August 11, 2012 9 Comments
A brief word on both-the-sameism. You know what I’m talking about: every four years like clockwork, some fraction of the electorate/commentariat, particularly folks in the upper quintile of intelligence, decides they’re ‘both the same’. There’s ‘not a dime’s worth of difference between’ the two candidates, you see. That’s why the person doing this analysis ‘can’t justify’ voting for one or the other. This could be part of an argument for voting for a third-party, or it could be part of an argument that even though your on paper natural political sympathy might be with X’s party, and/or one can point to really terrible things that Y has done, Y is really not so different from X that you should care so much as to vote against Y, or even to bother voting.
To be clear, both-the-sameism is usually – in fact, invariably – backed up by a lot of good solid evidence and analysis of the candidates themselves, their words and deeds. It’s usually hard to deny the basic thrust of this analysis. For example, you have Romneycare and Obamacare. Etc. No denying they’re both-the-same, when we’re talking about the individual candidates.
What I would like to suggest is that, perhaps counterintuitively, it’s a mistake to focus so much on the individual candidates.
If/when you vote for the President, you are not voting for Joe Candidate. You are voting for Joe Candidate, Inc. If Joe Candidate wins then yes, it’s true that one immediate and visible result will be that Joe Candidate will literally take over the role of the President and sit in that particular office. But that’s not all that happens and far from it.
Simultaneously with Joe Candidate’s swearing-in will be a whole army of people to go fill a bunch of executive roles. Those people will get budgets and staffs and be in charge of hiring yet more people, their subordinates. In the process, they will effectively cobble together and comprise the ‘corporation’ that runs the executive branch (and has a lot of influence over who gets hired into the judicial branch as well). Agency heads, regulators. And all of those people, mostly nameless and faceless to you, will make a lot of decisions that affect your life. Perhaps even more so than any decisions specifically made by Joe Candidate himself per se.
Let me ask you something. Who the hell is “Valerie Jarrett”? Who is that person and why does she have any authority over anyone? To do what? What is her job? What was she elected to do? When does she next come up for re-election, or re-certification, or evaluation, or something? How can you unseat her if you don’t like what she’s doing? What is she doing? Who has oversight over what she is doing? What reporters are looking into what she is doing? Are you keeping tabs on what she is doing because you are a responsible citizen who participates in public life and cares about your own governance?
The answers above are basically all variants of ‘no’ and ‘no idea’, aren’t they? That’s because Valerie Jarrett wasn’t elected to the role she now fills, of course. But she got into that seat as part of Obama, Inc. So everyone who voted for Obama also voted for Valerie Jarrett. Perhaps you are ok with this, but perhaps not.
What this means is you really shouldn’t be asking yourself whether you’d rather have Obama or Romney in the Oval Office. You should be asking yourself whether you’d prefer the executive branch to be Obama, Inc. or Romney, Inc. One consequence of electing Obama, Inc. is that Valerie Jarrett is there. Perhaps you, like me, weren’t so impressed with John McCain in 2008. Maybe you don’t think he was significantly better than Obama, if at all. But would John McCain have hired Valerie Jarrett? He would have hired someone into the equivalent role, surely. Would he/she have been indistinguishable from Valerie Jarrett?
And I shouldn’t be focusing so much on Valerie Jarrett here. I barely even know who she is. My real point is that the Obama administration, Obama Inc., is full of Valerie Jarretts of various shapes and sizes, running around doing their thing. You might be cool with that or you might not but the point is just that when you take them all into account, the idea that Obama and McCain (or Romney) are ‘the same’ is far less sustainable.
I can certainly buy the idea that there are only minor differences between Obama and Romney. But both-the-samers are on far shakier ground trying to establish that there’s ‘not a dime’s worth of difference’ between Obama, Inc. and what Romney, Inc. would likely be like.