Thursday, October 30, 2008

George Will In Top Form

I read George Will at least once every two weeks, when he arrives in my mailbox on the back page of my Newsweek. I look forward with anticipation to the Anna Quindlen weeks; not so much with the George Will weeks. I like George Will fine. I'm pretty sure my liking of the electoral college system is due to a column he wrote in defense of it when I was younger (I'd put myself mid-teens), and I was not only swayed then but remain swayed now - even though I'm very very liberal. I'll get into my liberalism and why, in spite of that, I want my nation's highest office to move slower than molasses in most instances at some point, but right now I'm going to hang a right turn and get back to George Will. Because George Will is inflamed. He is incensed. And he is, aside from the periodic weeks of craziness that come with my Newsweek (about a month ago, he was deriding the idea that people should vote by mail, something Oregon has done for about a decade, along with mailing out handy-dandy cheat sheets, because it will lead to lazier voters), incredibly on the mark - at least in regard to McCain. Which should come as no surprise, given his ire toward the Arizona Senator has been growing for quite some time and written about thoroughly.

His current article at the Washington Post, which is not a replica of the article appearing in the back of this week's Newsweek (that one deals with the economy along with gas prices and foreign relations and, oddly enough, Franklin Roosevelt), is about many things. It highlights, once again, the ridiculousness of the Palin pick. It offers anecdotal evidence of McCain's black-and-white world view. And it lambasts both public finance for campaigns and limits on the amount of money a single campaign can collect from donations. What George Will does here, what he is continually able to do even while taking into account his moments of insanity, is to make me reassess an issue I was previously on the fence about. The electoral college was one such issue; and now campaign finance becomes another. I've always been on the fence about the spending frenzy the Obama campaign has waged. I've liked (even been enamored) with Obama since 2004; I remember the Boston DNC well. One day, my Newsweek is telling me about up and coming politicians and political figures and profiles a guy I couldn't care less about named Barack Obama; a couple of days later, I'm watching an electrifying key note address and frantically trying to find said Newsweek article again - digging, sometimes perilously, through the recycling to see if it had possibly missed the previous curb deadline (for the record, it didn't). But something about the amount of money he amassed and the way he spent it left me unsettled. Part of this is rooted in pragmatism. At some point, the Republicans will probably have an electrifying star like Obama; in which case, the tide will have been turned and Democrats will be inundated with ad after campaign ad and not have enough funds to launch any kind of counterattack - successful or no. Ronald Reagan can't be the only one. But there is a deeper issue at root here. We all know the studies that proclaim we are incredibly susceptible to advertising and its message. I'm not so great with advertising; I get it from my father who thought that Buddy Lee, the creepy doll, was advertising Levi's. That isn't even his most ridiculous advertising offense. I have those moments a lot too, where I'll assume my preferred brand is the one being advertised even when it is, to the not-insane viewer, clearly not.  But even I don't think I'd manage to turn many McCain ads into ones about Obama.

What I am incredibly susceptible to, though, is starting to like something (a song, a movie, a television show) that I had originally hated simply based on repetition. I'm not proud of it, but I've become fond of such songs as The Macarena and even Baby One More Time (which is apparently the Britney Spears' single's revised name, as Jive Records thought Hit Me, Baby, One More Time condoned domestic violence; the things you learn through a quick internet search). What I'm saying is, had I been living in a state in play and not my tried and blue Connecticut, I'm not entirely sure that if I'd started off with a vague disliking of a candidate - or even outright hatred - a constant barrage of ads for that person would not change my mind. If McCain had more money, I may have *gasp* ended up voting for him! Well, probably not. But the fact remains that if we are as susceptible to advertising as studies show, and if the government has mandated that the amount of air time for one candidate has to be granted the other, how is it in any way fair or democratic to have one person out of the two dominate the game? If we outright acknowledge the effectiveness of ads of any type, it seems strange to shrug at the effect these ads may have on picking the next president of the United States.

Now, I know that logically some of the most powerful of ads have only been used once - or in moderation. After all, the daisy ad from Lyndon Johnson only ran once, but it helped cement Johnson's win. It helped Johnson's case, of course, that Barry Goldwater was a nut. And I respect George Will's thought that "Government may not mandate equality of resources among political competitors who earn different levels of voluntary support". I even agree with it. I love the idea of being able to contribute whatever little bit I can to a campaign I support, and to know that I and others like me can help a candidate we believe in. I love that donating to a campaign is a direct way to participate and become entrenched in that campaign. I love people getting passionate about politics, and any way for them to do so is - in my book - a wonderful thing. And I love that it does not matter what level one can contribute; that just contributing can make a person feel empowered and energized and enfranchised. George Will is right; support cannot be mandated. Support cannot be punished. And so I suppose that George Will wins this round. I think I may have come around to the idea that limits on campaign spending only limits democracy and our direct contact to the democratic process.

1 comment:

John said...

the thing is, a lot of non-republicans liked John McCain before he won the Republican primaries. To many (me included,) he was seen as a more moderate and level-headed republican who might actually approach matters from a bipartisan perspective. He might still be that same man underneath, but his campaign has painted him to be something altogether different, and repetition would only have hammered home that fact for me.