Conventional-al Wisdom

The Republicans’ quadrennial show is not yet over, the Democratic one ended a few days ago while deadlines and timeliness require me to write this before the former is complete. Each side of this duopoly that barely governs the U.S. tries to put its best foot forward to con the voting public into casting ballots for their (wo)man.

At a safe distance of well over a thousand miles from both of these circuses, I’d have to say the Democratic Party has done a better job this time. Of course they are energized by an eloquent candidate, eight years of being out of the executive, foolhardy wars, recent recovery of Congressional control after a dozen-year hiatus, and even the grueling primary campaign that kept party activists and people engaged for a lengthy run. The Republican Party, conversely, is demoralized. Its three legged support base (traditional Republicans, corporate interests, and the radical/social-conservative/religious right) has frayed. Clearly the moneyed interests can’t be happy with the state of economic affairs. The traditional Republicans have been whittled down in there numbers, presence, and ability to impact party policy. The zealots who put troops on the ground and are the root of the evil– George Bush’ placement in office –are disenchanted with a candidate they don’t see as being their ideological lackey.

We have a situation where the Democratic Party standard bearer is running FOR something. He’s chosen a running mate, Joe Biden, who by all accounts is a well informed, level headed Senator. One may be cynical about what’s been put forth, but the excitement generated speaks to a popular yearning for something better than what exists today. Consequently the Democrats have the upper hand, at least for now. They, by way of Barack Obama’s representative, even agreed to meet with demonstrators outside their convention.

Once again conversely, demonstrators outside the Republican convention were arrested. The Republicans are running FROM something– the Bush II legacy –while simultaneously espousing its policy tenets. This kind of panic and internal contradiction speaks to a party in disarray, as alluded above. It also doesn’t make for clear thinking. Perhaps that’s whence comes the injudicious selection, as a running mate, of an extremist governor from one of the smallest population states in the country. Then, all kinds of unappealing stuff, from corruption, to double standards, to family-funny-business, to advocacy of secession from the union (wasn’t there a civil war fought over that matter a century and a half ago?) emerges about Sarah Palin. What was John McCain thinking when he selected her? Surely he knew about this stuff.

On Tuesday, McCain’s campaign manager told the Washington Post, "This election is not about issues”. Herein lies the answer to the previous question. George Lakoff, about three years ago made quite a splash with his studies of how people understand the world and how the right wing in this U.S. has learned to masterfully manipulate what he refers to as “frames”. These are windows, filters, perspectives that guide and inform how people see and understand events. Once a frame is activated, facts just bounce of the person. Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant is well worth reading to understand this phenomenon. In Palin, we have someone who invokes all the right frames to elicit the support of the religious right that is very lukewarm about McCain’s candidacy.

One side will address substance and policy, the other, people’s guts. The latter will more likely win unless the former also uses the same communications techniques.

After all this, what is an Armenian to do in this election? Clearly, the ANC has already endorsed Obama because of his supportive positions (and Biden is a long-time supporter). But even beyond McCain’s shortage of support for our issues (and Palin’s nonexistent record on them), his bellicose stances regarding the Middle East and support of Georgia’s Sahakashvili do not bode well for us. Georgia’s instability hurts Armenia’since it is an important transit route. Chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan also hurt Armenia, not to mention our communities stretching from the Mediterranean to Iran.

Let’s get out there and support Obama/Biden both for the good of Armenia’s worldwide and our own good as U.S. citizens.

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