Saturday, October 25, 2008

630 days down; nine to go

(Originally published 10/25/08)

Plenty of things have likely changed in your life over the past 21 months, but there has been one constant: We’re still talking presidential politics.

It’s hard to believe that some people -– a group large enough to constitute double digit percentages in some polls, if you believe the numbers -– say they still don’t know for whom they will vote.

Who are these people, and where have they been?

I read one comment this week from someone who said he believes that no one is truly undecided. If they say they’re still on the fence, it’s just because they crave attention.

But who wants more attention? I know you’re probably sick of all the polls and speculation and allegations and disgustingly awful television commercials. I’m a political junkie, and even I’ve had enough.

It’s been a difficult campaign, rife with disturbing undertones and flush with the promulgation of unsubstantiated, irrelevant and indefensible innuendo. But we can no longer blame the candidates alone for the nosedive in the level of American political discourse.

Voters themselves are culpable. Many of the same conservatives who prize Sarah Palin and renounce the media’s relentless attacks on her have spread false information about Barack Obama through e-mail and on blogs for months. And many liberals who cheered Hillary Clinton in the primary season and decried the sexist treatment they said she endured have been guilty of sexism themselves as they have mercilessly mocked Palin over the past two months.

Through all this, the mainstream media has breathlessly reported on major national issues like the amount of money that might have been spent on Palin’s wardrobe. Considering the sheer number and profound gravity of the issues facing this country, I am at a loss to explain the news “judgment” that went into chasing that story. Unfortunately, it’s indicative of the poor choices and sloppy reporting that have characterized the mainstream media’s overall coverage of this race: It has been constantly plagued by the blurring line between reporting and punditry. Both the coverage of this election and the mainstream media’s credibility have suffered as a result.

If you’re sick of John McCain and Barack Obama, remember that there are lots of downticket races, state proposals and local referenda that will need your attention. These are at least as important -– and perhaps more important, at least as they relate to your daily life –- than the race that tops the ticket.

Over the next few days, the Opelika-Auburn News will present its editorial endorsements. (For more on the congressional race between U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers and Josh Segall, check out my blog on Sunday.) I encourage you to read the recommendations and consider the arguments presented therein. You probably won’t agree with all the endorsements. But don’t miss the opportunity to strengthen your argument that exists in carefully considering the one made for the other side.

Finally, I’m just hoping we’re ready for what these closing days will bring. If the last 630 days are any indication, the final nine will be downright harsh.

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