You’ve seen these two guys on TV. One’s shorter than the other and one has a longer face. One has trouble pronouncing certain words and the other just says too many.
Any admiration you have for one comes mostly from the hatred you have for the other. Simply put, you don’t particularly like either of them, you just dislike one more than the other.
You know that one invaded Iraq. And Iraq, you know by now, is a complete mess with Americans and Iraqi civilians dying at a disturbing rate. The other guy, you hear, supported the invasion but now he says it was a colossal mistake. Something about how he voted for something before he voted against it.
You also heard snippets about swift boats and the National Guards and Vietnam, all of which you are told don’t matter. And you also know that, somehow, an obese filmmaker has something to do with all this.
You read these two are complete opposites even though both went to Yale, were in the same clubs and even had the same debate coach.
Speaking of the debates, if you watched those, you laughed a little. You thought one guy won, but who that guy was depended on who you liked better before the debates took place, of course.
You know they’re both filthy rich, even though you heard that rich people support one more than the other. And you also know that purple hearts have something to do with all of this.
You saw the other day that one will embrace the world and re-forge America’s alliances that were severed during the past four years. And you heard that the other guy thinks we don’t need them, and those who disagree with us are holding us back. In other words, you have to choose to be safe or to be liked.
You’ve seen their running mates a few times on TV and these things you know are true: One is mean, the other is nice; one is old, the other is young; one is experienced, the other is a newbie; and one is fat, and the other is skinny. And also: Your mom thinks one is cute. But that’s where the differences stop. That’s because you know, as vice presidents, both of them will be equally powerless if their man is elected.
You want to vote — you really do — because you know your vote counts (only if you live in Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Jersey or Florida, of course). But you cannot ignore that nagging feeling in your gut that is telling you these two really are not that different. Sure, they have their labels: conservative idiot versus pompous liberal. You’ve heard them all and it’s getting old.
And by now you’ve been told that Iraq is the hottest issue this election, and what you’ve heard from these two on Iraq isn’t all that different. Sure, one says it was a mistake to go, while the other defends his decision, but neither is planning an exit strategy. You also think it’s strange the incumbent won’t face the obvious truth about Iraq (read: no WMDs, no connection to al-Qaida) and admit it was a mistake. But then the challenger says something equally as troubling when he promises to bring help to Iraq. Somehow — magically, perhaps — he will convince other countries to send their willing to that chaotic mess. Either way, you know we’ll be there a long time and Americans will continue to die whether it is justified or not.
Now, with the election less than a month away, you just feel confused and frustrated — maybe even depressed. So this is what you do: You tell yourself you hate both of them and cast your vote for the lesser of two evils because you’re sure they are both full of empty rhetoric and unfilled promises.
And the only thing you know for sure is this: On election day, a rich, privileged, white, male, Ivy League graduate will win the election.
John Calkins is a junior majoring in mass communications. firstname.lastname@example.org