(photo credit www.werescrewed08.com)

Convention fever is lighting up the 2008 presidential elections here in the United States- the time for the major political parties to formally nominate their candidates for the general election, for the party faithful to gather and pat each other on the back while mending wounds inflicted during the primaries, and for the political poobahs to flower the nation with promises of a better world ahead. It is a time when the candidates will try and persuade us that they have the right vision and the right stuff to pull America out of the slump of economic decline, foreign war entanglements, and healthcare nightmares. It is a time when the Democrats and the Republicans will seek to prove that only they have the cure to America’s ills, the magic elixir that will make everything all right again.

As if…..

Folks, it’s time for a little reality check. This election is not about fixing America, per se, as much as it is about putting America on a new path forward. Truth of the matter is this: 8 years under George W. Bush (6 years with a compliant GOP Congress and the last 2 with a spineless DEM Congress) has turned the foundation of America on its head, divided the electorate more than ever before, created a less safe and more unstable world, bankrupted the national treasury, demolished our international reputation, and laid the path for continued ecologic and economic ruin and havoc. Of the two main choices for president this election year, one candidate will continue down this path with glee; the other, at best, can slow the forward momentum into the abyss and attempt to lay the groundwork for an altered tomorrow.

Here’s the rub…

Economic future- unless you are an oil company, or a high paid executive, or a politician, the economic outlook for the near future is gloomy. You’ve lost ground with the dollar, your property, and your wages at a time when energy costs have skyrocketed and boosted up the costs of all goods and services. Looking farther ahead, the treasury has reached record deficits and the congress keeps allowing themselves to spend more and raise the legal debt limits, meaning that your grandkids will be paying back China for the Iraq War and the recent questionable tax “rebates” among other things.  Social Security and Medicare are reaching insolvency.

Energy Supply- Despite spurious claims that drilling for oil in America will solve our short term energy problems, the fact is that our oil economy is headed for a brick wall. No amount of forewarning was heeded in America and the crux is that we will face serious lifestyle alterations fueled by an oil crisis. You think we have it tough now with gas at $4/gallon? If we continue to resist a changed course these may well seem like good times, vis-a-vis our energy needs. Our national ignorance and lassaiz-faire attitude towards oil usage and all that is incumbent on its availability will create a serious fault in the foundation of the American dream. It will happen, and the longer we delay real, serious alternatives, the worse the fall will be.

International relationships- The War in Iraq was by far the worst international ploy ever undertaken by an American administration. It has made an already dangerous region even more unstable, zapped American military strength and reputation to the point of paralysis when other world situations arise. Our presence in that debacle has emboldened Russia to return to its own empire building machinations and oil resource power plays. The Bush “with us or against us” mantra has alienated former allies and ignited other regions to become more active foes. And the duplicity with which this “policy” has been applied has further damaged our reputation as champions of freedom and democratic values.

Internal Damage- From illegal domestic spying to politicizing the Justice Department to appointing inept cronies to important positions of responsibility to outsourcing federal responsibilities to mercenary corporations to playing theater with national security….the damage Bush has done to America is both immense and self-perpetuating. Decades of dismantling the messes Bush has purposely created will be required to put this country back on an even keel.

Make no mistake- of the two plausible contenders for president, neither can come close to achieving the promises they put forth. No, wait a minute…actually McCain could. But that’s only because he promises to continue down the path Bush has forged. And with the reality being that the make-up and mental attitude of Congress will not change dramatically this election, a McCain presidency modeled after Bush would almost certainly accelerate the disaster we’re already ensconced in.

For Obama, the task is much harder. Campaigning on the mantle of change, he has raised the expectations of his base and the rest of the nation to a level of unreality. As usual, most Americans live on the sound bites without seeking to know or understand the reality behind the lens. Politicians know the reality but just don’t give much of a damn. They seek to get and hold power. And while Obama may indeed by a new breed of politician, one who actually cares about service over power and politics, his hands are as tied by Bush’s misdeeds as McCain’s mouth is watering to be the next big GOP failure.

In 2006, I wrote a post about what I expected from the Democrats once the regained a majority in Congress. To my chagrin, they have done nothing of substance to change our path and indeed have continued to abet Bush in his own calamitous course. These same folks will continue to make up the majority of our law making body. If McCain succeeds in the election, they will continue to bluster while making few efforts at change. They may stall some policy plans, but in the end, the will either acquiesce or spend time making political hay and further alienating Americans from their government. If Obama can win, he’ll spend the next four years having to explain why his promises haven’t become reality and fending off GOP attack dogs.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m going with Obama. I think that his view for the future is infinitely more palatable that that of McCain. But this time, when the Democrats regain the White House, and when they achieve a slightly larger congressional majority, the best I think I can hope for is 4 years of repair work. The real change I seek isn’t universal health care in 4 years or an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a realistic and viable energy policy. And it’s not that these things aren’t desperately needed. It’s just that those aims aren’t realistic.

The best we can hope for is some restoration of common sense governance and principled public service. We need a leader who is not only willing to propose and make changes, but who can guide us through the painful times ahead…who can not only make this country understand the need for serious and drastic changes in the way things work, but who can bring us to accept those changes as necessary for a better future for our children and the dream of real freedom and democracy. In short, we need a leader who will make us finally face the truth that how we’ve been doing things can’t continue and then do something about it.

If McCain becomes the next president, we’re totally screwed. If Obama becomes the next president, we’re still screwed, but maybe less so. For at least Obama recognizes that the status quo is broken and seems willing to change things.

Hope and Change? More like hope FOR change. Our path is unsustainable by any measure. We need to abandon this path completely. McCain charges ahead down the path to ruin. Obama at least seems ready and willing to make a new path altogether.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)