Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Popularity of Hope

I'll never be popular. But at least, if and when the United States is overswept with some horrific social philosophy calling for, say, the ritualistic murder of red-headed children of Ukranian descent born on the full moon, I'll be one of the martyrs instead of one of the conspirators. Um, yay.

I've never been "normal." I've always liked Sci-Fi (which is bad enough for boys -- I can personally assure you that it's really unacceptable for girls). I never had great fashion sense. I have never, ever cared one whit about brand names. I think MTV and reality television shows are boring beyond boring. I do not understand Dane Cook's appeal, and I never will. I was using computers long before it was cool. (In fact, I was one of the few who joined the first-ever online networking site -- pre-AOL, let alone Friendster, MySpace, or Facebook). I didn't particularly like Britney when she seemed relatively normal, but now that she's so screwed up I feel sympathy for her (unlike those who love nothing more than kicking a girl when she's down). I was loud when I was supposed to be quiet, and bored when I was supposed to be interested. I was homeschooled. I was not remotely popular, ever, as a kid.

So it really shouldn't come as a surprise that, once again, the ocean is flowing one way and I'm facing the other thinking "what the fuck?" To what am I referring? Why, the U.S. presidential race, of course.

Now, here's the thing that really kinda gets me: I was a trendsetter here. I liked Obama before it was "cool" to like him. I liked him when he was an underdog with beautiful ideas and inspiring speeches. I liked him before probably even knew who the fuck he was. Nothing's particularly changed since then... so why am I so goddamn sick of the Obama love orgy? Shouldn't I like the fact that people recognize and value character (or at least, apparent character) in a politician? Shouldn't I be glad that we might actually have a black president?? I mean, aside from political differences (an issue with every politician, in spades), how AMAZING would that be.

And yet. I just. Ugh. I can't feel it anymore. I can't get into it. I watched the video the other day and by the time it was over I was feeling pretty emotional... about the fact that apparently I'm the only person in my generation who doesn't "get" how "important" it is elect someone with such a message of hope. Is it because I disagree with the message? Of course not. And I really, really love how even-handed he's been, as a general rule, throughout his campaign (although, sadly, I cannot say the same for many of his supporters*). Is it because I don't like his policies? Well, they certainly aren't ideal from my quasi-libertarian perspective, but they're far from the worst in this election. In the past I have certainly supported candidates with whom I've had at least as much disagreement.

I worry that it may be some bizarre, vaguely misanthropic distrust of mass support and popularity,** with a bit of a thing for underdogs thrown in, brought on by the fact that the people that everyone flocked to when I was younger were: 1) not me, 2) not my friends, and, most importantly, 3) complete tools.

Because... I can definitely get behind an idea that lots of people support. If the situation were simply that Obama was winning all the states, without some powerful, emotionally-grounded mass movement driven by college students and celebrity musicians, I think I'd feel a lot less wary of it. Even though I'd likely still suspect that a lot of the support was based on platitudes rather than pragmatism, at least I wouldn't have people screaming in my face constantly about how I have to vote for Obama if I believe in hope.

I went into this election season discouraged -- as usual, not a single legitimate, consistent, rational libertarian-leaning candidate out there (no, Ron Paul does not count). I'm afraid I may end it even more discouraged that I belong to a generation of lemmings (and, to be clear, I'm certainly not suggesting that all of Obama's supporters aren't thinking and researching for themselves -- but I am suggesting that many of them aren't).

*Don't even get me started on the rampant sexism this campaign season. Yes, there's definitely been a heaping dose of equally-ugly racism too, but not at the level of hecklers yelling at Obama that he should get back to the plantation (compare, e.g., "Iron my shirt!"),*a and, perhaps more importantly, not en masse from Hillary supporters -- very little aggravates me more than supposedly progressive sexists. At least from the right wingers (even the nice ones are generally benevolent sexists, which is less emotionally offensive but no less limiting) I expect it.

*a That said, if I have to listen to another person talk about how Obama wants to turn us all into Muslims and anti-white Christians simultaneously (how this is possible, I have no idea), I may just march up to the local Democratic party headquarters and demand that an extra vote be added for Obama's name, just to spite the racist asshole.

**And it probably doesn't help that my favorite subgenre -- the only type of book, other than caustically sarcastic humor, that I could honestly say I regularly find myself reading "voraciously" -- is dystopian fiction. I need to remind myself that just because everyone loves Obama doesn't mean he's Big Brother.

I hope.

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At February 26, 2008 at 10:00 AM, Blogger Bianca Reagan said...

Lots of good points! Some people need to remember that this isn't a football game: it's an election. Many Obama supporters, including ones with daily radio programs, have fallen under the delusion that supporting Barack means demonizing Senator Clinton, even when their positions are exactly the same. It's crazy how much Obama supporters think attacking Hillary is equivalent to supporting Barack. It's not.

At February 26, 2008 at 4:45 PM, Blogger Law Fairy said...

Thanks, Bianca!

Yeah, Clinton and Obama's similarities outweight their differences by a factor of like a thousand. If you're going to make decisions on the margins, then make sure you actually understand what the margins *are*. Saying you won't vote for Clinton because she is "shrill" or because she is scheming (unlike every other politician?) is -- well, I don't need to tell you what it is.

