I can’t believe we’re voting next month (this just doesn’t feel right)

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., responds to a warm welcome from the audience as he approaches the microphone during a South Carolina victory party in Columbia, S.C. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Dimly remembered: 8 years ago, there was actual excitement.

I started to say this in a comment earlier, but decided it was worth a post…

You know, this year doesn’t feel like either 2012 or 2008 — which are the only presidential years since I’ve been blogging (which affects my perception). By now, there should be a fever pitch of interest, on my part and on the parts of my readers. January 2008 was by far my biggest month for blog traffic when I was at the paper. January 2012 was huge on the blog’s post-MSM iteration.

But that absorbing interest just doesn’t seem to be there, on anyone’s part. After a high last summer with the Emanuel AME shootings and the flag coming down, my traffic has been ticking along at, if anything, a slower pace than usual. And it hasn’t picked up since Christmas, the way it usually would.

A huge part of this is me — I’m not feeling charged up, and my level and frequency of posting reflects that. But I sense that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’m not picking up on any excitement on anyone’s part. (Please tell me if I’m wrong.) And it’s not just on the blog — I’m just not hearing all that much interest out on the street, either.

And I think a big part of is that the choices are so dispiriting.

There just doesn’t seem to be any likely good outcome from the GOP contest, which makes a sensible person want to go to sleep and leave instructions to be awakened when there’s a whole other slate of options to choose from.

But every night for what — six months or so — we’ve gone to bed each night and waked up to see Trump leading the polls. Some days, we might think we see something else on the horizon — look, somebody else is catching up to him! But then that somebody else turns out to be Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz, and you just want to give up.

Then, on the Democratic side…

It looks like, when it’s all said and done, it will be Hillary. But by the time that happens, she will be so battered and shopworn that no one will feel any enthusiasm about that outcome. There will just be a sort of weary acceptance. In fact, it feels like we reached that point some time back. Years ago, even.

Sure, there have been moments of almost-hopefulness on that side, too:

  • Joe Biden might run! Oh, no… he won’t…
  • Look, someone’s catching up to her! Dang, it’s just Bernie Sanders…
  • Hey, she did great in that debate! Maybe it won’t be so bad if she’s the nominee… but then you are soon reminded of the things, big and small, that keep you from being enthusiastic, and make you feel like you’re being marched to the inevitable by a Vogon guard who is shouting “Resistance is useless!

You tell yourself, there are some decent options on the Republican side — Jeb Bush or Mario Rubio on their good days, maybe Chris Christie when he’s not blustering or John Kasich when he’s not being crabby.

But then you think, none of them seems likely to win here. And even if one of them is the eventual nominee, it seems increasingly likely that that will be decided quite some time after our primary.

And hey, you tell yourself: You may be tired of her, but don’t you like her views on foreign policy better than any Democrat since Joe Lieberman? (OK, maybe you don’t think that; but I do.) Isn’t this a chance to revive the Third Way, or at least to take a step in that direction? Wasn’t Bill Clinton a pretty sound policy guy, despite all the drama, and doesn’t she have a lot of the same characteristics?

But then you remember that with the Clintons there is always the endlessly wearying drama, the feelings of persecution, the scores to settle with the vast right-wing conspiracy, and you wonder, Am I really up for more of this?

Maybe I’m just blowing smoke here. Maybe I’m totally off-base. But this just all feels really low-energy for a month before the primaries. Maybe y’all disagree with that. Or maybe you have a better explanation for it.

Or maybe no one will comment on this, which seems to happen too often these days. Which means, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m losing my touch…


27 thoughts on “I can’t believe we’re voting next month (this just doesn’t feel right)

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    It feels like this campaign has been going on for SO LONG, and we’re all just weary…

    And yet, paradoxically, I find myself thinking, No! Next month is too soon! We need some better choices first!

  2. Mark Stewart

    It’s not you; it’s them. All of them.

    Maybe we have just, as a nation, tired of the two party system? Or more accurately, tired of their incessant bombast and recrimination?

    We need a leader. Not a single one is to be found in the race on either side. I know the proletariat doesn’t get it, but Trump is not a leader, either.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, the two-party system is kind of tattered.

      But here’s the problem — rather than some sensible alternative emerging, all the energy pulling the parties apart is pulling in the direction of being MORE extreme. Everything that is bad about the two parties is even MORE evidenced in this year’s popular movements.

