Who am I supporting in the presidential contest? You shouldn't know, because I don't know. In fact, I'm positioning myself in a delicate state of unknowing, a state I hope to maintain until October if not November. In the meantime, I will spread the attacks around and give credit where credit is due. I think if you look back, you'll see I've done this in the past week. Nothing is more boring than a blogger's endorsement, and I'm not interested in reading any blogger's day to day spin in favor one candidate or another. I would rather take a vow not to vote in November and to keep track of my pro and con posts and go out of my way to keep the tallies even than to turn into a blogger like that.In 2008, my cruel neutrality was monitored and verified and:
So I'm taking a vow of neutrality, but it won't be dull beige neutrality. I think partisanship is too tedious to read. This is going to be cruel neutrality.
I'd say I've displayed impressive neutrality, being far more likely to stay neutral than to go either positive or negative. But when I did go negative, it was much more likely to be against Obama, and when I did go positive, it was more likely to be about McCain.I did go on to vote for Obama. I voted for him before I voted against him (in 2012). Or... it's more accurate to say: I voted against McCain before I voted against Obama. I'm just not that enthusiastic about political candidates. We're in the middle of the 4th election I've blogged, and as ever, I'm drawn to the distanced observer position. I'm one of those voters who get categorized as "undecided" right up until the final weeks, annoying the hell out of some people who can't imagine what more needs to happen to make you decide.
Does it surprise you then to realize that I'm almost surely going to vote for Obama -- the chances are about 89% -- and that through the entire period of the vow it has been more likely than not that I would vote for Obama? It shouldn't!
But unless you're a donor — and I never am (not since young Russ Feingold personally pestered me by telephone and I was too polite to use another method to make him stop) — you don't have to nail it down until it's time to vote. Normally, what happens to me is that at some point, in spite of myself, I perceive that the selection has taken place, and it's because one of the candidates has lost me. I go back into my archive and study my own mind to see "How Kerry lost me," "How McCain lost me," and "Why haven't I done a 'lost me' post [in 2012]?" It's nice to have an archive of indecision to mine for the decision.
Last night, I walked out of the debate at about exactly halfway. Part of it was that 9 Central Time felt very late. I'd been up since 3:30 a.m. I am able to pinpoint my bailout time because this morning I'm reading my son's live blog of the debate, and I see the time-stamp on what I know propelled me out of the TV room:
9:30 [Eastern Time] — After Bush criticizes Cruz, Wallace finally lets Cruz respond. But Cruz doesn't have a substantive response — instead, he whines about how many of the questions have asked the candidates to attack him. Wallace retorts: "It is a debate, sir!" Cruz coyly threatens to walk off the stage if there are too many negative questions about him — an allusion to Trump's absence. [Added later: After I point out that Cruz was being facetious, Alex Knepper says, "I thought he was being serious! I guess not. Didn't deliver the line very well." My response: "It's safe to say that if as savvy a political observer as you thought he was being serious, his sarcasm wasn't effective enough to work on prime-time TV a few days before Iowa."] [VIDEO.]I hated the argumentative overtalking. The moderators try to control, and they really have to. That's the idea of a debate, imposing some format. But it's a thing these days to bust through the rules and pose as the tough guy who's just got to get the truth out. It's irritating as hell. Either submit to the rules or don't. In that context, a joke about rejecting the debate (like Trump) doesn't work. Cruz wouldn't actually walk away, so the rules applied to him. Trump showed how to say I'm not going to submit to the control of these media moderators. Out or in.
But I stayed in. In my chair, watching the debate, for a few more questions, until the immigration part of the show began:
9:59 — Megyn Kelly plays a long clip show of Rubio in about 2009 talking about how phrases like a "path to citizenship" are "code" for "amnesty." Then Kelly suggests he then supported amnesty once he later became a Senator....Yeah, I know this problem, and I know Rubio will need to twist and contort to answer, but I don't need to see exactly how. Not after I've been up for 18+ hours. It will all be there on the DVR in the morning. I was out. 9 Central. I called it a day.
I woke up clear headed. I really don't like any of the candidates too much, and I also don't hate any of them. I don't like the expressions of hate toward anyone. I have a certain longstanding aversion to Hillary, but I'm also able to accept that she's the most likely next President, and I'm a solid citizen of the Real World. In my youth, I suffered through LBJ and Nixon. It felt like a horror show. I'm old now, and nobody on the current scene is reprehensible in the LBJ/Nixon fashion. Maybe that's the perspective of long experience, but I just don't feel the emotion.
I'm balanced and distanced. I'm interested in observing the day-to-day details and writing about it with whatever edge and humor and insight happens. I'm not lying. I cannot tell you who I'll vote for. We'll see how things look next fall. I don't even know who'll I'll vote for in the primary... or which party's primary I'll vote in. There isn't one candidate I've x'ed out. Not Cruz? Not Trump? Not Bernie? No!
Going back to old "cruel neutrality" posts, I was struck by one commenter's "armchair analysis... of the character AA plays on her blog" — back in September 2008. Blake said:
I think MM is close to right [that Althouse is a Democrat and wants the Democratic Party to succeed], but I don't think that, even as a Democrat, AA identifies all that strongly with her party.Ha ha. I'll leave it to you to think about how much of that really feels true to me now... other than to say the phrase that jumped out was "there's a certain, almost sarcastic identification with the person of her youth, that hippie art student...." And I haven't followed Loudon Wainwright III since those days, when — some of you will know what I'm talking about — I went to see him at The Ark.
We can see that with her frequent mention of the sacrifice of feminism at the, uh, hands of Bill Clinton.
I think we see there that her identification as a feminist (as she defines it) is far stronger than party affiliation. Minimally, we see a level of integrity and respect for logic that prevents her from lauding Democrats when they do the things they've attacked Republicans for.
Still, she believes in things she associates with the Democrats like social justice (witness the fracas with the Libertarians [link]). She believes, perhaps hesitantly, that race has a non-zero weight in making her decision.
And we might guess that there's a certain, almost sarcastic identification with the person of her youth, that hippie art student who wouldn't bother with A Man For All Seasons or listen to square music, man. This character is obviously a Democrat, even if her future incarnation is surely too sophisticated to boil down politics into "Democrat Good. Republican Evil."
In that context, "cruel neutrality" wasn't ever about being 50-50, something the more strident here have missed. It simply meant that this character was going to go about her business as she always has, and not close her mind to the possibility of voting one way or the other.
Democrat has always been her starting point; but just as Kerry proved unworthy of her 2004 vote, Obama could prove unworthy of her 2008 vote.
The cruelty part comes in playing Devil's Advocate with her own comfort zone. As MM says, she's inclined to vote for Obama, but she won't give him a free pass. She's not the hippie true-believer any more.
This drives the hyper-partisans nuts, of course, since they need every observation to be balanced by a tu quoque.
As for the performance art/traffic angle, my take is slightly different:
If any of you are familiar with Loudon Wainwright III, you know that he writes all these songs about, essentially, himself. Ultimately, however, and by his own confession, the self that sings about isn't really him, but a more dramatic and interesting version of him.
That's sort-of how I see Althouse. There's certainly a motivation to drive traffic, but only within the parameters of what amuses the real Althouse.
5 cents please.