Saturday, September 20, 2008


I’ve seen quite a few blog posts lately on political issues. It’s understandable, given the times and the upcoming election. But I’m often at a loss as to how to comment on such posts, and I hope folks don’t get upset with me if I disagree with them. People often express very strong feelings, and it’s usually clear that they really “don’t” understand how anyone could believe differently from them. Of course, I’m the same way. If I view a candidate in a certain light, it seems obvious to me that my reasoning is correct. I like to tell myself that I make my decisions based on reason, but I know that isn’t always the case. Everyone wants to think they are being rational, but humans can’t escape their emotional natures. And this means you too, I’m afraid. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

I also find myself to be an incredible cynic these days where politics is concerned. I mean, when have we seen a politician who really seems to care about people in the modern world? Oh, they all give lip service to it. But do you believe their words? I’m afraid that most of the time I don’t. And I’m talking about Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. There’s an old adage: how do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: when his, or her, lips are moving. Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there’s a lot of truth in that.

Many of the folks I see posting on politics are idealists. They honestly want to make the world a better place. I admire that. But I always want to warn folks that idealists are the politician’s favorite prey. If one can focus passion, then one can accomplish one’s goals. Unfortunately, the politician’s goals may not be the same as what the passionate believers “think” those goals are.

Cynics are not necessarily the enemy of politicians, however. If they’re so cynical that they do nothing, then the politicians can freely discount them. So, I’m going to vote. And I’m voting for the candidate that I “believe” best offers a chance for a change in the direction our country has been heading. Do I believe the direction will really change? Nope.

But I have hope. I suppose I just have to. It’s part of my irrational nature.


Lisa said...

I'm a long time recovering cynic and I understand where you're coming from. But my persistent belief that politicians (and voters) are motivated only by self-interest became exhausting and depressing. I didn't consciously choose to drop my cynicism (I still have a great deal of it), but I've seen things over these last months that do give me hope. If not hope that things will change, hope that there really are people who want to see things change for the better and for the greater good. Of course, keeping up with the news goes a long way to dampening that view, but I'm holding on.

Sidney said...

I know what you mean about finding it hard to comment.

I'm a hopeful cynic, myself. One candidate can't make a difference alone, but an unquestioned-ideology followed blindly certainly seems to have repercussions.

Lana Gramlich said...

It's not cynicism, though...It's being realistic.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, well put Charles.

The Trailer Of Love

Travis Cody said...

I'm an idealistic cynic. I go into the political process hoping that there is a candidate out there that I can trust.

I guess if we don't at least keep an open mind that such a candidate exists, we won't be ready when that candidate actually arrives.

Although, it deepens the disappointment when the reality of the election process rears its head. Politics is about winning elections, not about governing with respect and responsibility.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I agree fully with what you're saying - an honest politician may be a contradiction in terms. Power corrupts as you say.

Travis Erwin said...

Great post, Charles, I'm with you and frankly one the only things that will change after the election is that many of my favorite bloggers will get back to blogging about things a lot more entertaining than politics.

Miladysa said...

Interesting post Charles.

What strikes me [as an outsider as far as American politics are concerned] is how much emphasis is placed on the candidate rather than their policies. Sadly it is something that is now prevalent in British politics these days also.

Scott said...

Well said indeed,Charles. It doesn't matter whether they have a button with a Donkey of an Elephant on it...they're all snakes, and not to be trusted. It does scare me when grown men and women blindly follow any political party...I used to work for what I considered an intelligent man, but he just accepted whatever the Republican Party folks said as gospel, as well as people(and I use that term very loosely here)like Ann Coulter. No matter which party we're talking about, I do not believe that they give one shit about the People...they only want our votes and our money. I'd like to see things change, but I don't know how that's going to happen...short of me becoming king of the U.S.

Gina said...

Unfortunately, we live in a time where Americans believe what is on TV or in the papers. Some stations lean towards the Republican way..others the Democrat. I think it is up to each person to tolerate listening to one another, gaining new thoughts on the issues.

For instance, I am a democrat. I believe the last 8 years has demoralized this country and it's people by the man running the country. BUT.. I am willing to hear the other side. Respect the other person's opinion and would fight to the death their right to say it. (Borrowing from Voltaire) But it seems to me..where I, the Democrat, am willing to let a Republican speak his or her thoughts..the same courtesy is not always offered in return. It is their way or the highway. Well, according to my mother who is a staunch Republican for some unknown reason.

ivan said...

