Unless there’s been a Red Wings game on, each of my past Tuesday nights has been spent with coverage of the major party primaries on the television behind me. Even though I don’t particularly care too much who the Democratic and Republican nominees might end up being, there is still something about the process that captivates me. I kind of need to keep up on this stuff, not only because it does ultimately affect me deeply, but because some of my students have a passing knowledge of this stuff, and I want to be able to give them information. (The other day a student in one of my classes told me that she thought that Barack Obama was a Muslim.) I think I also just enjoy hearing all the political speak and un-spinning it in my mind. I guess it’s somewhat akin to how I enjoy watching the television shows of people I can’t stand (Craig Kilborn and Alton Brown just to name two) just to figure out every little thing that they do wrong. I’d like to think I’m doing it more to hone my skills of criticism than because I like to complain or because I like being miserable, but I know myself too well to say that for sure.
I’m still trying to figure out Obama’s allure. I mean, nearly everyone knowledges that Obama is one of the most skilled orators of our time, but I don’t agree with the current strain of thought that states Obama and Hillary Clinton are basically the same on all the issues. I don’t think Obama is the Great Progressive Hope that some would like to make him out to be — his recent support of private gun ownership after the Illinois school shooting particularly irked me — I think he is one of the most liberal major political figures in my lifetime. Liberalism has practically been a dirty word ever since I can remember, and with the way the religious right has framed the national dialogue over the past twenty-plus years, I would have thought that not even Obama’s rhetorical skills could result in him gaining this much support. Obama isn’t left-leaning enough for my tastes, but he certainly leans further to the left than any other national political figure I can recall.
I’m particularly taken aback at how so many people who identify themselves as Republicans and even conservatives are supporting Obama, given how drastically Obama’s views differ from mainstream conservative thought. Obama getting Oprah’s endorsement particularly rattled me; given that Oprah was the person responsible for unloosing such a prototypical conservative like Dr. Phil on all of us, I don’t understand how she could just turn around and support Obama in a way that politicized her far more than she had ever been before. Is the American public really so malleable that they can be so solidly swayed to extremes like those represented by George W. Bush and Barack Obama even when the fundamental principles and philosophies of the two of them differ so drastically? I get criticized often for being too inflexible with my principles — I’ll be the first to admit it’s valid criticism — but this election seems to be teaching me just how inflexible I am compared to most people.