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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 9/5/2004

Enough of conventional politics

I quit. Or, anyway, I'd like to.

With the conventions over and the race for the White House hunkering down, I am sorely tempted to resign from any continuing interest in national politics.

I trace this elevated disenchantment to two recent thorns that snagged national attention: Talk of a "sensitive war," and debate over the possibilities of a no-win war on terrorism, and whether that's even what George Bush meant to say.

Lights! Camera! Gotcha!

Oh, I know. Politics has ever been thus. It's human nature (well, among pols) to pounce on opponents for any utterance that is easily twisted.

Meanwhile, we tell pollsters we don't like negative candidates, and then promptly boost the snarkiest campaign by a few percentage points as soon as the mud starts flying.

But this is now ridiculous - and I say this as a person with a keen professional interest in controversy. The smirk on Dick Cheney's face as he set out to ridicule the idea of a "sensitive war" during his convention speech was beyond hope.

And yet there's no convincing me that the vice president (or anyone, for that matter) honestly believed John Kerry was talking about a kumbaya campfire sing-along when he spoke of sensitivity. So why would the GOP work so hard to ridicule what is simply the concept of thoughtfulness during wartime?

The same thing must be asked of the Dems, who were gleeful to the point of spontaneous combustion after the President said the war against terrorism couldn't be won. But even someone like me, who disagrees with George Bush at least 120 percent of the time, could parse from his remark the idea that winning a conventional war against something as ethereal and stateless as terrorists is as problematic as picking up spilled mercury.

So why do we insist on playing "gotcha" politics?

And I don't mean just the candidates, I mean voters too. We cannot even have a political conversation now where people don't end up name-calling like third-graders on the playground.

I want to go live where they don't even have conventional political campaigns anymore.

In this mythical place, each candidate simply issues a book - yes, that's right, a book - two months before Election Day. Each book is organized roughly the same way, laying out candidate positions on a wide variety of subjects. Then, they answer follow-up voter questions on their Web sites. Maybe they have a friendly debate shortly before the election, but debate rules demand they only discuss their ideas, and not each other's shortcomings.

And that's it.

No bus tours through swing states. No TV ads or campaign slogans. No opinion polls.

Voters could no longer passively absorb elaborate candidate marketing strategies but would instead be forced to carry the full weight of citizenship by reading the original source material and making up their own minds.

This would demand hard work from the voters - but it sure would make it easier for them too.



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