Just wondering how all of Wall Street can go on Welfare and many really poor people are often denied this.

Wall Street Welfare bums?

Steve Malley said...

One of the most difficult, and grown-up, things a person can do is to admit that another smart, well-informed, well-intentioned person may have arrived at a different set of conclusions.

Especially when the other side is Inherently Evil.


laughingwolf said...

i'mn very cynical myself, and see things your way somewhat, charles, in that i'll be voting not for a 'party' but someone i think will, make a difference... to me

we have federal and civic elections next month, 14th and 18th respectively... talk about asinine calls for voting times...i'm surprised we don't have provincial ones in there, too

Cath said...

There is nothing wrong with hope. And you are as Lana says, a realist. You say what is on (I think) everyone's lips.

Yes we want change, for the better. But whether a politician can do that is another matter.
Brilliant post. Well stated.

writtenwyrdd said...

I usually refrain from comment on the ones I disagree with, lol. Seems pointless! But I don't get into politics too much on my blog (except for random snarkiness and cynicism here and there) for the same reasons you state, Charles.

I cannot believe we are going to destroy the world. I have hope and faith in mankind's capacity to struggle back from the brink. I fear for the planet and the biospheres and the ecology and many many species of plant and animal life that are going to (maybe) go extinct in this learning curve of a process...but I have faith that the world is not going to end anytime soon.

It's sad, though, when you reach the point that you don't believe the people who are in charge or that people generally won't hold their altruism before their self interests!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, I hope you're right. Unfortunately, I believe that most politicians are masters at covering up their true agendas and so we hardly know what they really want. But maybe there will be positive change.

Sidney, ideology is always dangers. Perhaps far more dangerous than cynicism.

Lana, and you are even further along that path than I am, sweetness.

Wil, thankee.

Travis, that's true. It's like, if a messiah came would we recognize him, or her? Quite possible not.

Archavist, I believe that very strongly. Power corrupts.

Travis Erwin, I recognize a cynic when I see one. Lol.

Miladysa, exactly. It's the cult of personality rather than a true view of the goals and plans.

Scott, have you seen V for Vendetta? I watched it last night and it prompted my post in part. Wish I had guts he did.

Gina, I agree absolutely about how folks should feel free to disagree without the need for shutting others up. I see that both sides use the humilation factor to try to shut up the other. Making fun of them. And both sides use hyperbole, calling the other side Nazi's or what have you. I wish there was a bit more civility.

Ivan, because if Wall street went down some rich folks might be inconvenienced.

Steve Malley, lol. But yes, it is indeed difficult.

Laughinwolf, I just keep hoping. But I hear everyone trying to use 1984 speek to get elected.

Crazycath, ultimately, the people have to do the changing.

Writtenwyrd, it would even be OK if the ones in power were content to make a "little bit," and not to be so greedy that they gut the goose looking for the next golden egg. Greed may well be the worst sin.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

It's easy to be a cynic. It's hard to work through it and just work for what you want and believe in. Cynicism is a trap. It's the slough of despond that sucks you down so you don't go anywhere. You have to make a positive stand sometime. That's what I believe, anyway. I've been a cynic. I will be again. But when I fall into that trap, nothing gets done. No writing, no friendships, no work, no voting, nothing.

There's a difference between realism and cynicism. Cynicism makes it so you don't do anything. Realism is you see everything, all the faults and just do the best you can despite that.

In my perfect world, women would not be demeaned and people of the same sex would be able to marry and have families. And there would be universal healthcare, birthcontrol available for those who need it, no intermingling of the state with religion, and peace. Neither side is going to give me 100% of that. Ever. This country is too scared to work for that happiness. But, I have my "deal closers" that are issues I think at rock bottom the most important to me and that's what I base my votes on.

It's not perfect, but it works for me.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm not one to discuss politics in a serious tone; power, afterall, changes purpose.

steve on the slow train said...

Charles, I grew up reading the Devil's Dictionary. I'll forgive Mencken his racism and anti-Semitism because of his wit. But I'm a sucker for idealistic politicians--Gene McCarthy in '68, McGovern in '72, Mo Udall in '76, Mike Dukakis in '88. And yes, Bill Bradley in '00, John Kerry in '04, and Barrack Obama this year. And I voted for him even though I knew Hillary Clinton had a better chance of beating McCain.

