President

Four More Years, But A Life Long Lesson

Today is the inauguration of President Obama’s second term in office.  For a sizable chunk of the country (including a vast majority of my Big Red home state*), the start of Obama’s second four years in the White House is a cause for trepidation, not celebration.

*How deeply Republican is Nebraska?  In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney won 92 of the 93 counties in the state.  In 43 of those 93 counties, Romney received over 75% of the vote.  The lone victory for Obama came in tiny Thurston County, where Obama won by 308 votes.  In Nebraska, Obama yard signs were about as common as folks flying Texas Longhorns flags on fall Saturdays – you could do it, but it’s a great way to alienate your friends and neighbors.

But setting aside the President’s politics, I am thrilled to see him get another four years.  Why?  It’s not because I’m a card-carrying liberal or have a strong connection to any of his policies.  The reason is much more personal.

We adopted both of our children through an agency in Florida.  My son is African-American, and we believe our daughter’s birth father is black.  We know that the color of their skin is going to stand out here – it does almost every time we leave the house – and there will come a day when they are treated differently because of their skin.  I know that some day they will have doubts on what they can achieve, or if the color of their beautiful skin will be a hinderance to their hopes and dreams.

When those moments occur, I will remind them that for the first four and eight years of their lives, a black man was the President of the United States of America.  And with the proper motivation, dedication, and passion there is absolutely nothing they cannot accomplish.

For me, having a positive role model like Obama for my children trumps any concerns my fellow citizens may have about his policies and views.

Why I Vote

Nebraska is a big red state – both in football and in politics.  It’s been said that the only thing that outnumbers Republicans in Nebraska is cattle – and most of those cows would vote GOP if they could.

There are definitely pros and cons to living in a state where one party dominates all of the state and national offices.  For example, I don’t think the Lincoln TV stations have shown a single Obama or Romney ad (or super PAC attack ads bashing one of the candidates)*.  The campaigns know that Nebraska’s miniscule amount of electoral votes are going to Romney, and no amount of soft focus ads with ominous voice-overs will change that.

*This isn’t quite the case in for folks who watch the Omaha channels, as a) neighboring Iowa is a swing state, and b) because Nebraska is one of two states who splits their electoral vote by congressional district, there is a (slight) chance that Obama could steal an electoral vote in Nebraska, as he did in 2008.

And I’m okay with that.  I have a degree in Advertising and I’ll be first to tell you that political ads (from both sides) are entirely composed of lies, half-truths, and slanderous evil.  So the lack of wall-to-wall ads is a positive.

But there is one big negative:  pretty much any vote I cast in a state or national election – regardless of party – is purely symbolic.

Since I live in Lincoln, a vote for Obama isn’t going to help him win an electoral vote.  I could still vote for him as a show of support (or dissent from my Republican neighbors).  I could also write-in my own name*.  Both have the same impact.

*Nebraska residents, for the first time I am elgible to be elected President of the United States.  Feel free to (FeitCan) write me in.  I’m willing to release my birth certificate, tax returns, helium balloons, whatever it takes.

If I vote for Romney, I’m a single snowflake in a GOP avalanche.  In 2008, John McCain won Nebraska by approximately 120,000 votes, which is more than the number of registered voters in Nebraska’s third, fourth, and five largest cities.  Combined.  I feel safe in saying that Mitt will do just fine in Nebraska without my vote.

But I will still vote today.

Why?  I’ll spare you the 8th Grade social studies response about it being my civic duty, or any other clichéd answer.  Instead, I’ll give you the primary reason I vote – and the reason you should vote today too:

By exercising your right to vote, you gain one of the most fundamental American rights.  It may not be in the Constitution, but all Americans hold this right dear.

The right to complain.

That is why I’ve been tolerating the barrage of politically charged Facebook posts this year – I know the people posting that stuff have voted in the past, and will vote today.

But if you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear it for another four years.

How to Improve the Presidental Debates

The third (and thankfully, final) Presidential debate is tonight.  I’ve watched most of the first two rounds, and I think the debates are long overdue for some changes.  Instead of hearing clear, concise answers to tough questions, we get spin, cheesy stories about some schmo they met on the campaign trail, distortions, half-truths, and flat-out lies.  Meanwhile, the moderator – arguably the worst job on television – struggles to keep the candidates from talking too long, never moving on to the next question, and avoiding questions.

My fellow Americans, we deserve better.  Together we can improve the debates, turning them from unruly gabfests to world-class television:

  • “Please welcome tonight’s moderator, Jon Stewart from The Daily Show.”
  • Both candidates are strapped to polygraph machines, with the results being shown on-screen.
  • When a candidate runs out of their allotted time, their microphone is cut off.
  • Responses are judged by Food Network personalities on the basis of taste, plating, and originality.
  • Take a cue from the Family Feud – ask one candidate the questions while the other is off-stage in a sound-proof room.  Then ask the same questions to the other guy.
  • Each candidate gets one red challenge flag per half.  The replay booth (staffed by factcheck.org) calls down with their ruling.
  • Use the audience from a Jerry Springer Show taping.
  • If a candidate is found to be flip-flopping on a previously stated position, an audience member gets to smack them with a flip-flop.
  • Candidates are tied to a chair, suspended by a rope, 10 feet over a pool of rabid sharks.  Every time they lie, interrupt, or go over time, their chair lowers by a foot.
  • Each candidate gets three lifelines:  phone a friend (either their wife or running mate), poll the audience, or a 50/50.
  • Candidates must participate in the drinking game, so when Obama talks about the “47%” or Romney brings up gas prices, they have to do a shot.
  • When a candidate says something that is proven to be an exaggeration, an extortion of the truth, or a flat-out lie, the opposing Vice Presidential nominee gets to take a shot at him with a paintball gun.  (Bonus points if Paul Ryan or Joe Biden show up dressed as Rambo.)
  • Shock collars
  • Instead of dark suits with power ties, candidates wear costumes picked out by the opposing campaign.  Obama will be dressed as Muslim cleric, and Romney will be dressed as Mr. Moneybags from Monopoly.
  • Instead of two minutes, candidates have 12 seconds to answer.
  • The one, truly undecided voter in America is back stage.  After the debate, he comes out and give his candidate a rose.  The other candidate is invited to appear on “The Bachelorette.”
  • Candidates are given a secret word or phrase to be worked in at some point during the debate.  Governor Romney, your word is “onomatopoeia”.
  • When somebody interrupts you, you get to slap them in the face.
  • Replace the podiums with the Wipeout! obstacle course.  You get to talk non-stop until your opponent clears the obstacle.
  • No changes, except both candidates are made aware of the 100 gallon drums of Nickelodeon slime perched above their podiums, and the two switches on the moderator’s desk.
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