Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Unpaid Political Announcement

The quickest way to get comments, both polite and rude, in our current age is to express a political viewpoint.

Of the hundred and forty-two essays that I have posted on this blog in the 26 months of its existence, only a handful have been overtly political. A few others have appeared, to the untrained eye, to be so – but in fact my point was something other than political. To do with manners, perhaps; or civility; or something else.

Even as the general election has gotten closer and closer, I’ve resisted posting every other day about the latest Obama vs. Romney micro-burst (or megaton) issue. This post here has to do with matters that are other than strictly political, but of course it boils down to politics anyway. It has to: it’s now the time of the quadrennium (the rest of you can look it up when you get home) where deciding where you stand is crucial.

So, slings and arrows, I am prepared to suffer you.

Of course, I will also accept plaudits and other similar currency. If you choose the sling-and-arrow route, just don’t be abusive. If you are, you won’t see your name in print. Those have been the rules since day one of this blog. And no trolls allowed. You wanna invoke bile and slander, go post on Fox Nation. They eat that stuff up.

In my adult life, I have found it a relatively rare thing to step into a voting booth during a Presidential election and actually vote for someone, as opposed to voting for anybody but that guy.

The process of choosing party nominees for this week’s Presidential election, which began most of two years ago, and which at times swerved across the line into the lane of unintentional parody, has yielded two candidates. On Tuesday I get to choose which one I think is most deserving (or, as some might view it, which one is least undeserving) of the opportunity to be The Leader Of The Free World.

As often happens with those of us who four years previously voted for the incumbent, I could mention a few promises upon which I thought the incumbent hadn’t quite followed through, and a few decisions that I wish he had made (or had not), or behaviors that I wish he hadn’t insisted upon exhibiting.

[In the ensuing paragraphs, a gentle note to the Pronoun Police: historically I have been very good about s/he, and him-/her-self, and band alumni/-ae, and all that. But this time around, the incumbent and the challenger are both men, and this will read more fluidly if I reflect that.]

We all have ideal visions of what “our guy” might do … will do … could have done … should have done, in his four years in office. And, since “our guy” is always a human being, and since he is not (according to the Constitution) able to just issue a royal decree but instead has to work with the rest of our system of government to make things happen, most times that ideal vision stands no chance of coming to pass comprehensively anyway. Many times, he probably knows that his ideal vision isn’t going to be realized, either. Politics is “the art of the possible”, and not everything is possible.

My decision about whom to vote for will have lots to do with what policies “my guy” espouses (ideal vision or not) … and lots to do with what sort of Supreme Court justices he might nominate, given the opportunity … and lots to do with how “my guy” will probably interact with the rest of the world on behalf of his countrymen. (Countrywomen.) But this year, my decision will also have an awful lot to do with something as ephemeral and conjecture-based as how I feel about the guy … about what I think he’s like, when the spotlights and cameras are off him; when he’s just whatever kind of human being he really actually is. And how I feel about the other guy.

Since I’ve never been in the same room with either of them, let alone met them personally, this is all conjecture, buttressed by a whole lot of merely-circumstantial evidence. Ironically, the only times I’ve been able to gather this evidence have been when the cameras are, in fact, on the candidates. Recognizing that nothing that is observed remains unchanged, nonetheless, as we used to say in ninth-grade English class, each gentleman has created a “dominant impression”. And as the 1970s shampoo commercial used to say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

So I’m voting based on an impression?

Yes … among other things. But in the run-up to this particular election, I’ve gotten especially strong “vibes” from these two. In past years, this sort of litmus test has been summarized as, “which candidate would you rather have a beer with?” As if a drinkin’ buddy is the kind of person I want in charge of the largest economy and military machine in the world. But as long as we’re electing a human being who, by definition, is full of strengths and weaknesses, admirable qualities and flaws … my litmus test ends up being similar but hopefully with a bit more depth: “which candidate is my kind of human being?”

Some years, this question’s had something of a toss-up answer. “I’m voting for the lesser of two weevils, thank you.”