I know Barrack won't be able to bring about a Utopia. But then, we haven't had a president who appealed to our ideals since 1963. (and it was his thoroughly pragmatic successor who got the ideals into law, but then blew it all on a senseless war). So I still have hope after 40 years of disappointment. If McCain wins, I'll take solace in Mencken's writings on democracy.

SQT said...

What I love about this post is that you write a wonderful commentary on the lunacy of politics without going off on your own little bit of political bias. That takes talent.

I refrain from commenting on pretty much anything political. I've come to realize that I'm not going to change anyone else's ideology and they're not going to change mine.

But it's impossible to avoid. It is the silly season after all. And no one is really talking about politics anymore. It's just personal attack after personal attack; on all sides.

David Cranmer said...

One of my favorite movie lines is from Hud (1963) where Paul Newman says: "Why you separate the saints from the sinners, you're lucky to wind up with Abraham Lincoln." Cynicism seems to go back a long way. I'll vote after also carefully deciding on a candidate, but it's hard for me to get excited anymore.

X. Dell said...

Hmmm. I can understand your skepticism, for it's widely shared, and in part, if not completely merited. But I do note that people are more and more distancing themselves from politics in the belief that no one is good enough to vote for, or that issues don't matter whoever takes them up. Partly this is a result of the personality cult of electioneering, courtesy of the age of instant electronic media.

Appropos to your previous post, perhaps you would find interest in this, from this week's installment of NPR's On the Media.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I used to be incredibly political on my blog and now I am forced to remain neutral because I don't want to alienate anyone. I am considering creating something new on wordpress under an alias.

I am not cynical. Despite some extremist views that I hold, I have a tremendous optimism that the human spirit will rise to meet the challenges coming before. And if the next four years become a treacherous, if liberties continue to erode, if the nation slides into a morass where the divide between rich and poor continues to create an impossible situation, I believe the people will stand together to bring about change.

Charles Gramlich said...

Rachel, I guess realism is a better label for me than Cynic then, since I continue to act and try to do what I can to change things for the better.

J.R. Yes it does. Always.

Steve, I hope you're right. I really do. I'm voting that way myself but I'm not holding my breath.

SQT, exactly. I know I've never changed a single person's mind about who they should vote for. Not once. And I've made plenty of them angry. So it is better not to try.

David Cranmer, in a way, it's sort of like rooting for the New Orleans Saints. Lol.

X-Dell, I'll check out the link. I don't want to get to the point of just throwing up my hands, but sometimes it's hard not to.

Stewart, I've heard such things happen. But I'm afraid I've never seen it. In this case I'm a doubting Thomas.

Sam said...

I'm a geek. I like statistics. So even though I do respond on an emotional level to polititians platforms, I'm looking past that.
Did you know that under the Dems, the economy did consistantly better than under the Republicans? Evey time a Republican has come into office, the economy took a nose dive. When it was the Democrats, it rose.
I am not concerned about much, but in my opinion, a country with a good economy is one that can offer better education, transporation, and health care. All the rest is trimmings for he turkey.

the walking man said...

Unlike you Charles, I will always comment because if nothing else the writing is a good exercise that adds cohesion to where I stand. It help me understand in words, not just thought, why I stand where I stand.

Living in the home of the Reagan Democrat has allowed me to look at both sides and switch alliance from election to election and level to level (local, state, national).

I care about the nation but it is only one part of a larger world and with the new economic of one world policy there is a bigger picture than just the nation to understand.

High Power Rocketry said...

: )

Virginia Lady said...

I'm glad you plan to vote even with all the cynicism, Charles. The results of elections can be quite different if more people actually took advantage of the privilege to vote. I agree, I have hope that someone will come in and make a difference. I have my doubts that it will happen, but I still have hope and I plan to vote.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sam, well I certainly see that the economy under Clinton was much stronger than under the Bushes. I'd have to look at the statistics further back to see if that pattern holds. Of course, there are factors outside of the country that can affect an economy, such as environmental catastrophes.

Mark, you're right, it's a global economy now to be concerned about. And global human rights.

R2K, back at you.

Josephine Damian said...

I avoid blog posts about politics, (I try to keep things book/writing/biz related w/ a little personal stuff thrown in) but I do opine (translation: trash talk - big time) certain politicians on Twitter, and fly the Obama flag on my blogroll.