      Don’t like the Republicans? Then you’ll REALLY hate the Trump Republicans. Weary of the Democrats’ ideology? Then you don’t even want to HEAR about Bernie Sanders…

      It’s the very opposite of the UnParty ideal…

      1. bud

        Don’t like the Republicans? Then you’ll REALLY hate the Trump Republicans. Weary of the Democrats’ ideology? Then you don’t even want to HEAR about Bernie Sanders…

        This is soooo classic Brad! Man you are so predictable. And so incredibly, ridiculously wrong. How on earth can you possibly mention Bernie as an equivalent to Donald Trump? First of all whether you like Bernie or not he’s been a successful politician for many years. Second, he’s bent over backwards to try and stick with issues and not resort to buffoonery the same way Trump does. Remember his “no one cares about your damn e-mails” comment? Third, Bernie is running on real issues like income inequality and banking system overreach. Trump is just irrelevant bombast.

        If Bernie Sanders had run for president in the 70s he’d likely be regarded as a moderate. But the politics has moved so far to the right that Brad can actually suggest Trump and Bernie are somehow opposite sides of the same coin. Give me a break. I’ll proudly and enthusiastically vote for Bernie Sanders in a few weeks. He’s the type of man our country needs rather than some plutocrat warmonger like Jeb Bush. Thankfully that seems unlikely.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I didn’t say they were equivalent. I said what I said — that they’re both more extreme expressions of what critics dislike about their respective parties.

          It’s a pretty straightforward point…

  3. Doug Ross

    Democrats got burned by the hope and change guy. He was going to be the game changer. He was going to be a new type of politician. And then? More of the same. More war, more government intervention into every aspect of our lives (now with “free” colonoscipies!!!), more partisan politics, nothing transformative.

    It doesn’t change no matter who is in there. That’s why Trump and Sanders are even in the conversation now. People generally are bored to death with another typical politician (Clinton, Bush) in the White House. They want more on either side. They want DIFFERENT. They don’t want compromise, they want ACTION and LEADERSHIP. Thankfully, Bush has run a dismal campaign so we won’t see that matchup with Hillary. The more Obama fumbles his way through his lame duck year, the more we’ll see of people looking for something new.

    Trump is like Strom Thurmond. He may be a fool, but some people think he’s OUR fool.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Obama did do better than could have been expected – on both sides of the issues given the headwinds he faced.

      Compromise is not a dirty word, Doug.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The thing is, we don’t get compromise, either. We don’t get anything.

        The last thing Washington actually DID was Obamacare. And one of the two parties has spent all its time since then trying to undo it. Which is just beyond insane…

        That spending measure Paul Ryan delivered was the first case of Congress doing its job in years. And even that wasn’t an actual BUDGET, which should be the bare minimal standard of what “Congress doing its job” should look like…

      2. Doug Ross

        I won’t rehash old arguments but I don’t agree that compromise is a good thing, especially when it comes to matters related to strongly held principles. We’re not talking about business deals here where each side comes to a point of mutual acceptance. We’re talking about fundamental beliefs. If I believe the government is too big, does too much, is too complex, and inefficient, then my compromise position starts with cutting government. If I am opposed to abortion except in cases of rape and incest, then what is the compromise position? If I support gay marriage, what is the compromise position – just letting women marry?

        Our government is run on the principle of trading one thing that one group wants for something the other wants. Obamacare (or a much better version of it) could have been accomplished piece by piece by just doing the things that BOTH sides agreed on.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          But seriously, folks…

          Compromise is the ONLY way you get anything done with our republic as it is designed. The very nature of checks and balances ensures that no one gets to just do exactly what they want — they have to balance their views and goals against those of people who disagree with them.

          The reason, by the way, that we don’t get compromise on abortion is that Roe v. Wade made it an absolute right and thereby removed it from the sphere where compromise is possible.

          The really bizarre thing about that is that you’d think if the Court had chosen either party’s position as the one to make into an absolute right, it would have been the right to life, or at the very least, the right to life in the absence of due process taking it away. But they went the OTHER way, creating an absolute right to take life away unilaterally, without even so much as a nod to due process.

          Which is just astounding — that such a notion was advanced, embraced by the court, and has stood all these years. It’s just SUCH an unlikely result to come out of a system that is supposedly based in the rule of law…

      3. Doug Ross

        And, Mark, what exactly did Obama DO? I refuse to give credit or blame for any economic conditions to a President. They have little to do with today’s economy. Obama the President did little that Obama the candidate said he’d do. Why can’t we measure him on that?

