Monday, November 3, 2008

a constituency of one

My ballot is an 18-year-old virgin. Now 36, I've been of-age to vote the last 18 years, and I've chosen to abstain from doing so in every presidential election that's taken place in that time.

I've never cast a vote for President of the United States, and tomorrow, Nov. 4, I'm inclined to abstain once again.

It's not that I'm undemocratic (with a lower-case "d'). I've cast my ballot for candidates in other national, state, county and city government positions. However, I've never pulled the lever for the big one. Until recently, I've never paused to examine just why this has been the case. Then again, until recently, I haven't been so tempted to give up my vote to a presidential candidate.

Obama's been the first for whom I've considered unlocking my political chastity belt.

Like so many, I was moved by a politician in a way I'd never been moved before when I heard the speech Obama gave at the 2004 DNC. That speech marked the emergence of a charismatic figure in the Democratic party that it hasn't seen since JFK. (Some might argue 'ol Bill was pretty charismatic, but who wouldn't agree now that, even in his heydey, he's just plain sleazy in comparison to Obama? And for those of you who would argue for Hillary's charisma?... please.)

Obama's speech to the DNC didn't move me nearly as much as a speech he made earlier this year, though. While campaigning against Hillary for the party's nomination, he delivered his "A More Perfect Union" speech.

I was more moved by this speech not because of its subject matter--race--but rather the way he confronted the topic and the context in which he confronted it. Afterwards I realized that, whenever I'd heard any other politician speak on the topic, I had received a canned preparation of words. Hearing Obama was like eating fresh pasta for the first time instead of the spaghetti in the cardboard box. I had never heard a politician speak so genuinely, so openly, about anything. And here this man was, speaking this way about the most live-wire topic there is in our culture.

Obama decided to speak candidly on the topic of race not just to a convention of fellow Democrats at a time when he was out of the national spotlight like he did with his speech at the 2004 DNC. No, he took it upon himself to address the nation on the topic while he was maintaining a tenuous lead in his bid for his party's nomination. In three words -- how fucking ballsy!

Even if he hadn't delivered in his speech (and he did,) I would have admired him nonetheless for doing what he felt he had to do, regardless of the consequences. That speech fixed him in my opinion as a genuine character. That action supported his description of himself as someone who only got involved in the race at the time that he did because he sought to bring an end to politics as usual in Washington.

The genuine singularity of his character put the spotlight on his opponent, Hillary, and how she lacked the same authenticity. How some people support her with the fanaticism that they do is a mystery to me, especially after this year's race for the nomination, when her Machiavellian self was put on display. Everyone watched as she continually "redefined" herself during her campaign while Obama remained a rock in comparison. The closer she came to her inevitable defeat, the more quickly and radically she changed herself. Hillary shed tears, shot guns, danced (awfully) and threw back shots of Wild Turkey and everything else under the sun to try to appeal to whatever group of people she was speaking to at the time. She reminded me of how the T-1000 morphed into every form it had ever taken in its death throes at the end of Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

After knocking off the most ruthless Democrat in the party for its nomination, I expected Barack would have it easy against McCain. And, really, he has. However, what I did not expect is how disillusioned I would become with him in the process.

His golden image in my eyes started to lose its lustre when Hollywood scorned the Clintons and threw its support behind him. As a general rule, I distrust celebrity endorsements because they are celebrity endorsements, i.e. endorsements given by people who, for the most part, live lives completely out-of-touch with reality. They call it la-la land for a reason, and once Obama began receiving all his celebrity endorsements, I began to question the viability of his proposals.

What he claims to do as president seems far-fetched, to put it mildly. Healthcare for everyone. College for everyone. Tax credits for all but the rich. And all of this in the midst of the worst economy the country has seen since the Great Depression. Ahem... pardon my skepticism.

One particular claim, for example, was that 98% of small businesses in the U.S. make less than $250,000 a year, and these businesses would receive no increase in taxes under Obama's economic plan.

I was even more surprised, upon checking the validity of this statement on independent Web sites like and, that this statement was, in fact, judged to be true.

However, upon closer investigation, it's only true if viewed in a very specific way. The "small businesses" to which Obama is referring in this claim are based on individual tax returns that claim business income and expenses. These small businesses would be people that are largely self-employed. It comes as no surprise 98% of these "small businesses" make less than $250,000 because, if they made more, they'd incorporate themselves for liability purposes.

