Eight months ago, I was a registered Republican, standing in a cold room in Iowa supporting Ron Paulin the Iowa caucuses. For most of my life, I've been a believer in small government and individualliberties, the ideals that, according to what I learned in high school civics, the Republican Party stoodfor. I voted Libertarian in 2004, simply because I felt that the Libertarian candidate seemed to bestvoice those ideals at the time.As I stood in that cold caucus room, I listened to several people stand up and talk about their candidate.For the most part, instead of giving me compelling reasons to vote for that candidate, each stumpspeaker (aside from the bubbly young woman who spoke about Ron Paul) spent their time not talkingup their own candidate, but hurling shovels of specific insults at the people in the Democratic caucus inan adjacent building. I didn't learn much about Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney or John McCain, but Idid hear a lot of talk about the negative character, poor experience, and profound ignorance of the primary Democratic candidates, Obama, Edwards, and Clinton.Over the next several months, as the campaign season went along, I started actually opening my earsand listening to talk radio a bit. Previously, I would just listen to music in my truck during mycommute, but I started tuning into a pair of local talk radio stations, which aired programs by SeanHannity, Rush Limbaugh, and the like.And I was deeply disturbed. Instead of hearing compelling arguments for why John McCain was theright man for the job, I would hear three nonstop hours of insults levied toward Barack Obama, muchof it not directly aimed towards him, but intended to serve as character assassination by association.Breathless stories about his pastor, Reverend Wright, and a guest pastor at his church, David Pfleiger.Amazing tales about William Ayers.Very rarely did I hear a word about policy, and when I did, it was usually just deriding a specific plank of Obama's plan.After a month of listening to a large daily dose of talk radio, I learned virtually nothing about whatJohn McCain actually planned to do for this country.What I did hear, though, is a lot of supposedly negative things about Barack Obama, most of whichseemed nonsensical and completely frivolous compared to the problems of this nation. The worst, for me, was repeated harpings on the idea that Barack Obama was somehow "bad" because he was acommunity organizer.I know what community organizers do. I have friends and family who are involved with social work and community organization. They register people to vote. They get people involved with the political process. They know the real, day-to-day problems of the people in their community like the back of their hand. They help people with their life problems, helping elderly folks keep the lights on andhelping groups with a significant problem get organized enough to get the attention of an alderman or city hall.
The people on the ground, the "community organizers" and very local politicians, do aton of good work for the people of this country.
And through that process, they gain a deepunderstanding of the real problems and thoughts of everyday people.That brings us to last night. Until last night, I was slightly leaning towards Obama, but I hadn't firmlydecided who I was voting for. I held out hope that during the Convention, I could get a real grasp onwhere the Republican Party was.Last night, Sarah Palin gave a speech that was in theory meant to get people like me excited about theRepublican ticket. This was one that should have gotten me back on board and excited about theMcCain/Palin platform.Instead, it sickened me in a very deep and personal way.