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The Story So Far

In the beginning, there were the multitudes, and they were all running for president. Always great lovers of tradition, the Grand Old Party went their “classic” lineup: Old White Guy, Old White Guy, Old White Guy, Old White Guy (famous), Old White Guy, Old White Guy (9/11), Old White Guy (Mormon), Old White Guy and Alan Keyes. In a surprise move, they went with Old White Guy. Meanwhile, Democrats’ attempt to shatter every glass ceiling at once left voters picking shards out of their eyes for months.

A history-making election was afoot. For the first time, both parties nominated someone born outside of the continental United States; John McCain in the Panama Canal Zone (or as it was known at the time, Western Pangea), and Barack Obama in Kenya Hawaii. Also, one of them is black.

Voters have made it quite clear they’re seeking change they can believe in. Given the state of the economy, even loose change would be welcomed. But mostly they seek change from the current administration, which exists as a pariah, shunned by both parties as it looks on from the bell tower. Change is very popular among the political parties as well. Republicans are eager to present themselves as agents of change from the Republican way of doing things. At the same time, they seek to change President Bush into a Democrat, or better yet, a Socialist. For their part, Democrats are offering change from a demoralized, unfocused party to one with a spine. So “change” is the word, but who can deliver?

The Key Players

Barack Obama: Since his star-making turn in the Democratic National Convention’s keynote address in 2004, Obama’s stock has been on the rise; one of the few stocks to go up during Bush’s tenure. A formidable orator, Obama’s golden tongue may yet be his undoing, as any American knows, if you speak well, you must be trying to trick them. The primary battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit,” was widely seen as the playoff game that will outshine the Super Bowl in terms of competitiveness. Not that having every political indicator known to mankind favoring Democrats means they can’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The surprising secret is that many Americans, including “liberal” Democrats and famously wise “independents,” will not, under any circumstances, vote for a black man. On top of that, some people believe him to be a radical black nationalist Christian, a communist, or an Islamic terrorist; sometimes all three at once. Since enough people believe Obama is really, say, Muslim, then the possibility that just one of those people may be right cannot be dismissed. In accordance with Dick Cheney’s 1% Doctrine, America must accept and prepare for the fact that Obama’s first act as president would be to subject the entire U.S. to strict sharia law. Despite these misgivings, Barack Hussein Obama has so far refused to legally change his name to “Unnamed Democrat.”

Joe Biden: The senior senator from Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, “Smilin’” Joe Biden is to knowledgeable foreign policy what Tiger Woods is to golf. Unfortunately, Joe Biden is also to cringe-inducing verbal gaffes what Tiger Woods is to golf. His only hope of being able to deliver Delaware’s all-important 3 electoral votes to Obama is that Americans find his habitual foot-in-mouth routine to be endearing, like a crackpot uncle who can call a black candidate “well spoken” and “articulate” and still be his pick for Vice President.

John McCain: John McCain was a P.O.W. One might think that would be qualification enough for the leader of the free world, but for some reason, John McCain is being forced to actually compete against some young whippersnapper. John McCain believes this is deeply unfair. John McCain’s position is that John McCain deserves this election, so don’t make him mad. He gets a temper when he’s tired, because John McCain is old. He is older than ball point pens, the Hindenburg disaster and the state of Alaska. By his own admission, the multiple-cancer survivor is “older than dirt,” but this is an unfair characterization. There is, in fact, dirt that is older than John McCain. It is more accurate to say that John McCain is “older than some dirt.” John McCain is also a maverick. Mavericks buck the trends and do the unexpected. Like opening a walnut with a .45. They’re untamed. Wild. Frighteningly sporadic. Only a maverick could hold opposing positions on almost every major issue without their head exploding in a flaming ball of contradiction. Only a maverick would spend the last several years watching George W. Bush’s approval ratings plummet like a dead sparrow and still vote with him 90% of the time. And only a true maverick, whose motto is “Country First,” would shock the political establishment by picking an absolute naif to serve as the VP to the oldest first term president in history.

Sarah Palin: Wave of the future! The draft pick from the Republican farm team (bats right, throws even further right) has had a steep learning curve on the national stage, but really has nothing to prove to anyone. In a country where smart, capable, non-judgmental people are derided as “elitist” and “latte sipping,” voters have shown a tendency to entrust the country to someone who can give them a heightened sense of adequacy. If the average beauty-contestant / hockey mom / PTA gossip can be a heartbeat away from the presidency, then anyone can! There is also the added benefit of a seamless transition to a Palin Vice-Presidency. A loathing of the press; vindictiveness, obsessive secrecy, justice obstruction and the belief that the office of the Vice President occupies that netherworld between the Executive and Legislative branches – Sarah Palin is more Dick Cheney than Dick Cheney. She has more foreign policy experience too, as Palin can see Russia from her house, while Cheney can only see stalactites.

George W. Bush: What more can be said about the 43rd president that hasn’t already been said in best-selling tell-all books from former employees concerned about their reputations? His list of accomplishments will be hard for either candidate to duplicate: Iraq, Katrina, Wall Street, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Valerie Plame, Walter Reed, torture, warrantless domestic spying…and that’s just scratching the surface. It’s difficult to imagine another president in our lifetime having such a profound impact on the people who elected him. Twice.

The Media: The unseen hand that shapes the narratives that the country follows to keep abreast of what’s happening on the campaign trail. Ever mindful of their duty to be “fair” and “balanced,” the current journalistic establishment takes very seriously their role as judges of American Political Idol. People like David Broder, Ron Fournier, Bill Kristol, Mark Halperin, Chris Matthews, David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, all with their fingers tourniquet-tight on the pulse of the common man, know that issues and policy are unimportant in a crucial election. Unlike Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, they understand that a candidate’s “character,” flag pins and bowling ability are what really matter to voters, and they dutifully plug these daily mini-dramas into their decades-old narrative of “Republicans strong, Democrats weak.” It’s just easier for them that way. The horse race is all that matters; actual ability to govern, not so much. It remains to be seen whether or not the media can maintain their partiality in light of candidate McCain’s mortal sin of suddenly restricting access and playing them for fools. That’s their job with the American public, and they don’t like anyone horning in on their action.

Stay tuned.

– Michael Turner