But, having had an opportunity to listen to and watch Mr. Obama operate, over the last few years … and having had an opportunity to listen to and watch Mr. Romney operate, both in the last two years of campaigning and during his time as governor of our faire Commonwealth (God save it!) … I feel as if I’ve got enough evidence, circumstantial though it may be, to make a few conjectural assertions about each. With your (assumed) forgiveness, I was thinking of framing my assertions with some memorable Thoughts from a particularly astute teacher of mine.


A good leader is one that can adapt and overcome in the face of adversity.”

I suspect that Mr. Obama has a better idea of what it’s like to be in debt than does Mr. Romney, and I get the impression that he views people who are in debt with a good deal more empathy, too. Mr. Romney, according to his very own biographical sketch, has wanted for very few things in his life.

The easiest way to mask insecurity is to cut other people down.”

I suspect that Mr. Romney is less likely to have been bullied as a kid than was Mr. Obama. Reports of how he treated the reporters assigned to his primary-season tour bus (not to mention how he reportedly held down and cut off the hair of a fellow private-school student) give me the impression he’s much more comfortable in a situation in which he is “one-up” on people.

Go out of your way to treat people kindly.”

Mr. Obama very rarely seems to “talk down” to people, even if he is on a higher social stratum than they are. In another online space, I complained a bit about Mr. Romney’s mid-debate advice to Mr. Obama: “You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking” – in a snap of a tone that I would hesitate to use on the President, no matter which President it was with whom I was speaking.

Surround yourself with positive people.”

This one is a bit subjective, but … here are two campaign advisors employed by Mr. Romney: Former UN ambassador John Bolton, who never met a military intervention he couldn’t support, and former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who by almost any metric, strikes me as just unpleasant.

Know when the spotlight is on you and when it isn’t.”

I suspect that Mr. Romney is less likely to function well in situations where he isn’t in charge – where he’s not the boss. At one campaign rally shortly after Congressman Paul Ryan had been named as Romney’s running mate, the audience started chanting “Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!” – and Romney stepped in and tried to encourage them to chant “Romney! Ryan! Romney! Ryan!…”

Being Drum Major does not make you the best! Learn from those who are better than you.”

Mr. Obama has chosen a running mate who is older, more experienced, and quite possibly more politically savvy than he is, and who in an emergency could conceivably do Mr. Obama’s job.

Be a builder, not a wrecker.”

Mr. Romney’s business experience seems to involve a lot of examples of situations in which he had more of an eye toward what he could take out of it than an eye toward what he could build with it.

A Drum Major is a role model, a friend, servant, mediator, teacher, protector, and follower.”

I suspect that Mr. Obama would be a better mediator; more likely to settle an argument in such a way that both arguing parties would go away feeling like they’d gained something. (Some have suggested that he’s too good at this for his own good.)

By contrast, I don’t suspect that Mr. Romney’s business dealings or upbringing have offered him any experience with service (the day after Hurricane Sandy, he held a “storm relief event” that honestly looked much more like a photo op, and was lated revealed to be even more staged and craven than it looked), mediation (Bain Capital was not in the business of negotiating agreements that benefited anyone but itself), protection (Mr. Romney has consistently advocated directing funds away from agencies or projects that would protect the citizenry from natural disasters), or certainly following.

Never assume anything.”

Never assume anything.

Last night, over on Fox News, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee declared that in this election, “we’re not just voting on a personality … we’re voting on trust.”

I think that by accident, Mr. Huckabee got that right – although not in the way he intended. No indeed: I’m not voting just based on personality. But elements of a candidate’s personality – how he thinks about other people, what he thinks about other people, how he treats other people – can go a long way toward informing a voter about how he is likely to govern people, about what decisions he will likely make that will affect people.

So, again, although I have rarely gone into the voting booth during a Presidential election and actually voted for someone, as opposed to voting against someone … this time, I’m doing both.

Mr. Obama is my guy.


November 4, 2012 Posted by | Famous Persons, government, news, politics, Starred Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment