Life in the political center

In order to understand my political journey, we have to go back to my legal political beginning.

I turned 18 just in time to vote in the 2004 election.

This new opportunity gave me a serious desire to understand the political process more than ever before. I watched the coverage of the presidential race closely and kept track of all the campaign promises. I also kept track of how candidates would state their positions depending on which constituency they were pandering to at any given moment.

I would watch the debates like they were a sporting event. The candidates would launch verbal blows against one another. What influenced me the most was the pundits.

Spin doctors would be out in the lobby of the event explaining why their candidate had clearly won and why the contest wasn’t even close.

But then I’d listen to the spin doctors on the other side who would tell me just the opposite. I foolishly went back and forth and was swayed by each campaign’s spin.

If the Democratic candidate had given the most recent speech, I would be roused by that speech and would support him.

If the Republican had given the most recent speech, I would be roused into supporting that candidate instead. This went on all the way until election day in November.

I promised myself that I would never reveal who I vote for in elections, and I still abide by that promise. Suffice to say, I got a bigger education after the election than I did in the months leading up to it.

C-Span showed several classic clips from past elections. I was shocked to learn how often political mantras are repeated.

“My opponent will take away your freedoms.”

“All our economic problems were caused by the last administration.”

And my personal favorite: addressing people as, “My fellow Americans.”

The most crushing blow came the following winter.

Comedian Lewis Black appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and insisted that if anyone had been inspired by either one of those two candidates, then they were no better than “that kid that went to (Black’s) high school, and every time the principal gave a speech, you wept openly!”

I was awakened and greatly embarrassed by how much I went with the flow. While I did not lose faith in the system, I became cynical.

I was already a registered independent until I made up my mind which party I would join. After my epiphany, I went from being independent on paper to independent at heart.

I enjoyed bursting the conservative bubble when they would be so adamantly anti-taxes and I would remind them that even President Reagan raised taxes once in a while.

The same scrutiny would apply for liberals. They would complain that Mitt Romney was out of touch for the money and Super PACs he had at his disposal, despite the fact that President Barack Obama had many of his own tightly knit Super PACs at his beck and call.

It is amusing to tally up their campaign contributions to find out that both candidates in the last presidential race raised nearly $1 billion each.

I also remind liberals that contributions to Obama in 2008 far surpassed those of John McCain’s campaign.

The truth is that the world is a complicated place requiring different solutions at different times. There are too many variables for one ideology to be the absolute solution all the time.

Politics is a lot like sports in that people get passionate about their teams or parties and are not afraid to yell at their television over it.

Despite all the high-running passions, I never cease to be amazed by the announcers who are able to analyze and comment on team strategies without definitively picking a side. If it is possible for those commentators to do that in sports, then as a rising journalist, I can hope to do the same.

 

Reach the columnist at crgavin@asu.edu or follow him at @coltongavin

 

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