By the way, I have not forgotten about your book (which I am very much enjoying reading when I have a few minutes between work and sleep here and there ;)) -- I'll drop you a note when my review is done (should be very soon)!

At February 26, 2008 at 8:40 PM, Blogger Gino said...

well, you know my politics, and even I am an obama fan, (this after saying so much about his lack of everything for over a year).

i just cant help but like the guy, while disagreeing with every policy position he's ever taken.
so, no, i cant be listed as a supporter.

i think that's the O magic. folks are rallying around a 'rock star'.
you've seen footage of the beatles' swooning and crazy crowds. or elvis? none of this was because they actually knew these fellas to be great guys of strong character. it was all about what came out of their mouths. Obama is the same thing.

thing is, you got in early, for more personal reasons than following the rock star.

there is a good reason, at the margins, to pick O over H. H has failed at everything she's touched policywise, and even politically. and she carries within her being a level of personal corruption so large books have been written about it.
O may not have the experience, but he also doesnt have the long list of failures, both personal and political. this places their accomplishments on a level playing feild.
O may actually accomplish something.
H has already shown she cannot.

as for me, i may sit out this november. i've done it before, in 2000.
or, i may vote for the Libertarian.

At February 26, 2008 at 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your writing! btw, what ultimately happened at law school? I always love to hear how things turn out... especially as I am now a "Your Mom goes to Law School", too.

At February 27, 2008 at 11:29 PM, Blogger Law Fairy said...

Gino, I never would've pegged you to vote libertarian -- my third party of choice as well. Who'da thunk!

I'm still seriously considering voting for Colbert.

Yeah, I definitely get the "cult of personality" vibe to this election, and while I understand it, in a weird sort of way, that almost makes him *less* likable to me. I like his message of change, since Lord knows I hate the government and politicians in general, but now that everyone else likes it I can't help but wonder if there's something wrong with. Pessimistic, me? ;)

This is why I should move to England. They understand pessimism there...

The reasons you listed for being against Clinton seem legit -- if you think that she's particularly more dishonest than the average politician, and if you think she won't be an effective president, that's a good reason not to vote for her. I wish that more people who were anti-Hill had things halfway as well thought-out.

I've heard a lot of people compare Obama to Reagan, interestingly enough. Before, we had Reagan Democrats -- now we have Obama Republicans. Particularly ironic considering he's the most LIBERAL member of the Senate. I shudder to think how much more of my money the government will confiscate beginning in 2009...

anon, thanks, and welcome! I started this blog in the middle of my 3L year, so if you're interested in my law school experience I recommend checking out the archives from the first half of 2005. As for how things turned out... well, let's just say that I've become a statistic but occasionally try to remain upbeat. The sarcasm actually helps with that immensely.

At February 28, 2008 at 3:41 PM, Blogger Gino said...

yes, i am a libertarian. first, and foremost.
i just think the party that goes by that name is just a little too 'legalize pot' centered. although i do share most of that sentiment.

your enemy is the IRS, and the progressive tax rate. you are a professional, and paid as one. that puts you, without any mortgage deduction to shelter much of your pay, on the 'big donor' list of taxpayers.

how can you save for a down payment, when what would be saved is taxed away? aint right...

i'm in similar shape.
my overtime is taxed so highly, i need to earn $100 before i have $40in my pocket. and straight time wont cover my rent. seriously.

so glad your back to posting. :)

At February 28, 2008 at 7:03 PM, Blogger Law Fairy said...

Gino, precisely. I'm not wholly opposed to taxes in theory... I understand that some level of taxation is necessary to keep the government running, and you have to have a government. If someone comes up with a way to keep a safe and orderly society without a government, I'm all ears.

The problem is when the tax system is so ridiculously skewed and unfair. It's biased against income, when -- if you want to actually espouse the ideals of "equality" the Democrats claim to stand for -- you ought to look a lot more closely at wealth and expenditures. I see two very obvious, very EASY ways of making taxation fairer, without disincentivizing saving. The first is to keep the progressive income tax (I can resign myself to it), but index it to wealth. Thus, someone making $160,000 a year, but who has $120,000 in law school debt (this describes a LOT of people I know), no real property, and very little in the way of savings, could get something of a "cut" in his or her marginal rate. S/he would still be taxed at a higher rate than someone in a similar position, but with a lower income, but would NOT be taxed as much as somone making the same amount of money, but who has more in terms of real wealth. So, someone making $160,000 a year, with no long-term debt (aside, perhaps, from a mortgage), a fair amount in savings, and maybe a bit of property, wouldn't get any such benefit. Someone making $160,000 a year from income, who owns three houses in the United States and holds $5 million in liquid assets, would see an increase in his or her maringal rate. Or something like that. Saving is not disincentivized except at the very highest margin -- and, frankly, if you have a cool 5 million just sitting around gathering moss, you SHOULD be spending more of it. THAT'S the sort of spending our GDP needs more of -- not the spending of a poor mom who just got an $800 tax refund so now she can actually afford to buy her kids new clothes. Or maybe to pay her credit card bills for a few months.