        1. bud

          Doug, you’re completely wrong. Presidents do make a dilfference in the economy. They push for tax policy, appoint people to the Fed. Promote spending priorities. Sure congress plays a roll, a big roll, but to suggest the POTUS has “little to do with the economy” is absurd.

          1. Doug Ross

            Then you can tell me what tax policies and spending priorities Obama pushed for and saw implemented, right?

            1. Doug Ross

              All we heard for several years was that sequestration, government shutdowns, and not extending the debt limit were going to destroy the economy. Does Obama get credit for those?

      4. bud

        Mark, you are so correct. There has been considerable progress made over the last 7 years. While it’s true Obama could have done a better job extricating us from the Middle East at least we have gone headlong into even more places like so many on the right would have us do. And there are thousands of young Americans alive and whole today because of some measure of restraint at least.

        1. Mark Stewart

          I was also trying to make the point that Obama did not do as terrible a job of extricating us from the Middle East as many on the left would have preferred.

          He has had ridiculous opposition from both sides of the aisle.

  4. Kathleen

    You are absolutely right. People, good concerned usually engaged, frequently upbeat people, have looked around and become concerned to the point of depression. Our politicians appear venal, useless, and/or useless in greater numbers than ever. Our relatives and neighbors are taking rabidly extreme positions and find each jot and tittle of that position worth defending to the death; and of course anyone who disagrees is the devil’s spawn. If one of the back bench candidates appeared to be “the one” I would risk tar and feathers and become his chief proselytizer. I don’t think that will happen.

  5. Norm Ivey

    I’m not excited about any of the candidates, but I find Sanders to be the most interesting. His biggest knock is going to be foreign policy. I think the best chance the Republicans have of winning the presidency is by choosing someone like Rubio or Kasich, but I wonder if that’s going to happen. I still don’t see Trump winning the nomination, and when he drops out, where will his supporters turn? I think to Cruz.

    I’m curious how many will drop out after Iowa and New Hampshire. As the cookie-cutters drop out, their supporters will coalesce around one candidate, and that one will finally cut into Trump’s numbers. So maybe it comes down to Cruz vs. Rubio or Cruz vs. Kasich. Kasich would beat Clinton, I think. And Rubio might.

    If we’re going to be serious, I think O’Malley vs, Kasich would be a matchup worthy of the nation.

    On the other hand, I’d pay to see a Trump/Clinton policy debate, and supply my own popcorn. That would be entertainment.

    1. Doug Ross

      Kasich will never, ever come close to being the nominee. He will be gone before SC. He has zero charisma, minimal name recognition, and no money. He’s at 2% to 3% in the pr polls nationally. He can hang around small states like Iowa and NH for now pretending to be a candidate but where does he get the funds to compete on Super Tuesday, 6 weeks from now?

      1. Norm Ivey

        I know. I keep hoping he’ll start picking up some establishment support since Jeb is floundering so badly. If some of the others would drop, I think his numbers would go up. He’s the most electable of the group.

  6. Phillip

    In the back-and-forth here about whether Obama “did anything” or not substantial as President, I’ll cast a strong vote of endorsement for the things that Obama did NOT do, primarily in the area of foreign policy, where one could easily imagine a McCain or a Romney administration (with John Bolton at State and Lindsey Graham at Defense) uncorking aggressive and massive military responses to every remotely unnerving situation in any corner of the planet.

    To be sure the days of “hope and change” upon Obama’s election are gone, and I think that’s one more nail in the coffin of the electorate ever seriously hoping for real substantive change, holding optimism for the future. Obviously many of us disagree on what was the cause for things not working out as Obama’s supporters (myself included) might have liked. But whatever the cause, the sense of disillusionment is real and widespread.

    Really, the nation has become too large and divided to run on the federal level in the way it is set up, it seems. It has been heading that way for some time now. I suppose it might be more possible for a strongly right-wing President to accomplish more, because their agenda might naturally be more in sync with the corporate, banking, and military entities that, let’s face it, really make up the mechanisms of how most aspects of the nation actually function.

    I think this year’s election is just another chapter in a long story that’s been unfolding for some time now. The level of disillusionment provides its own dangers to American democracy, as the longing for a “decisive leader who can get things done” will only grow. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before in history.

    Yeah, yeah, I know…”other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Sorry to be such a downer.

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