His claim that 98% of small businesses in America will not receive an increase in taxes under his plan is factually true if you are talking about the self-employed IT consultant, the mom-and-pop owners of an antique store or one of the many eBay sellers supplementing their incomes.

In other words, it is applicable only to those small businesses that account for a miniscule fraction of the GNP; it is not applicable to incorporated small businesses which are the driving force of the economy.

A "small business" like my father's before he retired, which employed nine people (five doctors and four administrative personnel) and made more than $250,000 net a year, would be taxed at the same 35% corporate tax rate under Obama as it is taxed today under Bush.

McCain's economic plan cuts this corporate tax rate by 10% across the board to 25%, small and large corporations alike. Such publications as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine endorse McCain's economic plan over Obama's primarily because this corporate tax cut will stimulate the economy by making it less costly to do business, thereby encouraging business investment and entrepreneurial risk, thereby creating jobs.

...totally off topic...doesn't Steve Forbes bear a striking resemblance to the head vampire from Lost Boys?

However, by holding out his 98% of small businesses claim, and decrying the greed of corporate America, Obama has succeeded in distorting public perception of his economic plan. It also helps that he has Warren Buffet's endorsement, which he does not hesitate to hold out as a badge of legitimacy when speaking about the economy.

Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a non-partisan foundation according to, wrote a paper that appeared in the Oct. 24 Wall Street Journal, entitled "How's Obama Going to Raise $4.3 Trillion" which takes Obama's economic plan to task. To summarize, it answers the question, "How is he going to pay for it?" The answer is, simply, that he can't without raising taxes substantially across all tax brackets.

Obama doesn't have to answer this question, though, because the public hasn't demanded him to do so. Incredibly enough, neither has his opponent, and for not hammering Obama over the head on such points, McCain doesn't deserve to be elected to the office.

He had ample opportunity to do so and didn't. He also showed that he couldn't debate himself out of a cardboard box. Instead of trying to articulate the fantastical nature of Obama's promises, McCain choose to cave and allow the Republican party to dust off its old playbook and paint Obama as a Manchurian candidate for a left-wing Marxist movement that seeks to undo all things American.

McCain also allowed Obama to associate him, to the very end, with Bush. He never effectively countered Obama's claim that McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time, and that a vote for him was four more years of Bush.

Anyone with Internet access and an interest in the validity of politicians' claims knows, by checking sites like the aforementioned and, that this claim is true, but again only from a very specific point of view.

Yes, he voted along with Bush 95% of the time, but only in this past year, and he did so largely in order to counter the Democratic majority in the senate along with the other Republican senators. Prior to the Democrats gaining control, McCain voted with Bush a little over 70% of the time. While this makes his voting history strongly Republican, it is hardly evidence of him walking lock-step with the Bush administration as Obama has portrayed him.

The funny thing is that, on the most substantive point (the economy) of this campaign, it is Obama and not McCain who is for "more of the same," i.e. Bush and Obama @ 35% corporate tax rate vs. McCain @ 25%.

Does McCain have a shell-shocked war buddy managing his campaign?

Obama also distorts the truth when he claims that McCain is for a $4 billion tax cut to oil corporations, and I know,...yes, it's politics, and you spin as you have to in order to win. But that's the whole point. I bought into Obama being above it all. I bought into him being the anti-politician, and in operating this way, in operating like the same politician he set himself apart from in his campaign against Hillary for the nomination ... he just doesn't charm me anymore. The hearts are no longer inflating and popping around my head when I see him.

He almost had me with his sweet-nothings, but now I can't look past the deceptions and question marks. With his spell now lifted, if I was voting for the candidate who I thought best gave the country a chance to emerge for its current woes, I'd vote McCain. However, honestly, I can't do that, either, knowing McCain's not run a good enough campaign to deserve the presidency.

So I'm re-adjusting my chastity belt.

I quoted MacNeice in an earlier post as saying, "I am damned if I am going to swallow Marx or Trotsky or anyone else lock stock & barrel unless it squares with my experience, or perhaps I should say, my feelings of internal reality."

The same applies here. Call me a prude, but I simply won't give it up for a candidate I don't full-heartedly believe in. Obama almost had me, like he's got so many now -- maybe enough for the presidency -- but I'm just not buying all the sweet talk.

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