The other possible solution would be something like the Fair Tax -- and I like this one even better than my idea above. No income tax. A high national sales tax. People who make under X dollars have a progressive negative income tax. Bare necessities like certain kinds of food, water, certain kinds of clothing, etc., are not taxed. Basically everything else is. Homes are not taxed if the purchaser does not already own a home; if s/he does, and does not sell that home (or all other homes) within a year of purchasing the new one, the new one is taxed. Same thing for buildings and corporations. I think maybe, possibly, a very small capital gains tax on those who meet a certain index of income plus savings -- to make sure that saving is not so overincentivized that we disincentivize spending.

This is all oversimplified, but I like these soooooo much better than Hillary and Barack's same old, same old, raise-the-top-marginal-rate-and-put-another-bandaid-on-that-festering-hole-of-waste-that-is-social-security plans. I mean, for all of the "change" he is talking about (and, by extension, that she is talking about, since that's the message du jour) a lot of his ideas sound suspiciously familiar.

I really, really hate that my options this election are: 1) keep the country at war for 100 years and look forward to the appointment of more activist right-leaning anti-women's-rights SCOTUS judges, or 2) hand over, effectively, about 40% or more of my earnings to the collective government agencies and have all the fun video games and movies outlawed.

I do not like these odds.

At February 28, 2008 at 9:04 PM, Blogger Bianca Reagan said...

I'm excited about your future note!

At February 29, 2008 at 7:05 PM, Blogger Gino said...

"look forward to the appointment of more activist right-leaning anti-women's-rights SCOTUS judges, "

but i was looking forward to this part...

i oppose activism, left or right, but the last 40-50yrs its all been from the left. i dont see a restoration of the constitution, though favored by the right at the moment, to be rightwing activism. its just that this time, the right happens to be correct, imo.

have you read that book "the fair tax"? its very much what you decsribed, and an xlnt idea.
law school debt: thats a lot. damn!
justice thomas wrote in his autobiography that he was still paying off his when got on SCOTUS.

At March 2, 2008 at 11:50 PM, Blogger Law Fairy said...

i oppose activism, left or right, but the last 40-50yrs its all been from the left. i dont see a restoration of the constitution, though favored by the right at the moment, to be rightwing activism.

AHAHAHAHAHA. Well, isn't that a convenient definition of "activism." One could just as easily argue that left-wing "activism" isn't activism either -- it's just remaining true to the spirit of the Constitution.

Any way you slice it, it's partisan semantics.

And I'm saddened to hear that you want anti-women's-rights justices...

At March 3, 2008 at 6:02 PM, Blogger Gino said...

"One could just as easily argue that left-wing "activism" isn't activism either -- it's just remaining true to the spirit of the Constitution."

yes, that is quite right. and why i prefer a discussion as to what IS the true spirit and meaning of the constitution as opposed to partisan semantics.

i dont discuss things like 'kelo' or 'roe' from a standpoint of wether i agree with them or not, but from a different perspective: were they properly decided on the context of the meaning and purpose of the constitution.
there are some decisions i do not like,personally, but agree with the reasoning. and then those where i personally liked the outcome, but will admit the court had no business in that case.

i try to be intellectually consistent, despite my bias'.

"And I'm saddened to hear that you want anti-women's-rights justices..."
i assume, maybe wrongly, that this was fem-code for what i can equally call 'anti-child rights justices'.
and you know where i stand on that issue already. :)

feel free to correct me, or clarify.

At March 5, 2008 at 12:25 AM, Blogger Law Fairy said...

Nope, I'm not against any children's rights. In fact, I think kids ought to have more free speech rights than they currently do :)

Although I'm being flip, obviously I take issue with unspoken assumptions in your assessment of "child[ren's]" rights.

At March 5, 2008 at 12:27 AM, Blogger Law Fairy said...

And I want to learn more about this "fem-code." It sounds like part of a secret society or something cool. I want to join!

At March 15, 2008 at 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

""look forward to the appointment of more activist right-leaning anti-women's-rights SCOTUS judges,"

This whole statement is flawed. It's just wrong to have activist judges. They are supposed to be balanced and apply the law with as much proportionality possible in the real world. I agree Gino, that there have been activist judges from the left for a while. Some for the good and some for the bad.

BTW, do I have to sign up for something else to post here with the proper display name showing? And LF you got me to sing in to a dating site, my wife is going to kill me!!! :P


At March 18, 2008 at 5:38 PM, Blogger Law Fairy said...

knights, once again, you succeed in utterly confusing me. I'm sorry if blogger is giving you trouble, but unfortunately I have zero control over them.

I don't see what's flawed about not wanting activist judges. Is the flaw simply because I specifically referenced not wanting activist *right-wing* judges? Because I don't want either. Presumably any consistent person, liberal or conservative, would not want either (assuming that person takes the position that judicial activism is bad).

Congratulations on the nuptials, which I assume must have been recent? (I could have sworn you were single).

At March 21, 2008 at 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey did you like six feet under too. I can't find anyone who loved that show.


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