Do most of us really know why we're supporting Obama or McCain?

This morning, during a C-SPAN call in program, an elderly woman from Buffalo phoned in to explain why she and her family members–including several new voters–would be pulling the levers for Sen. John McCain. She said the new voters in her family were particularly excited:

“They love Sarah Palin and they are voting this year for the first time. We are a big family…We love children. We’re pro-life. I don’t know how people can survive without children…John McCain believes in children. Look at his family…His mother…And Sarah Palin and her family all believe in large families and it’s just wonderful and it’s going to set an example for this country for all those with large families.”

Though I’m pro-choice, I do have an appreciation for many pro-life people as opposing what they feel is wrong. But this isn’t about abortion. I’m more interested in why people choose who they vote for and if indeed most of us know why we are voting for someone or something at all. The woman from Buffalo struck me as having a vague entirely simplistic reason for voting for her candidate. And it’s not only McCain supporters who can be accused of this.

Today the Daily News carried a column by 20/20 reporter John Stossel. I normally find Stossel to be a blowhard, but this caught me. Short and to the point,it said something no newspaper editorial board or television pundit has had the gall to say, which is that many–if not most–voters do not exactly vote on policy or principle but rather on very vague notions of what they want or expect. Stossel notes many people don’t possess the most basic idea of civics. They don’t know the number of people who serve in the United States Senate (from which both major candidates come). That doesn’t bode well for grasping the more fundamental concepts that any eighth grader should know, including the separation of powers and layers of federal, state and local governments.

This Presidential election may be the one with the greatest turnout of any in the history of our great republic, but that doesn’t mean that most of us who make up the electorate have any idea of why we are voting. And I’ll certainly include myself in the category of those who could go for a little better understanding of the issues on which these two candidates are running.

Several weeks ago, the Howard Stern Show carried a segment in which personality Sal the Stock Broker spoke with voters who claimed they were supporting Barack Obama. Sure, Howard Stern’s show is known more for interviewing porn stars than tackling big issues, but I think this particular piece was very interesting (Go ahead, listen to it).

Three people is a very small sample of any constituency, and I am by no means claiming all or most of Obama’s supporters are like this. Hell, I’m voting for the man myself. But it’s chilling how people make up their minds on what they plan on voting for.

Whether it’s a woman in Buffalo who believes that because the McCain-Palin families are so large they care about family more than Biden-Obama, or voters in Harlem who appear at face value to be willing to vote for the freshman senator from Illinois (perhaps because he is black) even if that means upholding a futile occupation of Iraq or restricting scientific research, it’s disturbing to think that elections hinge on trivial perceptions or outright blind loyalty.

In this Presidential election, the blind loyalty and Kool-Aid sipping comes from both sides. To many Obama supporters, the man can do no wrong. He has been elevated to a prophet like status that I fear will not bode well seven or eight months down the road when our great nation is still recovering from this economic collapse and still dealing with the occupation of Iraq and a worsening security situation in Afghanistan (which is likely to get worse as the Afghan snows melt and it is easier for Taliban thugs to fire on NATO troops). In my opinion Obama is like most politicians. He’s slightly in love with himself. He’s a proud and good orator and he basks in the limelight. On the other hand, I don’t think he’s a complete narcissist. This man has not promised an immediate recovery from the recession, a quick and painless wellspring of consumer confidence and an overnight halt to the troubling trend of foreclosure that has smacked communities in all 50 states.

Unfortunately, many of Obama’s most ardent supporters do believe that by pulling the lever for him, things will go back to the salad days of the 1990’s, when Wall Street whizzed for all of us instead of on all of us.

Sad to say, with the cacophony of statistics and figures that both campaigns have hit us with during the debates and at the end of the longest most tiresome election in U.S. history, it’s quite frankly hard to get a footing and truly understand what each of these two decent men is proposing. I suspect the strategists prefer it that way. It’s easier to win over a voter with vague loyalties than one who demands a point-by-point plan.

I like Senator Obama so far, but have to be willing to admit that my vote for him is not the most informed. It’s a vote for a man who, since his days in the Illinois upper house was a vocal opponent of a war that was arguably unconstitutional, one that put more consideration on the affairs and futures of the people of Iraq, Iran and Israel than our own country. With that in mind, I voted for him in the primary here in New York. I appreciate his asking for a reasonable plan to withdraw the armed forces personnel who have sacrificed more than can be borne at this moment.

But blind support comes not only from the droves of people who feel for one reason or another inspired by Barack Obama. The same can be said for many of those who will vote on November 4 for John McCain simply because he seems more American or makes them feel better about the way they feel America should be. In other words, there are plenty of people who will cast votes for John McCain not for his particular positions on Iraq or easing the tightening credit markets, but because he appeals to their vague notion of the everyman. I wouldn’t be surprised if approached at a diner somewhere in that fictitious “Real America” his supporters supposedly occupy, there would be quite a few who would fall for Sal the Stockbroker’s bait-and-switch. They simply couldn’t imagine voting for Obama. For some, it’s simply because he’s white that they’ll vote for McCain and for others it is because his opponent bears the name Hussein and they heard that despite his being he Protestant, he’s actually Muslim. Some will vote for McCain because they think his VP candidate seems like she’s cut from the same cloth as them. Either way, those aren’t good reasons to vote for someone. They’re awful reasons and I don’t know if this is what the blood and sweat of the American Revolution was about, but it certainly does serve a political purpose.

When it’s over, every American, whether she voted or not, is in it together, informed or uninformed alike. I suppose it’s always been like this, the polarization of the masses and the deification of certain candidates. I guess I just personally can’t wait until it’s over and we can get on with things and try to make something better of these challenging times.


One Response

  1. Here is a 67 page academic research paper on:
    “An Examination of Obama’s Use of Hidden Hypnosis Techniques in His Speeches”

    Here is an exerpt:
    *Obama’s hypnotic command that…

    “a light will shine down from somewhere, it will light upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will say to yourself, ‘I have to vote for Barack’”

    An example of Obama using both of these hypnotic hand gestures, hypnotic programming followed by hypnotic anchor back to back, in a way that can be nothing other than hypnosis: You can See the video of this speech excerpt:

    Video Example:

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