It is fear of change, or the lack of change, that are polarizing our electorate.
In an odd way, my brief meeting with Joe the golden retriever owner, while doing some canvassing for the Obama campaign yesterday evening here in Boca Raton, FLA., was probably a pretty good way to help me regain some sense of balance in these final days leading up to the election.
It is easy, reading everything you can find on the web, to get caught up in the waves of the news cycle, and the high-amp that happens when shows try to find extreme points of view, which, sadly, this year, are plentiful. John Oliver's brilliant "Obama and Palin Rallies of Fear" on "The Daily Show" was a funny bit that showed how strong opinions become in the heated final days.
Yet there was Joe, who told me that he was a McCain supporter, but that he was happy to help my son canvassing for Obama find his way around the apartment complex where we were working.
His five week old golden retriever doesn't have any political affiliation, apparently, because it was more than happy to run over to me and jump all over me and enjoy a good head scratch.
Joe, as we'll call him for this interview, since that seems to be the fashion of this year's campaign, said:
"I'm for McCain but I can appreciate that you guys are taking the time and being part of the political process. That's really good."
I knocked on a few more doors, and came back. Joe and his dog were still out there, taking in the 65-degree crisp, by Florida standards, evening air.
"Do you mind if I ask you why it is that you support McCain?" I asked him.
"Oh no, sure," he replied as a good-natured Joe is apt to do, "I've voted Republican my whole life, and I think he just represents more of what I'm looking for with all of the stuff going on out there."
I asked him if he was more of a social or a fiscal conservative.
"Oh, fiscal, more so, yeah, but I, there are a lot of other things that the Democrats want that I don't go with."
I got the impression, from talking further, that McCain would not have been his first choice, but that he was the party's choice. That's pretty common, even amongst us Democrats.
I said: "You know, I know where you're coming from. I didn't get all excited about Kerry, either. You know who I miss though? Robert Rubin."
Joe smiled, nodded, and agreed that Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary was pretty good for all of us.
"John Snow was one of the worst Treasury Secretaries in history," I reminded him.
"Yeah, a lot of people in the Bush Administration weren't too good on the money," he agreed.
"That's what I worry about," I told him. "Maybe you know, because McCain hasn't mentioned it on television that I know of, or in his stump speeches. He says that he's going to solve this mess. Who is he going to get to do that? The same guys who are doing it now? I mean, I know that Obama has Robert Rubin, and Warren Buffett to advise him, who I think are pretty smart guys..."
"Oh yeah, Buffett's great," Joe acknowledged.
"So who is McCain going to get to fix the mess like he says? I looked a bit, but maybe you've seen something at one of the Republican websites or on some news that I missed."
Joe thought, and realized that he didn't know.
"For what it's worth," I said, "You might want to take a look and see, because right now, the economy is job one, and I think that Obama on the rest of the stuff that you might be worried about isn't so bad. He's got good people behind him who can help get the economy back on its feet."
Joe promised that he would check it out, and, even though it is likely that he's still going to draw the line between the arrows (our system) for McCain, at the very least I got him thinking about it.
The reason that I bring this little slice of humanity to you is because I think that it is way too easy to demonize "the other side" in all of this. I sit and listen to McCain and Palin's incendiary stump speeches on POTUS, the XM Radio political channel, and hear their stream of desperate distortions and outright lies, and think to myself: 'Who can listen to this and have watched TV or the video and know that this is not total bull.'
I thought that Karl Rove and Lee Attwater came up with this type of slimy politics. dlinguist, a HuffPost reader, corrected me by showing me this:
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. "
-- Joseph Goebbels.
The rest of the quote is:
"The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
There are a lot of people for whom voting is more habit, and following in the footsteps of one's parents, just like, for a large part, religion.
There are going to be differing opinions on which way to go. There are those who are going to be afraid of John McCain's wild behavior and hyperbolic rhetoric, and there are those who think that Obama is a black Muslim socialist communist reverend Wright Christian vote-fraud endorsing baby killer. If I missed a smear tactic, my apologies.
In between, though, are me, and Joe with the golden retriever puppy. When the dust settles next Tuesday, the lunatic fringe of both sides will crawl back into their burrows for another three years of winter, and the rest of us will have to repair the damage that the Bush Administration has done to this country.
This is one thing that McCain, reluctantly, and Obama are now in agreement upon.
So go and be passionate. Get out there and get people to vote. Speak to your point of view. Temper, though, your passions so that you can hear other people's needs, wants and fears, and they can hear you, too.
Next week, we will need that level of calm and order to get to the hard work once the confetti and streamers are gone, and the heat of the campaign has not left a warm enough glow to keep the house heated this winter, or families with sub-prime mortgages from being put out of their homes.