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Friday, August 10, 2007

Politics ain't rocket science

The 2008 Presidential sideshow continued rolling across America yesterday with its increasingly kooky developments. First came the news that South Carolina has moved up its Republican primary in order to assert its traditional role as first poll taker in the South (see the AP story South Carolina Pushes Up GOP Primary). This may start the dominoes falling toward the earliest primary season ever, with analysts forecasting the Iowa caucus votes to be counted before Santa makes his final naughty vs. nice tally.

At times it seems like the states are in a race to put us out of our misery, deciding the nominees before Spring. As the candidates attend forums and reveal an amazing capacity to pander to various groups while straddling the right-of-center fence that surveys say demarcates middle America, I'm finding myself longing for that rush to judgement.

At a Los Angeles forum sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and the Logo TV network, the leading Democratic candidates tried to sound sympathetic to the LBGT community while recognizing that gay still doesn't play in Peoria. Clinton, Obama and Edwards earlier trotted out the names of gay contributors as if having gay political friends glosses over the things once and yet to be said in the heat of the campaign. It took her a few months, but Hillary finally admitted she was wrong to not have condemned Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace's remarks that homosexuality is immoral (see my earlier post, Hillary's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"). She may change tune again the next time she speaks in front of a more conservative audience.

Speaking of conservatives, the Republican candidates didn't even show up to the event. Maybe they were worried that if they did, folks might think they're actually gay. This could be an extension of "don't ask, don't tell" to electoral politics. Don't ask the Republicans how they feel about the gay community, and they'll gladly not tell you. The political strategy of ignoring the constituency is actually an improvement over the constant vilification previously heard from GOP circles. Perhaps they're saving all that hate for immigrants — they can't vote anyway.

Make-believe public policy isn't a very scientific approach, but politics obeys a different set of laws than the rest of the universe. Bill Richardson astutely recognized that disconnect, in perhaps the most amusing moment of the evening. Here's how it was described in the Washington Post story Democratic Candidates Address Gay Rights Issues:

Activists were even more frustrated with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who when asked whether people are born gay or choose to be, said, "It's a choice" and later explained, "I'm not a scientist."
I think it's a disclaimer that could catch on at many a political debate. After eight long years in which gut reaction and corrupt politicking has trumped science, maybe we can turn to someone other than the usual political hacks to run for office. Getting people involved in government who have some familarity with the scientific method sure couldn't hurt. Asking voters to rely on blind faith hasn't gotten us very far.
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