Hooked on a feeling?

About five years ago, during the worst of the anti-Obama battles initiated by the often cruel and
crass politics of a Republican Party enmeshed with the reactionary and often racist Tea Partyers, I gave up my membership in the Democratic Party and registered Green. Not only did I want to be free from any hint of bias in my public commentaries re: politics and moral ethics, but I also needed to step away from the barrage of fund-raising emails that Move-On and other groups kept sending. Now, as the squabbles between Bernie and Hillary supporters heats up, I continue to be glad I am outside the official fray. In my opinion, David Brooks got it right when he observed that most people get "hooked on a feeling" about a candidate. They like the way a person makes them feel. If their policies make sense, all so much the better. But only wonks and googoos (good government geeks) pay attention to the specifics of a platform. And then, mostly just to point out their opponents inconsistencies.

Here are a few unrelated thoughts about the current state of affairs in American politics:

+ First, I dig Obama:  I like his style, I like his class, I like the way he works his own inter-racial reality with verve and nuance. I like Mrs. Obama and their children. I like his policies (generally) all though I recognize the moral fuzziness of the drones and war on terror. I wish he had worked more of a "three cups of tea" campaign in Afghanistan, but I don't question the ethical ambiguities he wrestles with every moment of every day. If I could, I would gladly vote for his third term in a heartbeat.  And that would be partially driven by his achievements, partially fueled by his groove and a bit by the fact that he is a theological realist in the spirit of Reinhold Niebuhr.

+ Second, I always have an initially favorable feeling when Bernie comes out on the stage. But after about 10 minutes - and always when he starts up his inadequate foreign policy comments - I tune out. I resonate with his economics. As a white guy from the lower middle class, I am sickened, challenged and angry at the way the rich get richer and I accrue more debt just to pay our medical bills. If it was possible, as many know, I would bolt for Montreal in a New York second because it is a place that works: a true social democracy with a heart. So, if I just watch Bernie's commercials, DUDE I am so down with his vibe. But when I listen to him speak for more than a sound byte, I tune out.

+ Third, I have never been much of a Hillary fan. She comes across wooden most of the time and snarky, too. Her rhetoric doesn't move me. Her public persona is too ethically slippery for my tastes most of the time. And she is the smartest person in this ugly, messy and weird race. What I like about her has nothing to do with feelings. At this moment in time, I believe she has both the best people around her helping shape policies that will help working people, poor people and middle class people. And if she could find a few trusted souls to kick her ethical shadow side from time to time, that would be golden.

+ Fourth, I am stunned and horrified that a clown like Trump has gained this much traction, but I take him very seriously these days. Same goes for Cruz who strikes me as a snake in the grass walking around on recently formed hind legs. He is creepy and mean-spirited with a weird apocalyptic theology that he wants to impose on us all that is truly frightening. Trump evokes a 21st century, media savvy Fuhrer albeit with lots of money. Rubio is much more attractive - and vastly smarter - than the rest of the pack, but he holds no middle of the road credentials on social policies. What's more, he has sold out his principles on immigration given the wild publicity that the Donald has garnered with out right hatred and racism.  And the rest of the circus really doesn't count any more.

I once thought the age of Nixon's "silent majority" was as polarized as American politics could get. But those days seem like a trip to Disneyland when compared to the vitriol and deep hatreds rising to the surface in campaign 2016. For the first time in generations, I am genuinely afraid for my country and my grandchildren.


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