Only A Chance, Nothing More

I don’t know if yesterday was the happiest day of my political life.  Two other memories stand sharper in memory:

  1. Sometime during my college years (1998, I’m guessing), I went absolutely ballistic, skipping class upon hearing that Jesse “The Body” Ventura had won the governor’s race in MN.  I was completely apathetic then but had grown up watching Ventura on wrestling shows as a kid.  I had no clue what his platform was (though I find that now, I agree with him much of the time) but the joy came from the sense that American politics weren’t hopeless.  Things could change. This probably helped guide me toward third parties once I entered political engagement.
  2. In 2005, Gov. Schwarzenegger called a special election with a set of ballot initiatives and the local campaign manager, Rick Wathen (a great guy who would probably kill me if I told him that everytime I visualize Todd Palin, the image morphs into Rick), gave a cocky kid with no formal experience or qualifications my first political job and in a major statewide campaign, no less.  For the next 3 months, we worked around the clock to defeat those initiatives.  I remember the election night party, watching the returns coming which showed us behind and just waiting for the numbers to flip as our stronghold areas began reporting.  Once the numbers flipped, the exhiliration (and exhaustion immediately following) still resonates strongly in my memory.  Soon afterward, the depressing realization set in that all the hard work hadn’t really accomplished anything to move us forward .

Obviously, I supported Obama and on a financial blog, I’m sure many readers probably don’t agree.  But I have tried to distinguish politics from ideology.  Now, I think it is important to also separate policy from both politics and ideology.  As the Republican Party is finding out now, policy does not follow from either politics or ideology and those who do not bear this in mind are doomed to disappointment.

I supported Obama on the basis of his obvious superior qualities.  As I’ve said before, imagine yourself hiring for a senior executive position and ignore ideology — how can one honestly say you wouldn’t hire a leader, a manager, a rainmaker as skilled as Obama?  But I’ve never made any representations on his ideology or proposed policies.  For any politician at this level, ideology is somewhat fluid (I was for it before I was against it) and policies can be unrealistic or bring unintended consequences (ask the banking industry about that bankruptcy bill now).

For any rational person buying the basic premise of peaking oil production, the possible ramifications of a country unprepared to deal with such a scenario are frighteningly stark.  Now add some ill-conceived conflicts abroad and a society drowning in debt.  The challenges facing this country are far more daunting than the American public realizes.  Don’t take my word for it — Warren Buffett has warned of Squanderville for years while Jim Rogers is so scared he’s getting rid of all his US dollars.

For those hyperventilating about higher taxes or the death of Israel, I hope those people handle their financial matters with less emotion than their politics but after the left going ballistic over Bush the last eight years, maybe it’s only fair even if W is the worst President in the modern era.

Some of Obama’s policy positions make sense on a general level; for example, while many red-meat Republicans decry “socialized medicine”, it is insane for a society to ask its businesses to bear the brunt of the burden of providing coverage and to tie health coverage to a person’s job.  I just don’t see how capital can be efficiently allocated when so many economic participants are expending as much energy on healthcare concerns like we do.

The real question, though, is whether he will be able to implement the policies given the state of the economy.  The truth is ideologues don’t know whether their policies will work or not — they simply believe with a zealot’s faith so it comes across as knowledge.  Eight years ago, conservatives got their wish in a President Bush who lowered capital gains and high-income tax rates and what do we have to show for it?  Certainly not great capital gains or a booming, efficient economy.

I do not know if Obama’s policy preferences will adequately address the serious problems facing us — energy, healthcare, debt, etc.  I have to be honest in confessing that I wouldn’t put money on Obama’s chances at successfully keeping America in relative prosperity as our problems are so great.  But McCain would have guaranteed a slide, as much for what it would say about a people who would elect the obviously inferior candidate for whatever reason than due to the quality of McCain’s leadership abilities.

But as Obama said last night, this election was not the change we need but rather, only the (slim) chance for us to achieve it.  But in today’s America, anything is possible.

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