Democracy is the idea that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. Henry Louis Mencken
"The nine most dangerous words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" -Ronald Reagan
Every four years, one of the most important events in the free world takes place in almost every corner of this great nation. Every Americanproviding they are over the age of 18, in this country legally, and have absolutely nothing better to dogoes to his or her nearest polling place and casts their vote for the person they will blame for everything that doesn't go to suit them, from the mortgage crunch to corn blight to ill-fitting shoes. Unless he happens to be a member of their political party, in which case he gets credit for everything that goes right, from a resurgent economy to Santa Claus bringing them that Lite Brite they've always wanted.
As the token libertarian-conservative at AAJ (I believe in an unrestricted free market, that individual rights are inextricably linked to individual responsibilities, and that the stack of vintage Playboy magazines in my closet is nobody else's business), I've been called upon to deliver my perspective on the current election. I normally keep my politics out of my writing, except for my various and random diatribes against Milwaukee city councilman James A. Bohl, Jr., but it was felt that this election needed my peculiar talents to bring everything into perspective and tone down the hyperbole before our nation descends into civil war and life as we know it ends.
This year's election pits a septuagenarian war hero of the variety once consigned to some out-of-the-way VFW hall and trotted out once a year for parades against a 40-foot-tall superintelligent cyborg who, when he isn't rescuing children from burning buildings and using his laser vision to heat nutritious meals for the elderly, sits atop Mount Olympus with the immortal spirits of FDR, JFK, and Barbara Streisand.
More about all of these clownheads later.
The original Cynics were a group of Greek philosophers who believed that the purpose of life was to live a virtuous life in agreement with the natural world, rejecting typical human pursuits such as wealth, power, fame, and possessions. This would mean rejecting the exceptionally sweet 2009 Nissan Maxima, which I sell for a living, so I cannot advocate this philosophy as a model for living. Many of the precepts of Cynicism were later absorbed into Stoicism, which struck a balance between fatalism and free will. This more closely represents my own beliefs, since it does not specifically forbid luxury sports sedans or the possession of a really nice home theater system and, when combined with a healthy dose of modern cynicism, best represents my approach to the entire body politic as it currently exists.
In short, the idea that government can in any real way influence individual happiness or prosperity, rather than simply safeguard the conduits by which these things may be obtained individually, is not merely well-meaning bullsh*t but usually the cover story for some sort of Ponzi scheme that ends up in the government taking more of my money, more of my liberty, or both.
So you've probably gathered that Your Own Personal Genius is less than enthusiastic about the prospects for this election, coming as it does at a time when the idea of the government coming to save the day is like seeing a vanload of Keystone Kops pull up in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
So, which vanload to elect?
On the one hand, we have Barack Obama, the aforementioned cyborg/messiah sent to this world by an advanced civilization to fix the economy, heal the planet, feed the children, make sure no one's grandma ever dies, and paint the sky just the perfect shade of blue with his Wonderfulness Ray (patent pending). The son of a woman from Kansas and the Egyptian god Osiris, young Obama grew up traveling the world and formulating a plan to get everyone on the planet to join together and sing that song from the Coke commercial that annoyed the crap out of everyone back in the Seventies.
Upon reaching adulthood, Obama devoted himself to solving each and every problem that currently plagues mankind. Moving to Chicago to try to straighten out the Cubs, Obama soon realized it would take more than a godlike cyborg to get that team back to the World Series (though, in his infinite benevolence, he did give the White Sox a title in 2005). Leaving Chi-town briefly to attend Harvard Law School, and joining the secret society of superheroes that has existed at the venerable institution since my fellow Virginian Lewis Powell, later a Supreme Court justice and secret identity of Gavelman (first introduced in Fantastic Four no. 51), Obama returned in a magnificent ray of golden light and was later elected to the Senate.
On the other hand, John McCain was born at the end of the American Civil War and spent his formative years whittling or whatever the hell it is they did back then. Already unimaginably old by the time he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, he went on to serve in Vietnam where he endured several years of torture as a prisoner of war. This fact can be safely disregarded as being of any importance because virtually all of the movies made about Vietnam suggest that it wasn't a good idea.
Growing nothing but older, he retired from the Navy in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where many ancient people go to die. Instead, he got himself elected to the House of Representatives which is virtually the same thing. Advancing to the U.S. Senate for no other reason than just to keep from sitting around watching Matlock reruns, McCain developed a reputation as a rancorous contrarian (or, "maverick") and spearheaded such Congressional efforts as establishing a National Bedtime (9:00 on school nights) and passing a bill that required Damned Kids to Stay Off His Lawn.
The issues that involve this election are perhaps some of the most important since we finally hashed out that whole "tastes great, less filling" megillah. The faltering economy that threatens to bring about another Depression with more bread lines and virtually no Shirley Temple, the war that no one can seem to make a decent movie about, and gas prices that were approaching $6.00 a gallon until they inexplicably dropped to under $3.00 a gallon because no one got the memo that they weren't supposed to go down until after the election.
Obama intends to fix these issues using only his amazing personal charisma and moneys confiscated from all those horrible rich people you see driving down the street in their Rolls-Royces every day. By taking all the money from Big Business and people who earn more than you do, he will then equitably redistribute the wealth so that everyone in America can afford to pay more taxes. With these taxes, it will then be possible to end all wars for all time (the way they did in 1146, by outlawing the crossbow) and ensure that from now on, no one will get rich so you don't have to worry about it.
McCain, on the other hand, clings to the antiquated belief that hard work and personal sacrifice are the key to long-term success. He also holds the nonsensical idea that defeating a fanatical enemy is better than simply capitulating to one, which Neville Chamberlain can tell you is a load of crap. And as for rich people, well, McCain couldn't care less if each and every one of us made our fortunes and lived quiet, contented lives free from the specters of class envy and covetousness. The bastard.
More to the point.
If it seems like I'm deliberately favoring one side, remember that I place about as much faith in the government to fix things as I do in Elvis to come back and perform at the Roanoke Civic Center, as he was scheduled to do on my 10th birthday in 1977 had he not been so inconsiderate as to die. Government, in my view, produces nothing. No matter who is in charge, King Barack or Old Man McCain, the ultimate responsibility for your happiness and prosperity lies with you. And the free exchange of goods and capital is key to the wealth for the average person, rather than the centralized control of any economic activity.
This November, vote with your conscience but remember, no one in the history of democracy has ever voted themselves a single inch taller. Regardless of what CNN and the New York Times thinks, the President doesn't receive a magic wand at his inauguration that he may either use for Good or for Evil. And there is no inherent virtue in wanting to do good things with other people's money, no matter how ill-gotten you may believe it to be.
Till next month, kids, exit to your right and enjoy the rest of AAJ.
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