Since I'm now an Obama campaign worker, I can vent, rave and make incendiary comments with other like-minded folk without making it part of my permanent, google-able blog archive.

But yeah, I've noticed lots of my blog peeps are doing political posts.

What did my fellow New Rochellian Thomas Paine say? "These are the times that try men's souls."


Anndi said...

No one candidate can change the world... and yet, one person can.

Now my brain hurts.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Charles. Political thoughts have been coming to my mind, but I've been holding back from posting them. But, you've gotta have hope. I think. I hope.

Charles Gramlich said...

Josepine, I actually try to avoid much of the trash talking, even though I have some strong feelings on things. I think it lets people express their feelings, but I strongly suspect it makes the other side just more entrenched in their ideas and less likely to change. In other words, I believe trash talking backfires most of the time.

Anndhi, the people definitely have to do the world changing.

Jack, I do. It's weak but still beating.

laughingwolf said...

indeed :(

Donnetta said...

Ditto, Charles. Have hope. Nuttin' else to hold on to in the political world right now. Things just gotta get betta. D

Greg said...

Charles, I agree with you. The past decade or so has definitely made me pretty cynical, at least where politics is concerned. The candidate I'm voting for isn't someone I believe in... just the lesser of two evils. (at least in my opinion.)

L.A. Mitchell said...

I'm a hopeless idealist. Nice we can balance each other out :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, "aye"

Donnetta, tis true.

Greg Schwartz, I really hate having to vote for the lesser of two evils but there doesn't seem any choice too often.

L.A. Mitchell, ;) I'm glad there are some of you left.

Erik Donald France said...

I always look for those who at least operate with a principle of "Enlightened self-interest."

I also do believe Obama is a good guy and would make a good president, hopefully without anything like the Monica Lewinsky scandal to sidetrack him.

By the way, the old adage "how do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: when his, or her, lips are moving" is also used for writers ;->

Merisi said...

May hope never die! ;-)

BernardL said...

Idealists have trouble believing in 'The lessor of two evils'. I have difficulty in believing anything else. :)

Bernita said...

I find myself avoiding politcal posts like the plague.
Like you, I don't know what to say that won't trigger a flame war of some sort - the opportunities for umbrage are immense, because so much depends on the relative value we place on specific thoughts/actions/principles regarding political parties and candidates and the context in which they are viewed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, LOL. That's true about writers. But we're supposed to lie. In fact, we get paid directly in proportion to how believable our lies are.

Meriisi, I'll vote for that.

Bernardl, I'm with you.

Bernita, that's a very good point about the "relative" value we place on things. Excellent.

Colonel ChestHams said...

Nicely put. GodDamnit, Where's Ross Perot when we need him ?!?!

Chris Eldin said...

Everyone I see blogging about politics is cynical. I still think our votes matter....

I'm not good at political discourse, so I'll stop there. But it's important for everyone to get out and vote.

Randy Johnson said...

I'm cynical about most politicians myself. I do know that here in North Carolina a few years ago, when a lot of textile jobs were being shipped overseas, two of our politicians, one of them a candidate on the national stage, came to Eden to see what they could do to help and, refreshingly, didn't drag a raft of reporters and cameramen for that all-important photo-op with them.
That Impressed me.

Jo said...

Gosh, does the word "change" give us a hint? *heh* I agree with you, though. We once had a debate in school whether we would vote for the man or the party. It was pretty much split down the middle, and I decided I would vote for the man.

Having said that, I'm a cynic too, and I believe being in power will "change" the man, and you folks are going to end up up with way worse than you have now.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Sarah Hina said...

I've spent some time trying to change people's opinions, and trying to get out the vote. It's a lot of effort, for not a lot of positive feedback. And I'll admit, I've tired of it.

But I still admire those idealists who really do put their money where there mouth is. Politics is a grimy, disheartening game. With often tragic consequences. I can understand why you'd want to avoid the quagmire, Charles. :)

Barbara Martin said...

What you say is very true, Charles. It applies here above the 49th parallel, where we go to the polls on October 14th to decide on a new Prime Minister.

J. L. Krueger said...

Great thoughts Charles. And you come across as one of the most laid-back guys I know on politics.

Unconstrained idealists in public office can also be a very dangerous for public policy. Liberals will point to Bush as a perfect example, Conservatives to Carter.

One of my favorite political sayings concerns the legislature: "Neither your life, nor your money is safe while the legislature is in session." (or words to that effect)