Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber, Voice of a Nation

As the final debate of the 2008 presidential election campaign wound to a close I had a moment of sad nostalgia as the end of the campaign trail draws near. Some campaign trails are excruciating. This one has been engaging, exciting and for the first time in what seems like ages - relevant.

Regardless of who you did or did not support, or if your candidate even made it past the primaries, you have to agree this campaign has produced some exceptionally bizarre media moments. Few more curious than the mind-numbing references to "Joe the Plumber".

The Ohio resident who by some reports, though eloquent, is neither an actual licensed plumber or registered to vote.

Though Obama and McCain both seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to "Out-Joe" one another, on the whole this was a better debate. Obama seemed more calm and explained his positions more coherently. There were a lot of zingers tossed back and forth between him and McCain but my favorite happened towards the end of the debate.

While commenting on abortion Obama countered that an effective sex education curriculum is critical to combating teen pregnancy and ensuring that teens avoid falling into "Cavalier activity". A sly dig at McCain's rowdy years as a young fighter pilot - McCain visibly flinched and his eyes blinked rapidly. My friend Tim told me that McCain seemed to blink a lot during the debate. Did anyone else notice that?

If nothing else this election has elevated the national discussion on race to a new level as Americans are compelled to look the thoughts, words and faces behind and on both sides of the racial division in this country. It's an election I'll never forget.

Remember Harriet Christian, the "crazy New York Hillary supporter" who had a complete meltdown about Obama in a hotel lobby in front of reporters and a guy holding a video camera? Or how about Hillary's eyes tearing up in New Hampshire while the exhausted candidate talked candidly in front of the cameras about the stress of the campaign trail? Who can forget Fred Thompson's unremarkable implosion?

In time we may look back and wonder why we spent so much time dwelling on inconsequential matters. Probably because it's really hard to look the matters that impact us most as humans right in the eye and not blink.

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