Politics is a game of clichés. Our leaders vow to “reach across the aisle” so they can do “what the American people want.” But undoubtedly the biggest cliché of them all is that this is a “historic election,” the “most important in our lifetimes.”
The folks who say these things (and they say them every year) are always very earnest. Maybe they actually believe what they’re saying.
Here’s an example, from the Oct. 11 Raleigh News & Observer. “A few years ago I would have shunned political activity,” writes Denis Dubay of Cary, N.C. “But something changed.” He goes on to cite several common liberal complaints: Iraq “had no connection to the terrorists that attacked us,” Americans “unleashed a hell on earth,” and so forth.
Dubay sees this election as holding the very keys to civilization. “We continue to poison our planet by burning oil and coal,” he writes. “The exotic gases have immediate effects on our health, and the excess carbon dioxide promises scary impacts on the future health of our only home in the universe.”
Is there anyone who really believes that in the next four years humans are going to stop burning oil and coal? That we’ll manage to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by any measurable level? You’re really basing your presidential vote on those goals?
Of course, Dubay was just following the lead of his candidate, Sen. Barack Obama. Back in June, when he became the presumptive Democratic nominee, Obama told a cheering crowd that they were witnessing history. “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” he intoned. “This was the moment when we ended a war, and secured our nation, and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.”
It’s good to set audacious goals. But maybe the senator from Illinois went just a bit overboard there. After all, while (in his own words) Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills,” he probably would get a bill of his own if he succeeded (in four years) with all those goals.Still, if we’re going to claim that the 2008 election is the most important one in our nation’s history, maybe we ought to act as if we actually believe our words. Maybe we’d even want to allow American service members to vote this year.
More than 1 million people serve in the U.S. military, and their courage and sacrifice makes our way of life possible. But for those stationed overseas at election time, there’s little chance they’ll be allowed to participate in the democracy they’re deployed to protect.
In the 2006 election (another historic one, you may recall) the Federal Election Assistance Commission says only about 30 percent of overseas military absentee ballots were counted.
Imagine that. If, say, 10 percent of ballots were disallowed at a particular polling place, lawyers would undoubtedly deploy in force and angry lawmakers would demand hearings. But 70 percent of military ballots go uncounted, and nothing much happens.
Sure, the Pentagon invested $25 million trying to set up an online voting system for our troops, but critics managed to shoot down that idea. Too vulnerable to fraud, they said. Not at all like our flawless election system here at home.
Oh, and apropos of nothing, the non-partisan election board in Lake County, Ind., recently stopped processing the 5,000 voter registration forms filed by the “community organization” group ACORN. The first 2,100 of the applications the board studied were all phony, and board members saw no reason to assume the next half would be legit. “All the signatures looked exactly the same,” Ruthann Hoagland, a Republican on the board, told CNN. “Everything on the card filled out looks exactly the same.”
This election could spell “a difference between staying in and pulling out,” Army Capt. Holly Landes told the Associated Press. She’s currently deployed in Iraq. “So it would be nice if it were a little easier and [troops] had more confidence in the system.” Indeed it would.
Maybe our troops would even make a difference by, say, doing what at least one columnist plans to do: Write in a vote for David Petraeus. The General’s already done what many said two years ago was impossible: he’s led our military to the brink of victory in Iraq. In Washington he might even be able to “bring people together” and “get things done,” two other clichés that seem in short supply these days.