vice Presidential contestant who was this frighteningly ignorant in such a crucial time; her selection seems to almost border on the surreal at times.
But in an ominous development, Thomas Friedman accurately notes that since Americans vote with their gut feelings they are actually warming up to Palin. On the other hand, Friedman notes that Obama who had that gut connection with especially young Americans a couple of months ago, no longer seems to radiate that tough and highly inspired attitude that rouses the irrational among us. I tend to agree. In fact in some of his recent interviews Obama frighteningly has a demeanor similar to John Kerry's; congenial and forthcoming, yet not connecting to voters' deeper centres.
And William Kristol of the NYT comparing Palin to Truman and LBJ simply indicates that the delusion is complete. The future of this country really seems to be in jeopardy, not because of its politicians but because of its people. Democracy never had a more glamorous display of its inherent problems.