Sunday, September 7, 2008

Biden, McCain, Obama, Palin....What The Tickets Reveal

No partisan red meat offered in this post....this is the vegetarian option. (Hence, the listing of names in alphabetical order.)

I really enjoyed two opinion pieces in the Washington Post this weekend. We all keep hearing how the tickets and candidates differ, but in these politically charged weeks, it's nice to take a step back and examine what the Democratic and Republican tickets have in common.

First, David Ignatius writes:

"There's something lovable about the way this year's never-ending political campaign has turned out.

"We now have two presidential tickets that display the American rainbow in all its eccentric colors. It's as raw and real, and as unlikely, as the nation itself: On one side a suave, aloof African American, twinned with a loquacious Catholic whose manner evokes his blue-collar roots; on the other, a certified war hero paired with a young woman from Alaska who looks like the heroine of a country music song and earns her reputation both as a beauty-contest charmer and a political "barracuda."

"Best of all, these four people are each, in different ways, American rebels. They have all made their way challenging conventional wisdom, telling off the know-it-alls, making a place for themselves and their ideas. They all retained their individuality in a political culture that tends to grind down candidates until they are palpable phonies. That didn't happen with these four -- whatever you think of them, they are who they claim to be.

"Stand back a minute and consider what this often shrill and partisan campaign process has produced: The two parties converged toward the center, selecting in Barack Obama and John McCain presidential candidates who promised they would work across party lines to break the gridlock in Washington. The dividers lost.

The victors were a change agent and a maverick. And each of them picked someone who shared his instinct to challenge the status quo.

"It's a refreshingly upside-down composite picture: The African American candidate is the most conventional of the lot, with his Columbia-Harvard pedigree and his elegant Princeton-Harvard wife and their picture-perfect children. It's the gal from Alaska, Sarah Palin, who reminds us of how messy the real world is, with her special-needs child passed from hand to hand, her pregnant teenage daughter and the hockey-star boyfriend/father who looks, weirdly, like he just won the lottery.

"And old John McCain, eyes flashing, tighter than a tick, just like old Gramps when he's about to take a verbal shot at someone he thinks is a jerk. And motor-mouth Joe Biden, who can't stop saying what he thinks, even if it's to applaud how well his rival, Palin, did in cutting up Obama during her acceptance speech.

"I'm sorry, but this is an American family portrait I like."

Here's the full piece, A Tapestry In Two Tickets.

Next, Andrew J. Cherlin makes the observation that despite the candidates' attempts to convince Americans that their families were just like ours, they were undone by a 21st-century reality: There is no typical family anymore.

"In fact, the diversity of American households was the unspoken lesson of both conventions, as four strikingly different kinds of families came into view. First, the Obamas. The Democratic nominee's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, spoke to the Denver crowd, highlighting his biracial family background, dominated by an often single mother and a largely absent father. Obama's wife Michelle also took a powerful turn at the podium, focusing on her husband's biography but also playing up her own high-powered career and modest roots. The Bidens were introduced to a national audience that week as well, a stepfamily formed after the tragic death of the senator's first wife. With the McCains, we see another stepfamily, formed this time after the senator's divorce. Their family also includes Bridget, a daughter adopted from Bangladesh. And the Palins bring to the stage two working parents with five children, including a pregnant teenager and an infant with Down syndrome."

"(N)ever has such an extraordinary range of family histories been center stage."

Here's the Washington Post article.

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