Jon de Vos: Is that excitement in the air? |

Jon de Vos: Is that excitement in the air?

We’re here, high in the stands at the Montebello Downs, hosting the 2008 Presidential Horse Race.

It’s all come down to this, the final stakes event of this decade, folks, and I tell you, you can smell the excitement in the air. At least, I suppose it could be excitement you’re smelling . . . well, more exactly, I guess, that would be stale excitement. Maybe it’s just the aroma wafting from big piles of donkey and elephant poop.

This year’s running shows 13 hopefuls in a 64-mile race across the Beltway.

The Democrats are packed on the left of the starting gate, the Republicans on the right. And they’re off. Early two-to-one favorite Hillary Clinton, an excellent mudder, led this contentious field with a brilliant pace as a two-time Senator and a lukewarm favorite to take the crown. At the one-eighth pole she was running well against John Edwards, passing him easily with more than a furlong to go, but suddenly she exposed a human trait and lost some valuable territory to Barak Obama who was closing in on her left, but a gallant burst of speed put her a nose back in front. Dennis Kucinich was running easily with Barak at the onset but got shouldered aside by Bill Richardson as the pack settled into a mile-eating pace over a good turf course.

Despite his name, Mike Gravel simply never got any traction and got off to an impossibly slow start.

On the extreme far right at the starting gate is Michael Jesus Archangel, R-Michigan, who describes himself as a “radical conservative Republican” and claims to have been a volunteer Secret Agent for the CIA. Well, OK, Mike’s a long shot and not one of the serious 13, but Google his name lest you think I would make light of such a serious subject. John McCain surprisingly has regained an early lead, while looking over his shoulder at Mitt Romney who stayed strong in contention for the first quarter-mile. At the top of the stretch, eight-to-one contender Ron Paul, stalking the race in the final position, put in his rally to pull ahead of Fred Thompson. New Yorkers supporting Rudy Giuliani lined the rails, cheering him on in hopes he’ll win and leave them alone. Looks like Mike Huckabee has a little left in the tank and has started a sprint. But look There’s Ron Paul closing in on the inside. What an exciting race. I’d watch lots more but there’s a Hee Haw Marathon starting on channel 241.

The term, “Compassionate Conservative” has fallen out of favor. It’s been replaced with, “Commiserative Conservative.” The problem was in the language, compassionate is a word with passion at its heart and implies that one would strive to remedy that which they compassionate about. The word, ‘commiserative’, like ‘compassionate’ has a sincere and earnest ring but requires a lot less energy.

Commiserative smacks of pain shared; angst and suffering for which nothing can be done. It’s a much easier position to sustain and justify. “Hey, I’m a Commiserative Conservative, that means I feel very, very bad about the plight of those worse off than I. Yes. Very bad. That’s how I feel all over and somehow feeling bad makes me feel better. A big plus is that it’s better for me financially.”

It’s odd how the nation has colored itself into two tribes. The terms Democrat and Republican have been usurped by the plaster molds of Liberal and Conservative.

Though hardened, the labels are beginning to breathe on their own, drying up the middle ground like rain in the West. Discussion and debate have been replaced with ‘talking points’ and attack rhetoric. Our leaders are no longer allowed to gather information and subsequently alter their position lest they become a “flip-flopper.”

The best we can come up with is calling each other silly names? At least Monty Python had a comic twist.

Democrats and Republicans used to argue about issues like states’ rights, social problems and how best to fix the nation’s bridges and roads. When did we take up chastity programs and gay rights as political issues? More to the point, why? The big debate between the D’s and the R’s today revolves around who pays what share of taxes. With Republican congressional control, the Bush administration ushered an absolutely unprecedented upward cash flow to the one percent wealthy, an upward transition primarily through tax breaks, of more than one trillion dollars. Right, wrong, bad or indifferent, it’ll be interesting to see how that fact alone plays out in the future.

Do we impose a tax to fix the nation’s ailing bridges or do we cut taxes to repair the nation’s ailing bridges? I guess if we have the money when it comes time to repair them, we’ll have an answer.

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